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Nikki Barthelmess’ debut novel features quiet Victoria, a senior in high school, who currently exists as a “ward of the state of Nevada” after an incident involving father and stepmother. Her life’s goal, to attend college, has been thrown on the ground and grinned by an iron shoe, as she begins her senior year in a new town, with new people, and a new foster family. Throughout the year, Victoria learns to please her foster mother, protect her new sisters, and embrace a life with strangers for classmates and rumors tossed around behind her back. Like a beacon of light, she meets Christina, who sticks with her through thick and thin and convinces her to loosen up. Time goes on, but Victoria can’t stop thinking about her stepsister back at home and the past she left in Reno. She realizes it’s time- time to take action and settle her past and present, once and for all.
Of all the novels I have read, this is by far one of my favorites, touching me personally through its delicate yet direct focus on sensitive topics, such as foster care and mental health. The balance of quiet Victoria and her best friend, outgoing Christina, adds a touch of humor to the novel and along with the short, sweet young love scenes takes away much of the bite behind the way Victoria is treated and the story behind her. Also, the novel features a few cases of situational irony, which make the reader ponder their own life as well as the lives of the characters. Nikki Barthelmess’ writing style includes a sense of light humor, a perfect contrast between the characters, as well as an overall aura of purity and love. Overall, the only criticism I could assign to the novel is the dull growth towards revealing Victoria’s past. I felt that it was slowly revealed through foreshadowing but could have been incorporated into more flashbacks and her dreams, instead of being released all at once and leaving the reader disappointed. All in all, this novel was an amazing combination of humor, love, and the tainted innocence of a child.
Something I will carry away with me from this novel is Victoria’s friendship with Christina, which thrives despite her hidden past and questionable actions in an attempt to keep secrets buried. Christina is the epitome of loyalty and trust, holding on even when Victoria herself admits she only gives her a flimsy branch to hold onto. Victoria’s life is strongly impacted by Christina’s presence- her charismatic demeanor, outgoing personality, and optimistic view on life.
Reviewed by Jennifer, Twin Hickory Area Library