When asked if I’d be interested in reviewing this book, I was excited by the idea of a novel set in early 90s Seattle music scene. I was in college at that time and it may be cliché but the Seattle sound really did rock my world. There was something so personal and emotional about the music, so different from the classic rock of the 70s and the metal and hair-band rock I liked in the 80s. Instead of being about sex and drugs and love, the Seattle 90s music was about feeling alone, left out, broken. Which makes it not only a historical backdrop for this story, but a thematic one as well.
In 1992, teenagers Zane and Skye are best friends in love with each other, but neither is willing to risk their friendship by acting on it. When Skye loses her older sister to a tragic accident, in grief they come together. Skye, pregnant with their child, flees town, while Zane tries to launch his band. Ten years later, Skye is raising nine-year old Montana on her own in New Mexico. She’s struggling to commit to new guy Aaron, because she’s never dealt with the feelings she had for Zane. When Skye’s father dies suddenly, she has to return to Seattle, bringing Zane back into her life and Montana’s.
What I liked most about this book was that the issues were really complex. I could very much relate to the close childhood friendship between Skye and Zane, and the fear both of them had of losing that friendship when it turned into something more. I thought this might be a typical “second-chance romance” type of book, where the characters are great people, they just weren’t mature enough at the time to make it work. Instead, Haupt gives us a wide range of issues her characters are struggling with, from guilt, grief, anger, violence, and addiction. She could have made these characters much easier to like; as a reader, I struggled with how much I disliked them at times (particularly Zane), which surprised me and I wondered if that was the author’s intent.
Throughout the book, the characters, and their conflicts, felt very real, particularly the family relationships. Skye and her mother care about each other yet they’ve also given up and let years go by without resolving anything. But there’s also a sense of hope in this book, that growth is possible.
I often have some trepidation going into a book that’s about parenting, because books about parenting can be treacly, or at least they don’t resonate as much with me as a non-parent. This book felt nuanced and explores the complications that children bring as well as the joys. Even Montana herself wasn’t the perfectly adorable child you often see in books.
There were a few times I thought I knew which direction this book was heading, and Haupt defied my expectations. She lets the story unfold gradually, revealing key details slowly, so while there are things that are hidden, they don’t feel over the top or out of line with what you know about the characters.
Toward the end, there were a few elements of the story that didn’t work well for me (mainly, the Amanda storyline) but it didn’t detract too much from the general emotional impact of the book. There’s quite a bit of jumping around in time and perspective, and on top of that this book takes place in at least four different cities, so there’s a lot to follow and some readers will find that distracting.
This was a moving, well-written story, set in an interesting time, about some very messy relationships. I didn’t always love these characters, but I wanted to see how it all came out. There were no easy answers in this book, which I appreciated.
I should note that I’m halfway through Dave Grohl’s memoir, Storyteller, and it’s a perfect companion to this book, for anyone who wants to know more about Nirvana and the Seattle music scene.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from author Jennifer Haupt, NetGalley, and publisher Central Avenue Publishing. The book publishes on March 1, 2022.
Great review! xx