Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and - lately - concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?
Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac: gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.
Sydney Stanford and her family are devastated when her older brother, Peyton, paralyzes a local boy while driving drunk and is sent to jail. Sydney's mother throws herself into supporting Peyton (while seeming to scarcely acknowledge his guilt), and Sydney switches schools, carrying heavy guilt on behalf of the injured boy, David, and trying to escape the damage Peyton has left in his wake. Sydney's parents virtually ignore her as they navigate the complicated prison system on Peyton's behalf, even inviting his older friend Ames into their home, his leering presence making Sydney uneasy. Sydney finds relief with her new friend Layla, Layla's family and friends, and especially her handsome brother, Mac. Dessen (The Moon and More) delves deeper than ever into the complex dynamics of families suffering loss and confronting changes that upend everything. Once again, Dessen demonstrates her tremendous skill in evoking powerful emotions through careful, quiet prose, while delivering a satisfying romance. The author's many devotees are sure to enjoy this weighty addition to her canon. Ages 12 up.