When Natalia Lopez's father discards his third wife for another conquest, the disillusioned 17-year-old swears off dating and marriage, and accompanies her broken-hearted stepmother, Maureen, to Miami for a fresh start. Far from her native Spain, Natalia makes friends (including characters from the author's previous novels, First Date and Starring Me) and catches the eye of Spencer, the most popular and wealthy boy at her new school. It's class clown (and pastor's son) Brian Younger, however, who makes Natalia wonder whether God will hold her to her no-romance vow. The relationships--and the faith of some involved --grow as a very mature Natalia helps Maureen through a hard time, teaches immigrants at an ASL class, and finds her calling on a mission trip to Costa Rica. The squeaky-clean Christian school environment might cause a few eyes to roll, but an abundance of real-life problems like divorce, depression, fitting in at school, workaholic parents, and figuring out one's purpose in life should keep this story relevant for many teens, regardless of how important faith is to them. A guide for reader groups is included. Ages12-up. Agent: Jenni Burke, (Dec.)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
Gr 8 Up--In this novel about faith and family, 17-year-old Natalia Lopez chooses to accompany her stepmother, Maureen, to Florida from Spain after her father, who has been married twice before, demands a divorce. His view of women is chauvinistic at best. Maureen is shattered by the split and Natalia feels closer to her than she does to her biological parents as Maureen has shared her time, love, and faith with her stepdaughter. The move is difficult for both of them; Maureen feels that her family and friends will consider her a failure and Natalia is trying to deal with culture shock and her stepmother's depression. Help comes for both of them through the students and staff of the Tampa Christian School Natalia attends and where Maureen reluctantly accepts a teaching position. The situations that Maureen, Natalia, and their friends face are universal: parental pressure, relationship problems, and confusion about the future. Natalia gets over her fear of love with the help of a cute and earnest pastor's son and Maureen finds her faith renewed. Unfortunately, the writing is uneven and often stilted, and the message is delivered with a very heavy hand. McGee seems not to trust that readers will be able to understand and empathize with the characters. The ending is a little too neat and completely unrealistic, leaving the impression that if one prays hard enough everything will work out as one wishes.--Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC[Page 118]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.