PUBLISHER: Viking Juvenile
LENGTH: 400 pages
SOURCE: ARC from ALAN convention
SUMMARY: For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.
Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?
REVIEW: Once again Anderson has out done herself with her newest book about PTSD and its effects on the victim and his family. Hayley and her father are doing what many families do in the face of an impossible-to-comprehend situation: they are maintaining. Sometimes running, and sometimes bracing for impact, Hayley and her father are dealing only with the fallout from his PTSD episodes. To Hayley’s credit, she tries to persuade her father to seek help but, much like with addicts, it is impossible for Hayley to manage a permanent solution until Andy wants to help himself.
Andy has brought them back to his hometown so that Hayley can attend school on a regular basis. But the school schedule seems to be the only “regular” thing in their lives and Hayley never quite knows to whom she will be coming home in the afternoons. Will it be the loving, patient father she knows is at Andy’s core or will it be the trauma-ravaged soldier who has trouble remembering what is still good in his life outside the haunting memories of war. Hayley is a down-to-earth teen in an impossible situation. Enter Finn, who challenges Hayley’s belief that change is impossible and forces Hayley to look at what is manageable and what needs managing in her life.
Anderson’s portrayal of Hayley’s coping techniques is brutally honest, making readers want to simultaneously hug and shake Hayley into believing in the power of healing. Thinking that she and her father are irreparably broken, Hayley begins to give up and shuns the proffered assistance from one of her father’s old girlfriends and even from Finn. Anderson does not shy away from the hard truths of alcohol and drug use in both victims and family members to numb the pain and provide escape. In the end, Hayley must make a choice: stay locked in the cycle of painful memories she and her father share or break the cycle, perhaps at terrible cost to herself and her father, in hopes that they can start over in the town they both so desperately want to call home. Watching Hayley navigate the painful minefield of memories she and her father share, readers are brought face to face with the reality that healing takes time and emotional wounds leave scar tissue that has to be taught how to bend in order to make everyday life bearable and meaningful. Another novel that compels readers to keep turning pages until the emotional climax, Anderson continues to give her readers a glimpse into the pain and perseverance that make her protagonists unforgettable.