RATING - 4 STARS
Character development - 5 stars
Backstory - 4 stars
Plot - 3 stars for recurrent implausibility
This review is dedicated to Marcy, whose birthday I celebrated by reading this wonderful book.
Tomorrow, I will graduate from Pearl River High School with you and Big looking on. I couldn't have reached this milestone - or been awarded a full scholarship to Ole Miss - without you or Big there to guide me and shelter me through it all.
Liza, you asked me a few weeks ago whether I would have preferred to grow up in a "normal" home, with a Mom, a Dad, a white picket fence and money to spare at the end of the month. I wouldn't change anything about you or about our lives together. Have the past few years been rough? Sure they have. But you're a work in progress, just like you always have been - striving to get better, striving to do better, yielding to your good side (body and soul) when it truly matters.
And stop saying you "kidnapped" me. That's what the cops might call it (though I'm pretty sure Lawrence will go to his grave with that secret, and many others...) but I truly believe that I was rescued that day. Jane Grace might have grown up to repeat every single one of your mistakes, and with role models like Janelle and Chuck, learned new and different ways to fail. But Mosey Willow Jane Grace SLOCUM will keep learning the lessons of the past, and keep blazing a trail to a better future. That is my vow to you, as my real, my one, my ONLY mother.
I think the reason Janelle never contacted us was that somewhere deep inside, she sensed that she did not have the right to yell from the rooftops that I was hers. I stopped being hers from the day I met you. And Claire Richardson could do nothing to you that this dark world hadn't done already. Revenge may be a dish served cold, but knowing her husband's vile habits diluted some of the ingredient.
Above all, I have come to understand the value of true friendship. Roger and Patty cheer me on when I win, and comfort me when I lose. Melissa might have had the right clothes, but she sorely lacked compassion, self-respect and deference to authority. My friends are developing a finely-tuned sense of direction, and I know they won't abandon me when I lose my way.
So bask in the glory, Liza! If I'm on the right track, it's because of the skills you taught me. You're a survivor, never ever a victim, and I will be forever grateful for your role in creating the person I want to be.