A Catholic good girl with a Spanish-y last name and a crazy mom while trying to escape Appalachia through college so she can help people but without actually talking to them? Well, that’s not a story I’ve heard often, you know, except in my own life. Lulu Mendez is too smart for middle-of-nowhere Dale, VA, and she has done her best to avoid any of the small-town traps that would keep her complacent in her tiny little town, including snubbing off the local hick boys with no interest in exploring the bigger, wider world out there. That is until her father breaks the news that they can’t afford to send her to college. That’s when Lulu gets the bright idea to brew and sell moonshine, nectar of the hillbilly gods, to pay for her education, and she’s going to get the help of her best friends and relative stranger Mason Malone, whose family is known to be pretty successful Shiners themselves on the not-so-DL. (That’s where Lulu’s story makes a severe departure from mine, one can safely assume.) Mason is everything she has tried to stay away from. His family is involved with illegal business, he dropped out of college, and he has a really bad haircut. There’s nothing close resembling a future with a boy like that, but when did love ever listen to logic?
As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of second-person. The whole thing is told as if a letter to Mason, which is a little uncomfortable for me to slip into, but it does an interesting job of foreshadowing the end. Is she reminiscing with him or talking to a grave? Are they together in Dale or San Diego or god knows where else? It was a clever way to plant uncertainty in whether or not I knew where everything was heading. As far as the story goes, it’s not the most earth-shattering or surprising. Despite the slightly contrived circumstances that bring our protagonist and her love together in the first place, it’s a pretty simple, sweet without being too syrupy love story with minimal eye-rolling and, interestingly enough, some background character development for her background BFF, too. Most of what I loved was in the character of Lulu herself. Lulu is so hellbent on turning her back on the town of Dale to the point where it’s nearly off-putting but also learns to appreciate that it is a part of who she is. She’s a good girl without being too good.
For once, I don’t have gads and gads of words for my review. There isn’t much I have to say about this book other than the fact that I enjoyed reading it. The writing was solid, the main character wasn’t annoying, the love interest was a decent interesting person in his own right (but honestly, I kept picturing him as a cross between Eminem and every Ford-driving, football-loving hillbilly I grew up with), and it was a nice piece of something to disappear into for a few minutes of the day. On thing I really loved, which was a small, throwaway detail really, was that it turns out, is actually a reference to Roni, her best friend, and not to Lulu or her man. If you have some time and like a sweet YA romance, this one is definitely up your alley.
Reviewed for Cannonball Read.