Author: Una La Marche
Synopsis: Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them. Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.
Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little. After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.
Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first–herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before….
Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!
Opening to the first page of Don’t Fail me Now, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I’ve never read any of Una LaMarche’s novels, but a good friend of mine told me how she as an author has a way of building wonderful and memorable relationships. Don’t Fail Me Now focuses on two girls who happen to share a father, and the road trip with their siblings across America to get to him before he keels over.
This book brought out a ton of emotions in me. There were so many hilarious moments, as there were sad ones. Every character in this novel has a distinctive voice, well developed, and each has a bit of oddness to them that you cannot help but love. My favourite character easily was Denny, but that might be because of all the characters, his innocence is pretty darling. Still, he’s quirky, love a good poop joke, and does his best to get along with everyone. If I’m being realistic, I kinda of loved everyone.
Michelle is such a wonderful heroine with so much crap on her plate, and yet she pushes through all the crap to try and raise her siblings right. When she meets her half-sister Leah, they aren’t besties right away, and they at first struggle to see there relationship as being anything more than sharing a father. For me, they had a very believable relationship, and LaMarche couples this with the extra trials and tribulations of a road trip, forcing the two of them to put difference aside so they can have their say with the father that neglected them.
All the relationships in this story feel so real and honest, which is ultimately what I loved about the story. I was given five characters, each who I cared about through the entire story. I loved Cass and her attitude, Tim’s slight dippiness, but his desire to help in any way he can — these characters offer so much more than what I am describing, and it makes for such an engaging story.
The ending admittedly, wrecked me. Actually, the whole novel did. I feel like Don’t Fail Me Now is the complete package when it comes to a good summer contemporary novel. There’s an adventure, great characters, a sweet romance (which doesn’t happen really until the end of the book), family drama and antics — it’s such a well crafted novel, offering so much to the reader. Don’t Fail Me Now begs to be enjoyed by readers, and it does so much, so effortlessly. Easily one of my favourite reads this year so far.