What worked: This is an intriguing glimpse into a survivalist's family. Readers are able to see behind closed doors how paranoia and conspiracy theories affect a family.
I really liked Nicole. She's someone who tries really hard to get approval of her father even when he pushes her beyond her limits. The strength of this story is when she encounters Wolf, the boy from Sadhana Village-the neighboring spiritual retreat center-who has her question everything she's been taught. Emotions arise whenever he's around. The feelings Nicole gets are foreign and something that would be highly frowned on by her overbearing father. I like how she doesn't just jump into a relationship but rather tries to make sense of it all.
Not only is Nicole's family totally dysfunctional but so is the relationship between Wolf and his addict mother. Wolf's mother is beautiful and she has no problems having people want to be around her. Problem is she's left Wolf alone in the village, more than a few times. He basically has been raised by others within the compound. The resentment he feels is very real and sad. It's hard to trust someone who has failed so many times in the past. Add to that his mother's current concern that he might be following in his dead father's footsteps comes too late to really matter to him.
Another plus was the stark contrasts between Nicole and Wolf's lives. The so-called spiritual center is more open with drug and alcohol use while Nicole and her sister are so used to being controlled by their overbearing father. So when their parents, including the controlling father, are gone? Nicole is more guarded about the new situation while Izzy is quicker to try out what once was forbidden--like being around boys. The author does a great job showing the temptations to not only question but walk away from the strict rules of their father.
One thing I did have issues with was how dysfunctional Nicole's family was. Her father left her and her younger sister alone in the middle of nowhere in a broken down house. His character felt one dimensional and abusive. The mother, even though she's a refugee of the Killing Fields, didn't come across as sympathetic at all. I could see why she might snap but it felt too abrupt. I wanted more of the reasons why behind the parents just up and leaving the teens behind. It felt too convenient without showing more of the reasons behind an impulsive idea.
Startling look into the lives of a survivalist family where the daughters are left behind to fend for themselves. Nicole's struggle to make sense out of what her father taught and the feelings she has when left alone are compelling at how real isolation can be. Mostly though this is a story of two teens that have to find the courage to stand up for themselves when others in their lives have failed them.