Sunday, June 08, 2014
Promise Me Something, by Sara Kocek
Numerous subplots also have their place in this story (including Olive's alcoholic mother, Reyna's discomfort with her widower father getting re-married, the growing chasm developing between Reyna and her old friends, a homophobic teacher, a runaway teen, and even a romance). It's these subplots that are probably the weakest part of the book. Any one of them would have been sufficient, but together they seem a bit excessive. Resolving all of them satisfactorily is nearly impossible and the wrap-up is a bit perfunctory.
But the book simply soars on the strength of its characters. Reyna feels unusually authentic. She is not a character that one will like at first, but her personal growth feels real and you gradually like her. As painful (and maybe even distasteful) as it was to watch her rejection of Olive's homosexuality, it felt realistic. The fluidity of the relationships overall (as Reyna flits from one circle to another) also felt painfully right for the age group. By getting the kids right, Kocek is able to make a story which is otherwise set in very stereotypical settings (even including the traditional unsupervised party) feel extraordinary fresh. Anyone who reads a lot of YA knows how the characters are supposed to interact, but Reyna defies those expectations and takes us places that just feel better and more appropriate.