Author: Christine Hurley Deriso (Twitter)
Publish Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
To Forrest Shephard, getting away to the family's beach house with her parents and her brother, Brian, is the best part of every summer. Until this year, when her mother invites Brian's obnoxious girlfriend, Olivia, to join them.Suddenly, Forrest's relaxing vacation becomes a mission to verify the reality of Olivia's rumored eating disorder. But the truth behind Olivia's finicky eating isn't at all what Forrest expected. And over the next thirty days, Forrest's world is turned upside down as her family's darkest secrets begin to come to light.
This isn't my first novel from Christine Hurley Deriso, and I can tell you from the start of this review that it will not be my last. In the past, Ms. Deriso's novels have rang true in some respects but really lost me in others, so I hesitated to read Thirty Sunsets for a while. With a setup like the synopsis implies, I knew that this would be a hit or miss sort of novel in which either the protagonist captured me, or we would be left for petty subplots in the end. Fortunately, Ms. Deriso gives us a novel - and a heroine - that's worth rooting for, and I felt that I became invested in the story despite even my bold, preconceived notions.
Thirty Sunsets stands apart from Ms. Deriso's other titles in that it's a rich, multi-layered story. Instead of giving us all the facts and pieces of the picture from the start, we're left to slowly unravel this twisted maze of relationships between Forrest, her brother, her parents and Olivia. Furthermore, the this plot is twisted and winding, offering us drama in unexpected places that actually adds to the story in the best possible way by fostering relationships, heightening the tension and forcing our protagonist to really search inside of herself. I like novels that afford me the opportunity to be introspective, as well, and this is the type of book that really had me wondering "what would I do?" if I were in Forrest's shoes.
Forrest was immediately the type of character that I could become invested in, and I admired her protective, fiercely loyal personality. What I didn't, unfortunately, love was her willingness to believe her self-worth depended on a boy's interest in her. That said, I understand that this was a novel in which we're shown the self-deprecation that many teens feel when their feelings aren't reciprocated by the opposite sex. There was a strength of character within Forrest that slowly develops as the plot unfolds, and though I truly believe Scott is a despicable human being, he made her come into her own through a series of crazy events. While, at times, I felt that it was a little bit too heavy-handed and forced, I do believe that Forrest showed her potential and true colours in the end of Thirty Sunsets, and I could get onboard for that.
The fact of the matter is that Thirty Sunsets is a fast summer read. Avid contemporary fans will comfortably read this book in one sitting, which I think is a double-edged sword for a novel like this. On the one hand, I can appreciate so much depth in a slim book. On the other hand though, tackling issues like rape, teen pregnancies and unfolding family secrets requires a little more time, thought and overall analysis in the end for me. I don't think that a novel marketed as a summer romance should hide behind such a thin guise, especially when it shows the truth of destructive relationships and character growth.
Overall though, I think that Thirty Sunsets was a strong title - albeit a bit too short for the subject matter. I'm just the type of reader that thinks that all options should be explored, as well as all background, which didn't necessarily happen in this case. I give it a strong 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA contemporary, as well as those who enjoy emotional books about relationships.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.