This was the second book I read for the 24hr Read-A-Thon. I’m just going to get this out of the way right now – I love Doug. Love him utterly as a character, wish I could kidnap him and keep him sort of love. Okay now that I’ve got that embarrassing fangirl moment out of the way, let’s go.
On the outside, it looks like Zoey has it all. She’s attractive, popular, rich, the captain of the high school swim team. Her father owns a water slide park and she works there over the summer and has used that to get most of her swim-team friends summer jobs also. Unfortunately, look a bit below the surface and you’ll see that Zoey’s life is about to hit meltdown point. Her dad has knocked up his 24yo girlfriend who works at the amusement park and Zoey and her mother have had to leave the family mansion and live in a rental apartment. To top it off, Zoey came home and found her mother unconscious from a dose of pills and she is rushed to the hospital.
Zoey’s dad – pretty much a douche. Not only was he cheating on her mother and seems to keep everything in the separation despite Zoey’s mother coming from money, but when he arrives at the hospital after Zoey’s mother has had her overdose, all he seems to care about is bullying everyone who knows. He threatens Zoey, the police officer who arrived on the scene etc – to keep quiet so that no one finds out the ex-wife he left has tried to top herself and had to go to the loony bin. Zoey has noticed in the waiting room that the cop’s younger brother has turned up with food for him. Aah, enter Doug. Doug who is on the swim team with her, Doug who asked her to the year 9 dance just before he disappeared into juvie, Doug who has seemed to loathe her ever since he got back. Zoey realises with horror that if Doug knows, then soon enough everyone is going to know.
After leaving the hospital, Zoey is feeling reckless enough to go down to the beach for one of the swim team parties where she hooks up with Brandon, who works at the amusement park with her and who is on the football team. Inexplicably, especially after listening to and giving Brandon advice on all his summer conquests, Zoey seems to think that her and Brandon are going out after they seal the deal in his Buick at the beach. I don’t quite understand why she thinks that, but she does. They have sex, then they basically go back to the party and go their separate ways.
Zoey has to move in with her dad while her mother is in a psychiatric ward getting diagnosed and treated and her father and his girlfriend are planning to elope to Hawaii. Zoey goes to yet another party (a record for her!) and she has a wreck in her Bug on the way home which Doug pulls her out of. She can’t remember anything for a couple of hours prior to the wreck or anything after Doug pulls her out of the wreck until she wakes up in her bed the next morning. When her dad realises that she can’t really remember what happened, his reactions is something along the lines of “oh God, we’ll have to cancel Hawaii because someone else is loony now!”. He is a lovely person, yes? Zoey quickly realises that pretending that she remembers everything is the only way to go here, so that’s what she does. To everyone. And that is why she is massively confused when Doug comes over to see how she is and seems to be under the impression that they are together…. And where is Brandon? He’s no where to be seen. Zoey needs to find out what the heck happened that she can’t remember but the only person who seems to know is Doug. And is she ready to hear it?
Firstly, Zoey irritated me just a little. I can understand why she didn’t want her father to know why she couldn’t remember but the way she went about getting Doug to tell her what happened was a bit silly. I understand that she thinks that she can’t trust him because of the whole thinking-he-hates-her thing and the juvie thing but honestly, he does nothing for her to think that and she must realise pretty quickly that he’s not going to tell anyone about her mother. And the whole “but Brandon is my boyfriend” when clearly he was not was just ridiculous. For a smart girl, when it comes to Brandon, Zoey really is quite stupid. But despite that, I liked her as a character. She was flawed, she allowed herself to read more into a hook up than there really was, which I found very real. She was obviously under a lot of mental stress with not being able to see her mother while they were treating her (this turns out to be pretty important) and the callous disregard for her welfare shown by her own father and she made decisions that I think she would probably not have made if she wasn’t under so much pressure.
Brandon is a bit of a cliche (do people really act like that? maybe they do) but as previously mentioned, I did love Doug. Yeah he starts off looking a bit 2D – the bad boy who has been to juvie who apparently hates our main character. But the more we get to know him we realise that he is so much more than just the bad boy. It was a really wonderful journey, learning all the little intricacies and personality traits of Doug and I almost started to think he was too good for Zoey when she couldn’t see what was right in front of her face! But Zoey’s journey is one of discovery too and there are several things she must learn and see for herself before she can make the decisions that are right for her.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a nice, easy read that I flipped through in probably under two hours but it wasn’t silly or vacuous or anything like that. I have heard pretty good things about Jennifer Echols and if all her books are like this, I can well understand why. I’ll definitely be looking for some more of hers because I really think she can write a story. She sucks you in and gives you characters you can relate to (or dream about!) and a plot that is as interesting as it is easy to read. This book is like fresh strawberries rather than candy- sweet but not saccharine and it leaves you satisfied.
Book #74 of my 75 Book Challenge
Looking for another review? Check out Shannon’s over at Giraffe Days