Why is YA making it a contest to see who the absolute worst parent ever is and why do I keep picking up those books?? Fine, Mr. McCauley, you win for the most despicable dad thus far read. Short of sexual abuse, which quite frankly, wouldn’t have surprised me, he’s got emotional and physical abuse down pat. So why does his 'cocktail at ten in the morning' wife stay with him- he’s loaded, and she likes it that way. Hadley doesn’t like it, but it’s what she’s used to and to make her life and the life of her ten-year-old sister happy, she goes with it. She acquiesces to his 4:30 am runs so she doesn’t get fat (his words, not hers) and stays fit for the select Lacrosse team she hates playing for, turns in her college applications to schools he wants her to got to, and takes pilot lessons after school when she could be doing so many other things. She’s not allowed to date, and when things that interest her interfere with the schedule he’s created, it’s a firm no. Hadley knows her dad is wrong, knows her mom puts up with it and turns it a blind eye, but she can’t bear to see it harm her little sister, Lila. She’s full of life, and she doesn’t want to see it snuffed out by her hateful dad. Her two best friends don’t know the whole story but the fact that they’ve named him ‘the drill sergeant’ should be a clue they might know just a bit more.
Despite the no dating because ‘you’ll turn into a wh*** rule,’ Hadley does have a crush. He’s cute, smart, and has made his way around school with girls but that doesn’t stop her from staring at him like he’s candy. And, it seems, her crush isn’t one-sided. Charlie wiggles himself into Hadley’s life quickly and soon they can’t get enough of each other. The problem is, she’s been lying to her dad, and she knows her time is running out on this secret. Charlie’s life is the opposite of hers- his mom is an on again off again alcoholic who left her husband years ago when the abuse got out of control and money is scarce. Their discrepancies in socioeconomic status don’t bother either of them much, but it’s clear they live two completely different lifestyles. As Hadley’s relationship with Charlie grows, her father’s abuse is getting worse. She knows she doesn’t have long before he turns his attention to Lila and that isn’t going to happen on her watch. But how can she stop it? Oh, and, did I forget to mention that he’s dead at the beginning of the story? Hadley is the sole survivor of a private plane crash that killed both her parents. Her story is told in flashbacks, then and now, of her life and reads a bit like a mystery. Well, mystery lite anyway. This was an engrossing storyline of abuse, sadly one that makes it easy for the perpetrator to get away with- a rich, white male, with the perfect family to boot. Who is going to believe that he is abusive? And that is the problem. The end is wrapped up a little too quickly and tidily for me, but thankfully, it’s the only major critique I have.