Sunday, May 14, 2023

Together for Never

Kaye, Marilyn. Together for Never
March 14, 2023 by Holiday House
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Charlotte is always trying different clothes and makeup to keep up with her popular best friends. Her mother has left her and her father, and is traveling through Europe with her younger musician boyfriend, but she's left before, and Charlotte is sure she'll be back. It's always been just Lily and her mother, and Lily is a bit nerdy and unpopular, since she cares more about a series of fantasy books that also have a television series. When Charlotte's father and Lily's mother start dating, and Charlotte's father invite the two to spend time at a beach cottage together, it's not a perfect set up. The two are constantly fighting and belittling each others' choices, although they do work together long enough to try to get their respective parents to date other people. Charlotte is still trying to be popular, and attempts to hang out with some high school students who live in the small beach town, but Lily has seen these teens get into trouble and tries to warn her away. It doesn't work, of course, but just drives another wedge between the two. Charlotte contacts her mother, who shows up at the beach with her boyfriend, and this doesn't help matters. Eventually, the parents are so tired of all the fighting that they decide to break up, and Lily and her mother plan to head home. Charlotte decides to go on a motorcyle ride with one of the older boys, and it ends badly. Will this emergency be enough to bring the four together as a family. 
Strengths: Blended families don't get the attention in middle grade literature that they deserve, and I imagine that tweens whose parents are dating live in constant fear that their parents might date someone whose child they know and hate, so this is a great premise for a book. There's just enough fun stuff, like hanging out on the beach, getting ice cream, and staying in a cool beach house to balance out the emotions that the girls have about their parents dating. The parents seem supportive and understanding, and seem to genuinely care about each other and the girls. The book is a good length, and moves quickly. 
Weaknesses: While friend and family drama is always in demand in my library, this cover is not going to encourage readers to check out the book. 
What I really think: This had a very similar vibe to this author's 1980s Sisters series, and felt almost like a book written a while ago and dusted off for publication. The way the girls thought about others seemed dated in a way I can't quite explain, and there were other small things, like the mother sunbathing covered in tanning oil that seemed half a bubble off. Even if actual tweens call each other weirdos, scum, and hoodlums, it's unusual to have this negative attitude work its way into books. 

Ms. Yingling

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