“Pathos and bathos abound in this story of two college seniors whose backgrounds have stunted their growth. Blythe McGuire hasn't let go of the nightmares associated with the death of her parents when their vacation home burned down. Chris Shepard and his three siblings have their own nightmares of the mental abuse meted out by their father. Wallowing in grief, however, hasn't helped any of these people, and probably won't help readers either.
Although she saved her brother Jamie from burning, Blythe still hasn't broken out of her reclusive shell at Matthews College in Wisconsin until the thoroughly zany Sabin Shepard appears and forces Blythe from her ennui. Sabin, however, is a package deal, pulling Blythe into his tight group of siblings, the charming and loveable Chris, excessively religious fashionista Estelle, and Estelle's gay twin Eric.
As the rowdy, playful Shepard siblings draw Blythe from her funk, she and Chris become friends, then good friends, and finally lovers. But dark clouds hang over the heads of all of the main characters: Blythe feels guilty because the haphazard way she pulled her brother Jamie out of the beach house ended his soccer hopes, and the Shepards were the victims of mental and physical abuse by their single-parent, artistic father.
In effect, their little group is trying to heal their individual wounds through love and support while they go to college, which is an unbelievable task. Supposedly, Blythe's grades go up as she struggles with her internal turmoil as well as the often self-destructive Sabin, and Estelle's promiscuity which is followed by self-loathing and religious fervor. I was hard pressed to believe these traumatic ups and downs either healed Blythe's wounds or made her a better student.
Her love affair with Chris was another unbelievable facet of the book for me. It took him forever to decide to have sex with her, in the meantime doing random acts of kindness like making her jogging mixes and putting them in her music player, and then ignoring her for such long stretches that she was constantly trying to figure out how close they actually were. Were they friends? Lovers? I was also confused and then decided while he seemed okay, Chris wasn't really worth all the angst.
Read the rest of my review at AAR: http://www.likesbooks.com/cgi-bin/bookReview.pl?BookReviewId=9876”
Pat Henshaw wrote this review Monday, November 18, 2013.