Opening the summer they are fifteen, the novel follows Sam, Suzie, and Bella over a fifteen year span. Suzie's life is falling apart, with her mother no longer able to turn a blind eye to her father's philandering. Sam is less concerned with what all of the neighborhood infidelities mean and more with just what he and Suzie are up to in her basement rec room and whether or not they qualify as boyfriend and girlfriend. In fact, his own mother will leave their family this same summer, just as Suzie's family leaves town for a fresh start. Bella's mother is an invalid and Bella is Suzie's best friend. In the wake of Suzie's move and subsequent complete disappearance from the larger group of neighborhood friends, Bella will find that Sam is her own first love, even if she is not his. As each of the three move through the years, learning how to navigate the shoals of impending adulthood, college, relationships, family crises, and eventually the decline and aging of parents, they come to a burgeoning understanding of the larger things at play in their lives and families. They come together and grow apart, waxing and waning in each others' lives and thoughts through the years.
The novel is a snapshot of life for three people, each of whom is shaped by their life, experiences, and hard won wisdom as they take different paths and different timelines toward the elusive concept of adulthood. The three of them, Sam, Suzie, and Bella, are inextricably intertwined, even when they are not speaking to each other because of distance or circumstance. Their bond is indelible. Told in chapters from alternating perspectives, there are jumps in the timeline that allow for moments, large and small, to build the picture of their growth and change. The characters are likable and Antalek has done a good job capturing not only their confused teenaged voices but also the maturation of their voices as their lives and experiences mold them into the people they've become by the end of the story. There are no big cataclysms or pyrotechnics here, it's just a steady, well done, and engaging slice of life bildungsroman.
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Thanks to the publisher and BookSparks PR for sending me a copy of the book for review.