This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Amanda Keats
Abi has not had a great relationship with big sister Cleo since Cleo was discovered by a model agency aged sixteen and moved away to London. So when she is stuck for somewhere to go for the couple of summer months between leaving one home and moving in to another, she accepts Cleo's invitation to stay with her in London to reconnect. While Cleo has lived an exciting, glamorous life as a model, Abi has raised her daughter on her own and on the salary of a part-time librarian.
Abi is just the kind of 'ugly' sister you might imagine, stood next to former supermodel Cleo – she often feels invisible, is massively insecure, introverted and lacks ambition. She has spent the last eighteen years entirely wrapped up in the life of her daughter Phoebe, but now Phoebe has moved out she wonders how she ever filled her days. She enjoys her part-time job at the library but it isn't exactly fulfilling all her wildest dreams. So when she moves in with Cleo, Cleo's husband Jonty and their two young girls, she tries not to be an imposition. At first, she can't adjust to battling the hired help for access to the toaster, wondering how long she has to stay in her room for before she goes downstairs or shaking the feeling that Cleo has no intention of bonding with her at all. But her opinions soon start to change. Having hardly spoken to Jonty for the entire duration of his marriage to her sister, she soon realises he isn't actually as bad as she first thought. She's also horrified to see that her ten year old niece is oddly self-conscious and can't stop checking out her appearance in the mirror long enough to have any real fun. As the days and weeks go on, Abi starts to uncover things in her sister's house that she did not see coming. She tries to escape the hold the house has over her into a local part-time job and soon can't keep up with all the drama.
So do Abi and Cleo finally have the relationship Abi so craves? To be honest, it doesn't actually matter. The joy of the story is in the story – not the ending. Watching Abi fall in love with her nieces, make new friends and see new sides to people is what makes this book great. Fallon is not afraid to shift expectations and show all sides to people who appeared so clear cut to begin with. That said, it feels incomplete. It is not a traditional neat ending and while some surprise/twist endings work really well, this one just sort of stops – and annoyingly at the end of a page spread. I turned the page over to see what happened next and discovered it had ended. The pace continues well but picks up at parts and then slows down again, making it difficult to hold your focus. There was a section in the middle where I couldn't stop reading for ages. Then, all of a sudden, it slowed and I was perfectly happy to put it down.
On reflection, it is actually a nice, poetic sort of ending, leaving the reader to come to their own conclusions as to what happened. However, too many elements were left unresolved for it to be mysterious and it came off more frustrating than anything else. For those who love to debate books though, this would be a perfect candidate for a book club. The decisions Abi makes as the story progresses will spark heated debate as they can be both adorable and infuriating. If you found out something horrible, would you tell the person who stands to be hurt by it if it were to get out? Or would you keep it to yourself and claim it was none of your business? How far would sibling loyalty go?
An interesting read with an identifiable but frustrating central character, clever plot twists and utterly lovable and believable relationships.