Following a family tragedy, Rachel is sent to live with her grandmother and aunt in Portland, leaving her home in Chicago. In Portland, she becomes a new girl, with a fresh start. Despite this fresh start, Rachel is still haunted by her past, feels insecure about being bi-racial, and has a tough time adjusting to her new life.
I found Durrow’s book to be really engaging and well written. Rachel’s struggles with her identity is definitely something that teens will be able to relate to. I thought the story was well laid out, although one fault would be that the author had three different perspectives going on. Rachel’s in the first person, Brick & Laronne, Roger and Rachel’s mother (all from Rachel’s past life in Chicago) in the third. This made the overall story feel disjointed and choppy. Although Brick and Laronne were added to instill some mystery into Rachel’s tragic life, and her mother’s death, I think they just ended up taking away from Rachel’s story. Other than Brick, the other voices don’t add anything special to the story. I really wanted to learn more about Brick, but sadly, he’s not given enough attention in the book. The book is relatively short too, so neither of the additional perspectives really had much of the spotlight, although Rachel is at the center of it all.
Another disjointed element is that I had no idea what era or decade the book took place. I was caught off guard towards the end when I realized it was set in 1980, I thought it was in the 60s or 70s.
Rachel faces a lot of issues in her life growing up through the span of the book. Alcoholism, paranoia, insecurity, and bullying to name a few. There is a lot of strain on the family to keep up appearances despite falling apart. There are of a lot of good talking points in this book for a class or book group discussion. Despite its faults, I still highly recommend this title.