Rainey is excited about her summer away on an educational tour of Western Canada called WESTEX. She and five other teens will hike, camp, and learn about survival and Canadian history for eight weeks. Rainy is looking to get away from her father and his new wife for awhile. Looking to leave the city that is very different from the small town she grew up in, where she has no friends except a goofy gold retriever named Simon. Looking for answers about what exactly she wants to do with her future. What she is not looking for is a meeting with the mother who left when Rainey was only six months old, but she might get that too. Rainey was born without part of one of her legs due to a condition called amniotic band syndrome. No matter what her father says, Rainey can’t help but think her mother left because she didn’t want to deal with a “crippled” child. When Rainey learns her mother lives in a town near one of the stops on the WESTEX tour, she has to make a tough decision about whether or not she wants to meet the woman who gave birth to her then abandoned her.
Reaction: First of all, I would like to say that this book had one of the best first paragraphs I’ve read in awhile:
The night before I embark on my “Wild West Summer,” I split up with Carlos Aroca. Of course, he didn’t know about the breakup anymore than he knew we were once a hot item. Sad but true, our torrid six-month romance had been just a figment of my imagination. An optimistic delusion. A lavish dinner-for-one buffet, satisfying my appetite for adventure and craving for a little affection.
I loved it. I thought it was a great hook and it is such a wonderful example of Rainey’s voice. Her humor, her feelings, and her needs in one small opening paragraph.
Moving on, the rest of the novel remained equally compelling and was quite absorbing. Rainey is a complicated girl with a complicated life. She obviously has trust issues due to her mother and she’s constantly trying to overcompensate for her leg to prove to everyone that she isn’t “wimpy gimpy girl.” She has quite a temper and has trouble with “compassionate verbal strategies” her father, whom she calls Greg, is always telling her to use instead of force or angry outbursts. Also, she’s a passionate artist but her father, despite what a great father he is, doesn’t want her to “paint herself into a corner” by pursuing art as a career, so she’s determined to find something else she can get excited about before applying to colleges in the fall.
All of the other characters are well-drawn and two dimensional. Each WESTEXer has his or her own issues that add depth to the stereotypes they seem when first introduced. The setting is gorgeously described and Canadian history is interesting without being overbearing or preachy, though the reader gets subjected to the WESTEX teacher/leader, Dan’s, “Did you know…” factoids just like the students.
A few complaints, though minor. It seemed a bit unrealistic that everyone on the trip had a problem. I think the only one that hadn’t had some major life crisis (or two or three) was Dan, and he was just too jolly to let on if he did have one. Also, I think sometimes the teens were a bit too self-realized. For example:
The joy of being seventeen was having the vocabulary to make incredibly mature-sounding speeches — even after spending the preceding half hour shouting and whining like a pissed-off preschooler — without having the experience to know what I was getting myself into. (162)
I loved this quote because it was so true but I do not see a seventeen-year-old actually acknowledging or thinking it.
Complaints are minimal and the overall writing and characterization made it an engrossing read.