Check out the page on the publisher's website here.
- Why I picked it up: Small towns, twins, racism, poverty, interesting author
- Disclosure: Received ARC from publisher, no other reimbursement
While it's clear in places that this author is still learning her chops - at times Nick seemed less like a character than a plot device, the final piece of the conclusion lost me somewhat - the story surprised me by how much it moved me. I am very much a bibliophile, as the title of my blog implies. Books save my life on a regular basis. A problem with reading as much as I do, though, is that after awhile you get cynical. New author, you start thinking. Been there, done that. I am always thrilled beyond words when I find a book that, despite its flaws, makes me rethink that cynicism.
As the novel continues, it becomes clear that we are hearing two stories - Max and Menna's past, and the harsh realities of their now. I guessed at the ending early, but that didn't stop it from making my heart plummet and my eyes suspiciously wet. What books like Max and Menna drive home is that life, as wonderful as it can be at times, simply isn't fair - never has been, never will be. The writing is excellent, but the story is truly great, and it left me with the ache I know signifies the kind of book that will stay with me forever.
Unfortunately, teens and adults expecting YA might be put off by the blurb, which sounds too juvenile, and the sporadic chapters from adult perspectives. Also, the type in my ARC was unusually small (which, to be fair, might have been understandable ARC economizing on the part of the small press publisher), and the formatting odd. I hope that this review changes that impression, though, because I think you'll find Max and Menna well worth your time. It's strength is that it never becomes an "issue" book, exploring its story with a voice that runs the gamut from unyieldingly harsh to sympathetic, but very rarely to sappy or melodramatic. While it may not fit very well into the conventional YA market, it's an excellent read for any teen or adult who's a fan of fiction that is serious, compulsively readable, romantic, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
The Final Verdict: Broad in scope, well-plotted, and wonderfully crafted; the kind of book that lingers for a long time in the back of your mind. Four and a half out of five stars.