Reece Malcolm is Devan's Mitchell's mother, and this, along with four other facts, equals the sum total of Devan's knowledge about Reece. After her father's death, Reece's lawyer picks Devan up in St. Louis and flies with her to L.A., her new home. Every chapter opens with a continuation of Devan's list of things she knows about her introverted, prickly mother. Their relationship forms the core of the story, much more important than the romance or Devan's calling to perform in musicals.
Reece definitely probably will not be winning any mother of the year awards, but I really love her character. She does not act remotely like the stereotypical mom (either in the neglectful or involved sense), but, through her gruff exterior, you can see her attempts at affection. Being of an emotionally clumsy, somewhat taciturn disposition myself, I totally get Reece. She's a very permissive parent, allowing Reece to go out and do pretty much whatever she wants, but very much a present one, as is Reece's live-in boyfriend Brad. They have a lot of family dinners and shopping excursions, and she always knows what's going on in Devan's life. Plus, Reece probably wouldn't do anything too objectionable anyway, so really deserves to be trusted with that freedom. I also love the fights that they have, because they were very much true to life, full of intentionally brutal comments that later result in regret.
Devan, too, delights me and, other than being somewhat reserved and highly talented, is very much unlike Reece. Except when it comes to music and acting, Devan worries and constantly apologizes for things. She bottles up her emotions, polite to everyone even when they're rude, until she explodes and delivers a tirade. Devan's narrative voice includes a lot of humor, teen angst, and passion. She also just feels a hundred percent like a real teenager.
All of the other characters are fantastic too, even some of the lesser characters like Mira receiving some real consideration. What I love best about this book is how honestly teen it feels. The relationship drama, while full of angst and a huge portion of Devan's mental lanscape, does not come off as the most important aspect of her life. As much as she stresses thinks about boys, she does not act like her life will be ruined without a boy or like she's in true love forever. Plus, all of the relationships in here feel so real, awkward, ill-defined, and messy. Despite that, Devan's narration definitely keeps the book on the happier end of the contemporary scale, because her love of theater helps her maintain balance and perspective.
What Left Me Wanting More:
My only slight reservation deals with the writing style, which for the most part I love. The storytelling sounds completely like Reece, and really helps throw you into her head, so that is fantastic. The only questionable element is the use of strikethroughs to express Devan's confusion about her emotions. They are a bit too cutesy, and I really think Spalding got Devan's emotional state across perfectly well without that.
The Final Verdict:
Amy Spalding's debut sparkles with wit and characterization, and I highly recommend it! I will definitely be reading whatever she happens to write next, and really wouldn't mind if it were more books about Devan. ;)