Darren hasn’t had an easy year.
There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.
Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.
Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.
The theme of this novel that really stuck with me was the family unit breaking apart. A pivotal point in your life is when you realize that your family unit consisting of you, your siblings (if you have any), and your parents will lead separate lives. If you are the one who had a harder time grasping that concept, then I think you can relate to Darren. I had a hard time with my parents divorcing and my older brother leaving for the military, I felt abandoned and alone. I don’t blame anyone for moving on with their lives and finding their own way, but it was fucking tough for me.
At one point in the novel Darren is talking to his older brother Nate and Nate tells him a story about being lost as a young boy when Darren was still a baby. Nate explains when his parents found him,
“Eventually, of course, they found me. And they were freaking out, crying, and pretty much hyperventilating, especially Mom, who was wearing you in that baby carrier they used to have. She hugged me, just smothered me, with your legs dangling in my face. And I was glad to see Mom and Dad, relieved I guess, because I knew living by myself was going to be hard. But, I don’t know, I as mostly thinking , Okay , that was some kind of test and I passed it, because I had to, I could be okay on my own. You were literally tied to Mom, but I was surviving on my own; that’s how I felt then.” Nate continues to explain to Darren that he figured out at a much earlier age than Darren that eventually your parents leave and you must learn to adjust and make it on your own.
As a teen you really start to see your parents as the individuals they were before they became your parents. They don’t work as hard to keep the image of innocence alive for their children. How would they ever help us grow and prepare for the “real” world if we didn’t get to see them as flawed humans? Their defects allow us to forgive ourselves when we make similar mistakes as adults.
I had a wonderful time reading this novel. With each scenario Darren comes closer to finding himself, and ultimately walks away from the family chaos and begins life as an adult.
I highly recommend this book.