Friday, September 02, 2011

Fixing Delilah, by Sarah Ockler

Delilah is going through a rough patch. Her Mom is too busy to notice until Delilah gets caught shoplifting and skips out on her curfew to be with her dead-end boyfriend. But all of this gets swept aside when they receive the news that Delilah's maternal grandmother has died -- the same grandmother that Delilah hasn't been allowed to see for the past eight years. And so the summer of Delilah's seventeenth year is now suddenly full with returning to her grandma's town, helping her mother and aunt clean the house to sell it, and confronting the ghosts of her and her family's past.

One review on the book jacket compared this book to Sarah Dessen's writing and I can see the parallels. For example, we have the distant and self-absorbed mother who makes the daughter's interest in others look like Mother Theresa. But the similarities are superficial (the boy interest is nowhere near as prominent and the heroine is not nearly as introspective).

It will come as no surprise that the mother and daughter will eventually reconcile and provide decent reader catharsis in the process. The similarly predictable trajectory of the love interest is less satisfying: while the boy-loses-girl moment felt honest (and maybe a bit harrowing), their reconciliation seemed forced. And while the book is good at piling up conflict and challenges, the ending is overall a bit too happy and rosy for my taste.

Overall, it's the unevenness of this book that did me in. The middle sags and key moments (first kiss, for example) get lost in the midst of endless mood setting and exposition. The strong climax is weakened by the lame ending. It's a mixed bag.

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