Emily is about to witness the breakdown of her family. Her parents are going to divorce, due in large part to the affair that her father had with a neighbour. The neighbour's husband is going to commit suicide (witnessed by Emily). The affair will result in a baby, and her father will move to Europe. Her mother will become depressed and housebound, hardly ever engaging in the outside world. Emily, still a young teenager, will have to find her own way through the mess created by these adults in order to finally grow up herself.
This was not a book that I could read quickly. I had to take frequent breaks while reading it because there is just so much to take in. There are a number of ways that one could interpret the title, but for me it just emphasized the number of ways that the adults in Emily's life failed her. Her mother, her father, her teacher...no one really had her best interests at heart. How Emily deals with this and goes on to form relationships with them anyway is, to me, at the centre of this book. The first few sections were the ones that I thought were the strongest, and because of them I was willing to follow the book through to the end. I picked it up because of a mention I saw in Entertainment Weekly, and I hope it moved others to do the same.
Find it at IndieBound.
Read it with:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Normal People Don't Live Like This by Dylan Landis
One Day by David Nicholls
Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis
The Sky is Falling by Caroline Adderson