In Terri Giuliano Long’s debut novel, a seemingly-perfect family begins to fall apart when their older teenage daughter forsakes a promising soccer career, and follows her boyfriend, three years her senior, into drugs, sex and petty theft. The novel’s point of view is split between five characters, the father Will, the mother Zoe, Leah, the title character, her younger sister Justine, and Jerry, a local cop who helps to piece the family back together.
What I liked about the book was that each character was very distinct from the other, and their language suited both their characters and the ages being portrayed. But where I had difficulty was with the amount of expository text. I wish that the dialogue took center stage, providing more forward action, because it’s clearly Long’s strong suit. The characters’ frustrations, and particularly their shortcomings, ring true and are strongly felt. Despite this, splitting the POV among five characters distanced me from each of the characters every time I began to warm up to them. I would have liked to see the novel told from the POV of one character, possibly Justine.
As Leah’s descent spirals and her parents struggle with how to handle both her actions and their own feelings about it, twelve year-old Justine begins to waver as well. Readers are left to find out if Leah will ever recover, if Will and Zoe’s marriage will hold, and whether Justine will follow in Leah’s wake. An interesting read.