In this book Patrick (“Pack”) is a high school senior about to graduate. His mother left when he was small and he doesn’t remember her at all. His dad, a cop, raised him, and they get along well. In younger years he was an out-of-shape fat kid and was teased mercilessly. He finally addressed this by becoming a gym rat and adopting a strict Paleo diet. His best friend/girl friend is Maddie, who also felt bad about her physical shape and followed his diet and exercise example. She is planning to leave their home town for college, and the two face the breakup of their long association, which included sex. Pack is disappointed she is leaving, having hung his future on their staying in their hometown, getting married, etc. and essentially continuing the status quo.
On the last day of school Pack is called to the administration office and given a letter someone has left him. That someone turns out to be his mother, who is not dead after all and wants to be part of his life going forward. Thence ensues a pretty interesting tale, as Pack sets about trying to find her, discover the truth behind her abandonment, meet previously-unknown family members, learn more about himself and others, and solve a larger mystery (the solution of which doesn’t come until the very final pages).
Pack’s world includes a wide range of characters (friends, bullies, acquaintances, adults, a child with a personality disorder, a gay cousin, a felon, poor people, rich people, just-getting-by people) presented almost universally sympathetically. There is a road trip involved! Pack is suffocatingly narrowly-focused at first (to the reader) but shows impressive personality growth. He benefits from advice others give him, taking time eventually to ponder and apply it. There are the occasional small things in the book that don’t ring true, but these are eclipsed by the otherwise good writing and plotting.
The book has a fair amount of bad language, although no religious profanity. There are allusions to sexual activity but no descriptions. One surprising thing I learned, not being a gym rat myself, is that workout routines are given female names and referred to in a misogynistic way. Pack’s father, however, stays on his son about treating and talking about women respectfully.
Aside from the above, this is a fine example of a Young Adult book and the helpful guidance this kind of fiction can pass along (to people of all ages) while telling an entertaining story.
Categories: Body Acceptance, Books We Recommend, Bullying, Controversial YA Topics, Differently Abled, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, LGBTQIA, Navigating through High School, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Social Disorders
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