My Best Everything
By Sarah Tomp
Expected publication March 3, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Lulu has been waiting for her escape. She is finally going to get out of her small town and start a bigger life. When her daddy breaks the news that they can no longer afford to send her to college, Lulu is devastated. Until she comes up with a crazy, reckless plan that might save her. Or it might ruin her.
I was intrigued by this book because it touches upon a topic that is pretty unique in YA lit - moonshine. I'm not sure I would have known what that was a teenager, though I've no illusions that most teens do know. I thought it'd be interesting to read a book about moonshining that takes place in contemporary times.
I have to give this book personal props for being the first 2015 YA contemporary release that wasn't about suicide that I've read this year. I don't know what I was thinking when I requested all those e-galleys of books dealing with suicide, but this was a bit of a relief. Of course, that doesn't mean that this book wasn't dealing with some hard-hitting topics. Lulu only gets into moonshine because she sees no other course of action. Her family does not have the money or resources to send her off to college and she does not have the desire to stay in her hometown. She sees her only option as a crazy money-making plan and it happens to involve some illegal liquor. Additionally, Lulu's love interest has some problems that are discussed throughout the book. So, there are certainly some issues being handled here.
The problem is that I'm not sure they're handled particularly well. A lot of it feels very surface-level, even the main issue of Lulu's family deciding she can't go to college. While it's clear that money is not the only reason for the change in plans, I don't feel like all the issues are dealt with to the depth that they deserve. Lulu's family life is quite complicated, but I don't feel like it's ever fully explored, not to an extent that I find satisfactory. As I mentioned, Lulu's love interest, Mason, also has a range of issues he's dealing with, but, for the most part, they don't feel fully portrayed either. The death of his former girlfriend is mentioned several times, but I don't think I ever really got a true sense of how Mason felt about it, or how he dealt with it, or how it really changed him. Yeah, Tomp does tell readers some of those answers, but they don't really feel true to me. And basically the entire story of Roni and Bucky - it feels way superficial and never handled fully.
Additionally, this book got a little heavy on the moonshine stuff. Yeah, it's interesting and, in all likelihood, it's something that readers won't have a ton of knowledge about. But it sometimes gets a bit technical and tiring, to the point where I often skimmed passages when Lulu was strategizing business plans or explaining how to handle the mash.
I was also not crazy about Lulu. I have sympathy for her; like I said, her family situation is complicated and she is heartbroken when her father tells her she can't plan on college anymore. But her actions made me shake my head in frustration so many times while reading. It's likely that this actually makes her a very realistic character - she is imperfect, rash, and selfish, lacking foresight and the thinking through of consequences. But she irritated me to no end. I also did not like the idea of the entire novel being a letter to Mason - it came across as awkward to me.
Overall, while I didn't personally love the book, I can see its appeal for certain readers and will recommend it to those readers.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.