A thousand thanks to Jenna from Reading with Jenna for bringing me this OZYA title to share!
The first thing that stood out to me in this story was the narrative’s voice: it’s hilarious, down-to-earth, and relatable on all accounts. Told in first person POV by Frankie, this book first starts off with her meeting her half-brother named Xavier. It’s awkward, but cool at the same time. I mean, who wouldn’t bond over their deadbeat mother right? After that we get a little glimpse of Frankie’s messed-up life. She’s taking a break from school after punching some jerk’s nose for something he said, yet she doesn’t say anything when given the chance to explain to the principal. It’s almost as if she sets herself up for failure because of her background – a mother who leaves her, and a father who overdosed when she was a toddler. Basically, she never really had parental influences and was instead raised with love by her Aunt Vinnie. Frankie definitely shows the more rough side of life while following the escapades of a soulful girl who just wants to find acceptance in the world.
Frankie’s relationship with her aunt and best friend, Vinnie and Cara respectively, was really nice to read about. I loved seeing how the Frankie’s actions affect both of them, and how she eventually learns from the consequences. Because Frankie’s been skirting around the edges of the law, and each time something like that happens, Aunt Vinnie gets even more disappointed in her. It’s actually a bit heartbreaking to see the person who raised you and loves you start giving hope on you, you feel? And Frankie has to go through such an ordeal once she starts realizing that her brother Xavier mysteriously goes missing. Her best friend Cara also helps out to find out what exactly happened to Xavier, and her loyalty to Frankie was really delightful to read about, especially since Frankie is generally treated like crap by the students in the school.
I thought that the way the author handled Xavier was interesting. His character reflects a bit of an immature version of Frankie and does the things he does because of misguided attempts to salvage their family. Like for example, stealing in order to attain money for a good cause. It stems from the lack of a good parent figure, and eventually becomes a product of his environment. He hopes for the best in the end, bringing gifts to Frankie to make her like him and all, but the way he tries to do so is questionable and it’s up to Frankie to bring him back on track (or so she tries). It’s really quite bittersweet, and I really couldn’t help but feel bad for these resilient characters that try to make the most out of their situations. In a way, it really brings into perspective the different first world problems we have. Like, you hate your mom for not letting you go to a party for your safety? Great, Frankie has mixed feelings for her mom for dropping her off as a child and never coming back for her again. And despite all these things going on in Frankie’s life, her best friend and aunt remains a solid part of her that reigns her in when she gets almost too far gone, like Xavier.
There is an interesting addition of romance that is quite light, although I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I liked Frankie’s relationship with Cara and Aunt Vinnie. She meets this guy named Nate, who happens to be a local thief and knows Xavier. Nate’s pretty much the only person who has the necessary clues to help her find Xavier, but they don’t like really hit it off from the beginning. She doesn’t like how he used Xavier as a look out for one of his thefts, and the influence he has for him. But they slowly open up while looking for Xavier and he does aid in some character development that goes on for Frankie. I just think that since it was a bit underdeveloped, I couldn’t really appreciate the romance the way I did with the other relationships demonstrated in the book.
The ending came as a surprise, and it kept the book open-ended. I don’t usually like books like that have such an ending, but I think it really fit Frankie. I’m not the biggest fan of it, but it did leave an impression. Sometimes Frankie could be frustrating as a character, but overall the realistic way she was portrayed really struck a chord with me. Her character development is what really drove the book, and if you’re up for a YA that isn’t afraid to talk about the harsher things in life, all while maintaining the light-hearted atmosphere with a resilient main character’s voice, then I urge you to pick this one up.