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Book Review

This contemporary, coming-of-age book by Sarah Dessen is published by Viking, an imprint of the Penguin Group, and written for kids ages 12 years and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Ever since Mclean's mom left her dad for the coach of Dad's favorite college basketball team, 17-year-old Mclean has been on the move. She's followed her dad, a restaurant consultant, from city to city. In each new place, she invents a unique identity for herself. As long as she can pretend to be someone else, Mclean is convinced she'll never get too attached, and it won't hurt to say goodbye.

Her theory works until she and Dad move to Lakeview, where Dad tries to save a dying restaurant called Luna Blu. Mainly by accident, Mclean allows new acquaintances to know her by her real name and personality. She meets her neighbor Dave when he saves her from getting caught with alcohol during a police raid at a party. Dave is a genius with protective, health-nut parents, who disapprove of his decision to go to a public high school.

Mclean becomes friends with Dave's buddies — Ellis, Riley and Heather. She also befriends a sweet but quirky girl named Deb. When Opal, the Luna Blu manager, agrees to construct a model of the city in exchange for added parking spaces for the restaurant, Mclean and her friends take over the project, which becomes a bonding experience and a metaphor for fitting the pieces of their own lives together.

Meanwhile, Mclean's mother calls her constantly. She tries to make Mclean feel guilty for not visiting or communicating enough. She threatens to involve her lawyer unless Mclean will see her more. Mclean is angry that her mother refuses to take any responsibility or apologize for breaking up the family.

Mclean and Dave grow close and talk about dating. When Luna Blu seems destined to close, and Dad to be relocated again, Mclean is, for once, not ready to leave the life she's built. It appears her only option is to return home to live with her mother and stepfather so she can finish high school. Her anxiety increases when her friends discover Internet profiles of all her previous identities and wonder who she really is. Mclean flees to the run-down beach hotel where she spent previous summers with her mom. When her parents find her, with Dave's help, they admit they hadn't realized the divorce had impacted her so greatly. They promise to try to make life easier for her. Mclean's mom allows her to live with Opal until she finishes high school. Mclean then works at Opal's new restaurant as she prepares for college in the fall.

Christian Beliefs

As a young woman, Mclean's mom sang in the church choir every Sunday. Riley's mom says a short prayer before dinner.

Other Belief Systems

Before Mclean's mom had an affair with her current stepdad, Mclean and her dad idolized Peter because of his coaching skills. They were fans and did not do this as a religious belief. Mclean superstitiously counts constellations. When Mclean is stressed, she tries to center herself. She doesn't do this in a Zen way, but to calm down and refocus.

Authority Roles

Mclean's mother leaves her father for another man. She uses guilt and manipulation to draw Mclean back into her life. Dad is a loving father. He works a lot, leaving Mclean to set up each new home, get her own meals and largely fend for herself. Dave's parents, who want him to attend a good school and punish him for underage drinking, are portrayed as over-protective. Riley's warm, down-to-earth parents, open their home to Riley's friends for a wonderful meal once a week.


Words including b--ch, screwed, d--n, a--, h---, crap, sucks, s--- and the Lord's name spoken in vain appear frequently. At a party, someone defaces a life-size, cardboard cutout with crude, anatomically correct drawings.


Mclean realizes her mother was pregnant with Peter's twins before they were married. Because Dave is such a genius, one of Mclean's friends calls him an administrator's wet dream. Mclean always knows when Dad is about to move to a new job because she sees evidence that he's been sleeping with the women he's dating. Mclean walks into a room to find Opal and Dad snuggled up on the couch with flushed faces. Opal's top shirt button is undone. Dave and Mclean kiss.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Mclean attends a party where she sips a beer. She's one of several underage drinkers there. Young people at a college party — who may be underage — are doing shots of tequila and having weepy conversations. The police raid the party, and Dave pulls Mclean into a storm cellar to help her escape a pursuing officer. Dave, a normally clean kid, was caught drinking at a party not long before. He was assigned community-service duties and grounded by his parents. His friends bemoan his unfair punishment for such a small offense. Mclean's dad drinks beer several times. Riley's dad has a few beers at a family gathering.

Drugs and tobacco: A girl at the party tells Mclean how her school searched her purse for drugs. One of Mclean's previous personas smoked. People smoke at the party.

Alternative education: Partygoers tell Mclean about a school they'd like to attend. In it, you can take meditation for gym, all the teachers are old hippies, and rather than a bell signaling class dismissal, they play a flute to "recommend" you switch classes.

Body art: Dave and Riley have matching tattoos. Each has a circle on their wrist. They got the tattoos in memory of Riley's grandmother (and Dave's one-time babysitter) after she died of cancer. She had a giant, ugly wart on her wrist in that location, and she always encouraged the kids to look at it because she said it was a part of her. If they loved her, they would love it, too.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Sarah Dessen






Record Label



Viking, an imprint of the Penguin Group


On Video

Year Published




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