Monday, January 23, 2012

All You Get is Me by Yvonne Prinz

Title: All You Get is Me
Author: Yvonne Prinz
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperTeen
Release Date: December 21, 2010
Pages: 279 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: Christmas gift.

All You Get Is MeA summer of love, loss, and justice.

Things were complicated enough for Roar, even before her father decided to yank her out of the city and go organic. Suddenly, she's a farm girl, albeit a reluctant one, selling figs at the farmers' market and developing her photographs in a ramshackle shed. Caught between a troublemaking sidekick named Storm, a brooding, easy-on-the-eyes L.A. boy, and a father on a human rights crusade that challenges the fabric of the farm community, Roar is going to have to tackle it all--even with dirt under her fingernails and her hair pulled back with a rubber band meant for asparagus.


Two major events in Aurora "Roar" Audley's life happened when she was thirteen: her mother left and her father moved what was left of their family to a small farm in the country. It's been two years since then and she misses city life, along with her mother, but she's got a great best friend and less than two months to wait before she can get her driver's license. Then a car crash that takes the life of a woman changes Roar's family and two others forever. As Roar develops feelings for the son of the woman that caused the crash, a lawsuit looms that many hope won't make it through the system. Even if making sure that happens means making threats.

Look at that lovely cover. Read the description again. This seems like a light, fluffy romp in the farmland sun from first appearances, huh?

Wrong. In the first chapter, Roar witnesses a car crash that kills a woman, puts another woman in the hospital, and leaves a baby girl (who was also in the car with her mother) without one of her parents. The ensuing story is a tale of Roar's broken family, what the car crash has done to the families involved, and the hardships migrant workers from Mexico face when coming to the US for work.

Roar's name made me do a double-take the first time I saw it, but now that I know what it's a nickname for, I like it. I'd never thought of that as a nickname for Aurora. Her personality was vibrant and her interest in photography (which I know is not that easy, especially when it comes time to develop photographs) was fun to read about. It got on my nerves that she immediately decides to lie in certain situations instead of giving the truth one good try, but she's fifteen, after all. I did stupid things like that at fifteen. Heck, I did much stupider things at thirteen.

Maybe it helps that I read To Kill a Mockingbird recently, but I loved the slight parallels to it. All You Get is Me is nowhere near as good as To Kill a Mockingbird and there are many differences between them (like how AYGiM's core lawsuit is about a Mexican farm worker filing a civil suit in the death of his wife and TKaM's is about the alleged rape of a young white woman by a black man), but I enjoyed both books. You don't see a YA book every day that tackles the treatment of migrant workers and portrays them as the human beings they are.

I'm glad Roar and Forest (great symbolism in the name and his role in the story, by the way) didn't have the kind of relationship where they angsted about not being able to be together. Angst-free relationships are wonderful. Still, removing all conflict where there should be at least some conflict because of her dad working to get a lawsuit against his mother going made their developing love and characters feel unrealistic. By the end of the book, I still wasn't convinced they were as in love as they claimed to be.

My number-one issue with this book was Storm, Roar's best friend. Sixteen-year-old Storm (real name Hilary) likes to keep her parents on their toes, so says the book, by cutting herself and forcing herself to vomit where they can hear it. Her hobbies include stealing her mother's car, stealing from the family jewels, being obsessed with her best friend's virginity because it is apparently a sin to still be a virgin at Roar's age, and drinking boatloads of alcohol. Why does she do any of this? Well, her parents will blame themselves instead of her. If she can get away with it, why not do it? As far as I'm aware, she never regrets treating her parents the way she does.

Am I supposed to find her funny and cool and quirky? I think she's a waste of fictional space. Her cutting and rebellious behavior surely point to a bottomless pit of issues, but no attempts are ever made to cover them or even acknowledge that they might exist. It's treated with an "oh, Storm" sort of attitude, as if treating her parents horrible is just how she rolls, and Roar's lack of concern over her friend's obvious cries for help reflect badly on her too. Just because they won't blame her or get her in trouble for it doesn't mean she should do it. Storm is an overgrown child that needs a good wake-up slap.

So All You Get is Me wasn't anything like I expected it to be, but I still had a good time reading it (other than a character who does not deserve to exist because better characters could use that page time). Recommended? Only if you can handle Storm.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

1 comment:

I love hearing what others have to say about books and it makes me feel less like I'm talking to an empty auditorium, so comment away. Thank you for reading my blog post!