Strangely, this is the second book I've read this month about a younger sister of an absent sibling with the family name Winter. The missing older sister, Deirdre, in Neverland is more profoundly missing than the brother in Dryland (whoa, hadn't noticed the names are similar, too, until just now), but even so Deirdre plays an active role in protagonist Hayley's life, unlike Jordan in Julie's in Dryland. The deal with Deirdre isn't revealed right away, so I won't tell you what it is.
The book's opening wastes no time getting you familiar with Hayley's funny/sharp/self-aware outlook:
Never in my eighteen years of life, have I understood why girls think leggings can function as pants.
There, I said it.
I feel it best to start off small when you're about to spend a great deal of time complaining. And right now, that's my smallest complaint.
I was first annoyed by Hayley's cliche point of view on legging, but quickly won over by how she admits that she's being petty.
My frustration with Hayley continued throughout much of the novel, because she makes dumb choices and keeps stuff in that needs to come out. Still, as she wins you over in the introduction by copping to her brattiness, I appreciate that Hayley always shows just enough soul and/or maturity to keep the reader engaged. Hayley is 18 through most, if not all (I don't remember having read two more books since I finished Neverland last week ) of the book. She drinks and sexes, so the novel is more "new adult" than YA. Either way, it's full of the witty banter that both genres require.
Once Hayley acquires a love interest, her suitably trenchant best friend Mia tries to convince Hayley to buy some new duds:
"You're seeing a businessman now," she explains in transit. "It wouldn't hurt to look mature enough for the part." ...
"Why do I need new things? Aren't you supposed to be yourself in these situations?" I all but begged.
"Hayley, you hate yourself," she clarified, draping her arm around my shoulder.
I'm a sucker for anthropomorphism, so bits like "I tried not to let my smile fade until I had both feet through the door. The poor thing never had a chance." make me smile. I also share an aesthetic with Hayley, who admires a toddler's striped dress and leggings and wonders where she could find a similar outfit.
Hayley, like people with a lot of secrets, is guarded, so it's nice to see her in moments of love and sharing, like when she tells her boyfriend "You're my favorite." and responds to "Your favorite what" with "Everything," you feel like she might actually survive her secrets, or at least you want her to.
The secrets she has to survive--the first is revealed quickly, that Hayley's "hating herself" takes the form of bulimia, the second has to do with her sister, and the third I didn't predict, but completely made sense and ties the other two together in a more predictable way.
Verano's writing is in this Kindle-published book solid, but it could have benefitted from a professional editor helping to shape the thing. It's still a fun read and Verano takes an entertaining approach to otherwise deadly subjects.