Monday, August 18, 2008

The blended family thing

Barbara Shoup's Wish You Were Here is one of the better stories I've read about divorce, remarriage, step families and the whole crazy thing I like to refer to as "This is ain't no Brady Bunch" ideal. I breviewed it in my column this month at Bookslut - here's a bit:

From the beginning, the biggest problem in Jackson’s life is that his est friend Brady has run away. The two of them were inseparable and while Jackson isn’t unduly worried about Brady he is both hurt and angry. Brady didn’t flee a dangerous situation; he ran because he was sick of dealing with parents and school and all the requisite drama of each. That it was so easy for him to go disturbs Jackson to no end; if they were as good friends as he thought, then wouldn’t his buddy have done the right thing and said goodbye?

Brady is never far from Jackson’s thoughts as his mother's engagement to a nice guy with two kids upends everyone’s lives. Shoup really excels at her description of step-child life, and the difficulties Jackson faces as he continues to care deeply about both of his parents while trying to make room for a new family. His blundering into a sweet romance while on vacation seems almost formulaic but turns out to be much more. He finds himself falling into a relationship close to home that ultimately is more about Brady then anyone else, and it ends so badly that your heart will hurt. As one thing after another piles up, readers will witness how someone can fall apart if they pull too far away from the ones they love. Jackson can’t hold everything together and when Brady reenters his life just as he seems to be getting on track you will hold your breath to see if he can pull himself out of harm’s way in time.

This one is a classic, pure and simple. Readers should be of the high school variety due to some sex and drugs (and R.E.M.); consider this beach blanket reading of the smartest kind.

It even has a road trip to Graceland at the end and one big fight between two friends that is just the right kind of believable. This book impressed me a lot; give it a read if you want something to think about.

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