Tuesday, January 19, 2010

For Keeps (YA)

For Keeps. Natasha Friend. 2010. [April 2010] Penguin. 272 pages.

It's the last Friday night in August, and instead of dancing on a table at Melanie Jaffin's party with the rest of the soon-to-be junior class, I am crouched behind a tower of Meow Mix in the pet-food aisle of Shop-Co, watching my mother hyperventilate.

Josie Gardner has never met her dad, Paul Tucci. Both sets of parents were against this match. When Josie's mom, Kate, got pregnant her junior year of high school, her love, Paul, moved away to Arizona. Never to return. Now facing her own junior year of high school, Josie has quite a lot to contemplate. You see, the Tuccis are back. Paul's parents. Back in town. And they're part of the reason Josie's mom is losing it. She loses it whenever she bumps into someone from her high school days. Should Josie want to know her grandparents? Should she reach out to them and let them know that she exists? And does that mean that her father, Paul, could show up at some point? What would she do if he did? Would she be willing to let him into her life? Would she be able to listen to his side of the story?

What did I appreciate about this one? Quite a lot! I thought the characterization was wonderful. Everyone was fully developed. Not just Josie. Not just Josie's love interest, Matt. Not just Josie's best friend, Liv. But everybody. Her mom. Her mom's new love interest, Jonathan. Her best friend's two dads, Dodd and Pops. Her boss, Bob. Everybody who matters to Josie, everyone whom she interacts with on a daily basis is fleshed out for the readers. Of course, some are more fully fleshed than others. Is Jonathan as important as Liv? Of course not! But he's there nonetheless, and sturdier than mere cardboard.

I liked the complications. Life isn't simple, it's complex, and it shows in For Keeps. The complications felt real. Not for show. Not for drama. But authentic problems a young person might face. That doesn't mean that this is an "issue" novel. It doesn't feel heavy-handed like you're supposed to be learning something big-and-important.

I appreciated the way relationships are explored in this one. Josie's complicated relationship with her mom. How it varies through the course of the novel. Her mom isn't automatically the enemy. She isn't someone to automatically rebel against, disobey, yell at. Yet, their relationship isn't perfect either. They are friends, yes, especially in the beginning, but as complications arise, they have to work on their relationship to maintain that closeness. And her relationship with her best friend? So well done. Again, it's not perfect. It's something that takes a bit of work, a bit of give and take. But it is something that just felt real, felt right. It didn't feel forced. It felt believable that Liv and Josie were best friends. That Liv existed as more than a plot device, more than a stereotype.

I would definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Paige Y. 9:33 AM  

I wasn't aware that Friend had another novel out. I have read two of her novels and really enjoyed them (I still need to read Lush).

It's interesting that the cover is so different from her other covers -- I think it will appeal to my students. I find Friend's books perfect for those students who want to read teen problem books but who are not quite ready for the really hard-hitting books that are available.

Kathy Martin 4:04 PM  

This one does sound good for my students who like realistic fiction. I will have to check into the others by her too. I know we have Lush but not the other ones.

I like the cover of this one much more than the covers of the others. I think this one will be easier to sell to readers.

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