When Esther’s family move to Truth or Consequences they are weighed down by all of the lies, secrets and judgements they bring with them. Esther’s big “mistake” has necessitated the move and her sister and once best friend Hannah doesn’t want anything to do with her, her stepfather Tom is more controlling than ever, her mother refuses to talk about it, and the family in general vacillate between judging Esther and trying to pretend they’re not all keeping a secret. Both girls are now homeschooled and missing the lives they left behind in Ohio.
This is a book with iced mocha Frappuccino soy lattes, pools that are as parched as the desert, red tacks on maps, Heaven in Blockbuster, a gigantic Touchdown Jesus, terrible math jokes, and the search for truth.
I am a sucker for books with road trips and quirky personalities living with quirkier names. Where the Heart Is started the quirky thing with me and as a result every book with quirk since then has been judged against my love of Novalee, Sister Husband and Lexie.
This book has Color and Moss; Color cleans houses when she’s not at school and her brother Moss (also known as Fungus) runs through the book in his short running shorts. Jesús (pronounced Hey-soos) works at a cafe and wants someone to ‘froth his wand’. Beth is the proud owner of humourous science shirts and can be found singing in the church choir.
I’m a romantiphobe anyway so maybe take this with a grain of salt; I suspected going into this book that there’d be romance involved but it didn’t really work for me. It felt like we went from this guy is standoffish to the point of seeming to actively dislike her to oh, they’re kissing now without much of a progression.
I did get a little misty eyed at one of the ‘Aw, I want friends like that’ moments. I didn’t particularly like Esther although I really liked most of her friends and wished their stories were fleshed out more. Although she was the main character I actually found her story to be the least interesting. In this book all of the kids are dealing with really big issues including abandonment and homophobia but this, being Esther’s story, relegates most of this to the periphery.
I waited the whole book to find out what truth Jesús was going to include in his senior statement and wondered how his secret remained one for so long. I wanted to know what the deal was with Color and Moss’ mother. I wanted the situation with Hannah to result in something much more satisfying and appropriate than her getting grounded.
I wanted there to be some resolution for Amit. I wanted to hang out with Beth’s parents. I wanted Tom’s character to develop rather than all of a sudden changing in the end to wrap the story up more neatly. I wanted Esther and Hannah’s mother to be who she was instead of pretending to be who her husband wanted her to be.
The only parents in the book that I had any respect for were Beth’s but they were only spoken about, not on the pages themselves. The rest of the parents needed a swift kick up their abandoning, homophobic, judgemental ‘consequences’.
I preferred The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland; I think I was destined to compare the two. I don’t remember having so many outstanding questions at the end of Grover.
Content warnings include abandonment, homelessness and homophobia.
Thank you to NetGalley and Skyscape for the opportunity to read this book.
Once Upon a Blurb
Pondering math problems is Esther Ainsworth’s obsession. If only life’s puzzles required logic. Her stepfather’s solution? Avoidance. He’s exiled the family to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, to erase a big secret from Esther’s past. So much for the truth. Now for the consequences: an empty swimming pool, a water-sucking cactus outside her window, a goldfish rescued from a church festival, and Esther’s thirst for something real.
Step one: forget about her first love. Step two: make allies. Esther finds them in Jesús from the local coffee bar; a girl named Color who finds beauty in an abandoned video store; Beth, the church choir outcast; and Moss, a boy with alluring possibilities. Step three: confess her secret to those she hopes she can trust. Esther’s new friends do more than just listen. They’re taking Esther one step further.
Together, they hit the road to face Esther’s past head-on. It’s a journey that will lead her to embrace her own truth – in all its glory, pain, and awesomeness.