Between singing in church, babysitting her nephew, and a standing date with her best friend Devon every Friday night, there’s not much time for good girl Amber Vaughn to get into trouble. Amber and Devon find themselves disappearing into the woods during the summer, meeting hikers along the Appalachian trail, singing with them over a campfire, hearing their stories. It’s their secret and Amber feels more like the person she wants to be when she’s in that old barn where hikers crash for the night. When Amber hears about an audition at the North Carolina School for the Arts, her dream of singing to bigger audiences could become a reality. Devon’s older brother, and unavailable, Will helps Amber prepare for the audition but the more time they spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes. Then Amber’s family’s life is turned upside down and she has to choose between her family and her dreams.
This book sucked me in right from the beginning. It was about a small town girl and big dreams, about seeing other people’s mistakes and making her own, about discovering who she was as a person, about falling in love, about friendships, about family, about music.
Amber was a character I really liked right away. She felt real. Small town girl, big dreams, family girl, with a secret part of her life that only her best friend knew. She cared about her family and her friends, she never wanted to see them hurt and she always wanted to help, even if it meant making some stupid decisions. She was faced with some hard choices and didn’t always make the right one, but she actually had to deal with consequences which was nice to see. A lot of my favorite scenes had Amber with her best friend Devon. They were amazing together. It was easy to tell they cared about each other and would always be there. Will, the love interest, took a little time to grow on me as a love interest. I liked him as Devon’s brother but he had a girlfriend and still flirted with Amber, giving her hope and playing with her feelings, though unintentionally. Another character, nicknamed Cheerleader Amber due to there being three Ambers at the school, was great as well. It was nice to see a cheerleadering non-main character who wasn’t a mean girl.
Amber’s family was a bit of a mess. Her father was always gone, cheating on her mother. Her sister was married to a drug dealer who involved her in his business. Her mother was almost a recluse. But that dynamic made for some amazing interactions between the characters. I especially loved Amber’s relationship with her mother and watching it develop during the book.
The writing was wonderful. It flowed and made for an easy reading experience. With music being such a big part of the main character’s world and with lyrics included, lyrical would be a good word. I really enjoyed the southern atmosphere to the book. I’m not from the south so I can’t comment on any authenticity but I liked it. There was a lot of contrasting elements that I like as well. Amber’s sister Whitney’s potential versus Amber’s potential, Amber’s ‘trailer trash’ family versus Devon’s rich family, Amber the good girl versus Amber the rebel.
The whole story is one I think will stick with me for a while.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.