I love realistic fiction. Joyce Maynard writes about real life - including family problems that teens do face today. She also manages to write a satisfying conclusion without trivializing what the characters experience – not a fake, unrealistic happy ending that occurs in some novels for teens and tweens.
When Nate comes home from school, he is shocked to see the blue police light flashing in his driveway. His father staggers from the back yard. He has blood running down his face, and does not even seem to recognize his own son. Nate is scared and confused, but his mother and remaining family will not give him any answers. What has really happened to his dad? Nate finally learns his father shot himself and though he lived through his suicicde attempt, he is never coming home again. To make matters worse, Nate has so many other problems to deal with – including a mother who is bitter, angry, and unforgiving. Nate feels like he has lost both of his parents at the same time. Most people can rely on other family members and friends to help them get through tough times – not Nate. His grandfather hates Nate’s father and does not mind criticizing him in front of Nate and his sister. Nate’s best friends abandon him – who wants to be friends with someone who has a crazy dad? Nate’s mother cannot afford to pay the bills on the farm, and it seems that he will now lose the only home he has ever known. Could things get any worse? Unfortunately, yes. Since the police are unable to find the gun Nate’s father used, suspicion has fallen onto his mother. Could she be the one who actually shot Nate’s father? This book is not for the faint-hearted. Even though this family endures great pain and hardships, they do manage to survive. Nate eventually learns acceptance over things beyond his control, and he will keep going and keep living – no matter what other obstacles he must face.