Imagine if you showed up for your senior year and learned your high school was closing. Worse- students will have to attend their hated rival school. Teachers are leaving, clubs and teams are dropped, no one wants to be principal. In midst of the chaos, the newly elected student president promises it will be one hellava year.
When I first read the description I thought this book would be about kids having to adjust to a new school after learning theirs had to close. Instead it’s about how the kids adjust over the course of the last year the school is supposed to be open knowing for everyone but the seniors they have to transfer to a different school the following year. It’s not just any school, it’s their biggest rival, and the hatred is so intense between the two groups of students images from West Side Story started playing in my head.
Starting in August before school begins, each chapter focuses on a different time throughout the school year as John Rubisch did a Breakfast Club type of story examining the students who were impacted by growing up in Mill River, how the decision to close the school impacted them and where they ended up in the future after graduation. I thought the Epilogue where he provided a quick synopsis of their futures was sweet and made for a satisfying conclusion.
At times the story felt rushed and like we were only getting quick snapshots of what was happening in the lives of certain character even if it was a major event such as the death of a loved but that seemed to be the point as Rubisch was trying to squeeze an entire year of a community into one book. Considering his overall plot I could actually see this easily being turned into a series where each book focused on one month but it probably would not have had the same emotional impact since you get the entire story at once.
Aside from the understandably fast pace I really liked that Rubisch still managed to provide excellent character development as I felt myself caring what was going to happen to these kids, this community. I wanted to support Cy’s antics, throw my own cherry pie in the face of those evil twins, root on Mousey as she fought hard on the basketball court, hug Jack and tell him he can push through his struggles and be an avid reader of everything Holly wrote. There were so many others you couldn’t help but fall for and hope nothing but the best for them.
Rubisch’s writing style is wonderful as he creates the perfect microcosm of humanity and shows us the cause and effect of choices as well as how to face adversity head on. I have to admit I even got teary eyed when Cy gave his speech at the end and would’ve been right there along with everyone else cheering him on.
Although this was definitely in some ways a prototypical YA book, there was something about it that made it much classier and full of more heart than you would expect for this genre.
Thank you to Netgalley and First Edition Design Publishing for allowing me to review this book.
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*synopsis and pic from amazon.com