While this book initially seems like it will be the story of the heroine coming to terms with her mother's abandonment of the family for a lesbian lover, it actually winds up as the story of an ugly custody battle and domestic abuse.
The plot drags for the first third to half of the book, and the pacing retains a choppy speed-up-slow-down quality throughout.
Between narrating the story, having three different inner voices (her Perfect, Pathetic, and Evil selves) and having hallucinations that her deceased mother is speaking to her, protagonist Shawna definitely wins the award for Most Fragmented Personality in a Young Adult Novel. Her self-repression is relentless to the very end; even when she finally stands up for what's right, she compromises with her future as the bargaining chip. While she does plenty of angsty ruminating and even a bit of whining, when she actually makes key decisions, the reader is left out of the thought process. Perhaps the author did that to add some suspense.
The two sons of the surviving lesbian partner are interesting and well-developed. I wish the elder brother had gotten more stage time.
All in all, this is a girlie teen drama that tries to tackle some tough issues but gets left lying face-down at the 30 yardline.
One final gripe: The heroine is still using some sort of email system that would leave messages on her hard drive where her father can find them. Why would she not have Yahoo or Gmail like everyone else? Why isn't she using social networking sites? And why oh why can't she just empty her computer's Recycle Bin? For a 2009 book, this seems awfully 1999.
Recommend to: Age 14+ (mature elements including a rape scene), drama fans, possibly Sarah Dessen fans, although this book goes to grittier places than Dessen usually explores