Missy Keiser isn’t thrilled about moving back to Florida. She lived there when she was thirteen and it wasn’t a pleasant time. Nicknamed Messy, everything about Missy was fodder for the bullies in her class. When her mother met a man and moved to Pennsylvania with him, it gave Missy a chance to escape the horrific situations she was in at school and start fresh. Now, three years later, she’s back again and praying that people don’t remember Messy.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t turn out quite that easy. She soon runs into the same people who made her life miserable and they haven’t forgotten her – or her nickname. But this time something’s different. Missy grew up. And she’s pretty. And she could be popular. She just doesn’t realize it. And along with that, she doesn’t realize how much more difficult that this could make her life. Now instead of just someone to be picked on, she could be competition. That makes her more dangerous and puts her life in a completely different realm.
And then there’s the suicide. The opening lines make sure that you know that this is about a suicide and the aftermath – from the perspective of someone left behind. I wasn’t too sure that I wanted to get that deeply into a book like this. I have a teenage daughter who was ruthlessly bullied in elementary school. It became so out of control that we ended up homeschooling her instead of sending her to middle school. (And thankfully that was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family.) But because we know what it’s like, it was agonizing to look at the situation through a teenager’s eyes and as a parent, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. Throw in suicide and that’s usually a book I avoid like the plague. I empathize too much and that sort of situation would be too difficult for me to handle.
Thank God I overruled those feelings and chose to review this book. After reading it, I fully believe that this could be one of the best YA novels I’ve ever read. Forget the “Christian” label – this book is exceptional no matter whether you’re Christian or not. I think every parent should read this book. Bar none. And I think that every teenager should read it as well.
The writing was powerful and strong. It left no room for doubt or even wiggle room that could take you out of the story. The voices were real. Painfully so. The situations were agonizingly honest and deep. Rich with detail, Quigley leaves no stone unturned in peeling back the layers of this girl’s story and sharing every painful moment. It sounds heavy and dark but surprisingly, it’s not. Missy has an incredible spirit that shines through even the hardest situations. You find yourself rooting for her. Praying that she comes through on the other side. There were moments I wanted to gather her to myself and give her a hug from some adult who really cares. There were deep emotions that ricocheted through the plotlines in the same way they roll through a teenager’s life and leave them unsettled. There were moments you couldn’t help but laugh and paragraphs that made you want to cry.
So many Christian books these days whitewash what the teenage experience is like. They set up an ideal that is wonderful but often unobtainable. They aren’t realistic. It would be fabulous to have a teenager who was never confronted with sinful nature or that slipped up and made mistakes. It would be great to understand God’s plan without question and be able to turn away the peer pressure without a thought. But I have not yet met a teenager – or an adult for that matter – who could live that sort of life.
Missy makes mistakes. She screws up and she knows it. So do the people around her. But she isn’t a totally lost cause. And she doesn’t know that. It’s up to her neighbor, his grandmother, and a few other people in her life to show her that.
This story is utterly gorgeous. It firmly slammed itself directly into my top ten for 2012 when I read it. I cannot recommend it highly enough or strongly enough. Nicole Quigley is an author that is firmly in my sights now and I cannot wait to see where the rest of her career goes from here.
Rated PG-13: This book hits some really hard topics. Bullying, peer pressure and more adult situations are represented in this book. That said, I think it would be a good read for a 13 year old along with a parent – or at least 15-16 years on their own.
Review copy provided by the publicist. Thank you Candice!