Wow. Before I start this review, I'm going to do a little fan-girl gushing: this book was soooo amazing and wonderful and flat-out (haha I'm punny as a fan-girl) stupendous that if you don't have this book on your to-read list, put it on there now.........
Hahahahah I'm just kidding
Let me start off this review with the characters, because they are so incredibly real to me. I feel like I could walk out of my house and they'd be the ones standing next door. Park broke away from what other authors write as your typical "unhappy" family- alcholic mom or dad; maybe no parents at all, kids on drugs, lives in a broken-down house because the parents are dead beat, or just the opposite: rich, bratty, mom and dad who live in a huge expensive house and ignores the kids. This is pretty much an easy out for many authors to give you as little as they possibly can yet still give you the general idea of what they're talking about, but Park pretty much gives all those authors and their mediocre ways the bird and does it her own way. She wants you to feel like I did while reading this book: that this is your average, everyday, American family-with a secret. Now lets be honest, here; almost every family/ person, whether you know about it or not, has at least one secret, some hide-it-in-the-closet-and-never-let-it-see-the-light-of-day-again kind of secret. You ever walk into somebody's house, hell, it could very well be your own, and you can just tell that something's wrong? That there's a giant, polka-dotted, elephant in the room, but you feel like you can't say anything about it because it's none of your business?
Hello, and I'm what ruined everyone's lives, but you can't talk about me.....orelse
Parker created that wonderful, amazing, girl, Julie, to be able to barge into that home and figure out what was really going on and help heal the whole family, especially Celeste. She was stubborn, kind, witty, gutsy, and just wanted to help. It's almost like you're living vicariously through her; you're finally finding out that secret that your best friend has kept from you for years, or that unspoken tightness between your mom and grandfather that has kept your family apart, and it really is exhilarating.
I loved all of the shades of grey that Park put into the family. Nobody's perfect; in fact, they're quite dysfunctional: Erica at first seems great, but then you find out that she's extremely depressed and ignores her kids to a fault, Roger, the dad, is always gone due to his job and is non-supportive because of the secret (yes it's very infuriating; you're supposed to feel that way, but it's all part of Park's grand master plan, so hang with it) Matt tries to help his sister the best he can, but his protectiveness is smothering and he's on the computer excessively, and Celeste, well, I can't even describe her on here; her character has just so many layers to it; which is just another reason why you should pick up this book.
Hahahahah I'm just kidding again.
But my point with saying that isn't at all to say that they're horrible people; it's quite the opposite. Flat Finn, or; in other words, is the rigid, life-size, cardboard picture of Finn, the oldest brother, that Celeste carries around with her everywhere she goes is why they are the way they are. Finn being gone on what you at first think is just a vacation has destroyed the family. He's a lot like Phineas from the novel A Separate Peace he was enigmatic, smart, funny, charming, devilishly handsome, and the glue that held the family together. With him now gone, all of the traits that I listed above that used to be more hidden in the family are now even more pronounced; even though the family tries so hard to hide from Julie when she first arrives. They aren't horrible people, what happened to their family was horrible, and it affected them all very differently and park uses the Flat Finn almost as a character foil to that. When Julie first gets there, the family looks fine, if not a little weird like flat Finn, but then you begin to notice the stiffness of it, how two-dimensional they are, and as Julie helps Celeste get over her problems and adds hinges to Flat Finn to make him more flexible and portable, the family also becomes a lot more open and starts to recover. It was very nice to see a book where every little thing had a purpose, and every purpose/change had a person or an item it was attached to that responded accordingly.
And oh my God the plot. I'm in love with it. It was so hardly there with Julie and Finn, and I loved it. It didn't overpower the rest of the novel and what was going on, but it was still there and everything eventually rounded back to it so that you wouldn't never really forget about it. Park had me laughing soooo much with the banter between Julie and Matt, Celeste's strange actions, sad when Julie's feelings were hurt, angry when her dad abandoned her, and gasping at the sheer sexiness of other parts. And Park swung me around so quickly from one emotion to another that she got the most raw emotions out of me as well. I was gasping then laughing then crying, all in the space of ten pages. My mom even asked if I was alright because of all the assorted odd sounds I was making. I don't know if it was just how late I read it until, but I actually didn't figure out what was going on with Julie, Finn, and the family until Julie did. And I liked that. It made it all the more heartbreaking for me to find out what had happened, and made my heart bleed horribly for Julie.
So, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good story after reading a lot of snark, like me. It lifts your spirits and makes you just feel so good. Like I said earlier, if you don't have this on your to-read list put it on now; you won't regret it. Ever.