Barbara “Babie” Bunting is constantly mistaken for her sisters, but she’s determined not to end up like her family. She doesn’t plan to stick around Shallow Pond after graduation, and she certainly won’t be ruined by a broken heart. That is, until fellow orphan Zach Faraday walks into the picture, and Babie can’t deny their chemistry.
When her oldest sister, Annie, comes down with a mysterious illness—initially dismissed as “love sickness”—Babie and Zach start investigating what exactly killed the girls’ mother and why their late father became so consumed by grief. What they find changes everything.
This is a very interesting mystery novel in which Babie works to uncover the truth about her parentage while trying to deny her feelings for Zach, a young man drawn to Shallow Pond to find his benefactor. I loved that Babie was a strong female lead for most of the novel, refusing to succumb to her friends’ attempts to fix up her love life and her sister’s inability to leave Shallow Pond. She has set goals for herself to which she adheres, and it’s awesome to see her push on, even though her heart really does belong to Zach. However, she lapses for a time, which, based on the secret itself, is understandable, but was also somewhat frustrating for me as a reader. Babie goes from being a cool, calm, collected person to someone who is falling apart in a matter of minutes, and while I can completely see the validity in this reaction, it irked me a little because I personally don’t see it as such a big, terrible issues like Babie does. I can’t say I’ve ever been in her shoes, and I know all readers will react differently to the big reveal, but I personally didn’t see it as such a big deal, so her complete attitude shift was difficult for me.
So, the secret. I can’t tell you what it is, or it’d ruin the story, but just know that there is a huge secret in this novel, one that I never saw coming. I loved that Grosso kept me guessing and that the foreshadowing wasn’t over the top like it sometimes can be in novels, and I especially loved that once the big secret was revealed to readers (there are multiple small ones as well), everything else just fell into place. However, I’m a little on the fence in terms of the authenticity of the secret itself. It’s a really cool idea, but as the novel has a very realistic feel throughout, this jarred me a bit. It’s extremely interesting, but I’m a skeptic and I feel it’s more on the impossible side than that of reality, but I also don’t pay much attention to the scientific world, and part of me says that yes, it could happen. Advances are being made as we speak, so… perhaps. But secret aside, this is where Babie’s breakdown happens, and her strong shell cracks to the point that she lost a little of my respect.
Zach is a great male lead: he’s patient, kind, compassionate, and he understands Babie like no other. He has no family aside from a mysterious benefactor who has more than provided for him, and he’s content to wait for Babie to come around to his side of things, to learn that it’s okay to fall in love, and that love won’t force her to stay in Shallow Pond. He’s a good guy.
The end of the novel sped up a little too much for my liking, jumping an entire year, and then jumping further again. It felt like one of those movies that ends and then shows pictures of the cast with a blurb telling you what happened to them after the movie, and while I enjoy that very much in my movies, I would like my novels to keep fleshing out the story. It’s a personal thing, though. I could read all day every day, but can only sit so long in front of a TV, so I assume most readers won’t mind the quick succession of the ending all that much. Three stars.
Flux Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on July 8, 2013.