All Out Of Pretty by Ingrid Palmer (April 3)
Overview: Palmer tells the story of Andrea "Bones" and her mother as they deal with the terrifying world of drug dealing and domestic abuse. Andrea is the child Ayla, her mother, never wanted. Until her Gram's death, she'd barely spent any time with Ayla. But after Andrea finds Gram lying dead on the kitchen floor, she's sucked into Ayla's world bouncing from town to town as Ayla squanders the little money they have left. Andrea tries to use school and her status as an honors student as a bright spot in her life, though even that is threatened by their turbulent, migrant lives. Until they settle in with Judd who's worse than any scary motel. While Ayla is too drug dependent to work to break the cycle of abuse Judd inflicts on them, Andrea must formulate a plan for their escape before it's too late. Can she get them out of danger while hiding their life from prying onlookers. Overall: 5
Characters: 5 I thought that Andrea was the perfect narrator. She's intelligent and witty, and, because of her intelligence, the tension is heightened when she has to choose between right, safe, or practical. Her relationship with her appearance and her mother are strained. She doesn't want to be pretty because she's seen the dangerous spiral it threw Ayla into. She spends her life waffling between protecting herself and protecting Ayla.
The other characters in this book are frighteningly real as well. Her portrayals of Judd and the other dealers are unflinching from the ugly, and the descriptions of her friends are the most stark contrast. The characters bring polar balances of light and dark throughout the novel.
Plot: 5 I was hooked from page 1. Andrea's story is horrifying and something that is hard to imagine happens in real life. But it does. Palmer lets the reality of that smack the reader in the face. I could not put the book down as I was anxious to see if Andrea's attempts would prevail, though there is plenty of heartache as well.
Writing: 5 Wow. Stories like these are so powerful when done right, but totally liable to fall off the rails if the author loses their sense of grounding or the voice of the character. Luckily, Palmer keeps the story perfectly on track, and it has left me in awe.