Constance reviewed this book for the RITA® Reader Challenge. It was a finalist in the Young Adult and Best First Book categories.
Plot Summary: Seventeen-year-old Bronwen Oliver has a secret: She’s really Phoebe, the lost daughter of the loving Lilywhite family. That’s the only way to explain her image-obsessed mother, a kind but distant stepfather, and a brother with a small personality complex.
And now, Constance’s review:
Bronwen is a nice, normal, hard-working high school student, with a best friend Kristen, and mild fantasies about having been switched at birth. How else can she explain why she and her mother can barely communicate? (and there is something really bizarre about the way her mother had Bronwen’s brown hair colored blonde as a 13th bday present, then comments, “Finally, I see a resemblance [to herself].” When Jared appears, attractive, relaxed, attentive, and very romantic – his last words on the phone every night are “Dream of me” – Bronwen is more than ready to fall in love with Jared and with his family. Perhaps because Jared’s father and Bronwen’s father are business partners, no one seems to object to the age difference, and by the end of the summer they are engaged.
I like that Jared is attractive but not as handsome as Bronwen’s ex, Chad, who pressured her to have sex on Prom night. Jared respects that Bronwen wants to wait until they are married but in a way that doesn’t deprive him of sex appeal (I suppose the waiting for sex until after marriage is one reason for an early wedding). Bronwen does not doubt her love for him but is afraid she is being consumed by it before she has established her own identity.
The descriptions of Hope College reminded me a little of The Real Thing, Rosamond du Jardin’s book about Tobey Heydon’s college experience when she and Brose decide to attend different schools so they can find out if their high school romance will last. In a way, it seemed odd that Tobey and Brose had so much more sense in 1951 when young marriages were common than Bronwen and Jared in the 21st century. I have a particular fondness for The Real Thing because it is one of the first books I remember buying for myself – it was a $.50 Berkley Medallion paperback with the plaid binding, and I bought it at Books and Pages in Newton, Massachusetts (never dreaming I would one day work for Berkley). I still own that book, although have not yet unpacked it.
What I disliked:
Jared started off charming but became annoying and controlling quite a while before Bronwen noticed. It seemed too simplistic that she fell in love so easily merely because she craved a father figure.
Bronwen’s mother (and to some extent, her bother) is dreadful, and I went back and forth wondering whether she was a plausible character. Could anyone be that self-centered? And what were all these parents thinking to let a sheltered 17 year old date a college senior? And why would they let them plan a wedding after dating such a short time? Granted, I don’t know anyone who got married at 18 but I imagine successful long-term relationships at that age are the exception, not the rule, although I suppose my sister met her husband when she was Bronwen’s age….
Bronwen has a great best friend, Kristen, and when they fall out senior year it is a Sign. Nothing good ever results from dissing your best friend for some guy, in fiction or in real life.