When I first dug into this book, I was expecting a more upbeat, romance-y type novel. So with that frame of mind it took me a few chapters at least to settle in - but boy what a nice surprise! Yes, the main character is flawed, her family is much less than ideal, and she has problems with love and relationships, which is found in just about every women's fiction book. But Danielle Younge-Ullman does these common themes with so much depth, so much care, and so much ease that not much about it is common.
It took me a little while to get used to the 2nd person in the flashbacks, but wow. It really worked. Instead of being boring back story, it made me feel like I was in on the action, effectively ensuring a connection with Mara. Younge-Ullman digs so deep into all of the characters, really, that it's difficult not to connect with and enjoy each of them in very different ways.
What I mean to say is that this novel had so much potential to suck. So much potential to be done wrong. But Younge-Ullman did everything right. So many times I empathized with Mara, found myself having been in her shoes. And Mara has a lot of issues, yes, but she just lives in spite of them – sometimes strangely, but still. And the tension in the story is just right – I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened (and I'm a ridiculously fast reader). It nearly read more like a suspense novel with the number of deliciously unexpected twists and turns.
Bottom line, I loved the characters, loved the innovative use of 2nd person, loved the imagery, loved the art, loved just about everything. The one very small complaint I have is the dialogue. A lot of the time it’s very short and choppy, which is fine on occasion, but people tend to talk in longer sentences at least some of the time. But it definitely wasn’t enough to keep me from turning pages (or flicking them, as I read it on my Kindle) with abandon.
SPOILER ALERT: I wanted to hate the ending – I mean come on, take the easy way out why don’t you? But in reality I couldn’t choose between the two of them, I loved them both equally. So I kind of liked being able to imagine her with both of them.
Highly recommended! Younge-Ullman's ability to make the seemingly most despicable people likeable is definitely unusual.