The plot was interesting but the characters! Oh my lord, the characters. I guess I am one of those annoying people who need likable characters to fully appreciate the book, and that is where this book failed me big time. I realize how long this is, so here is my summary: I hated EVERYONE except Meena, Julian, and Mister Cat. And I guess Tony but he was superfluous. Also, when did teens start calling smoking pot "getting lifted"?
I will now elaborate on the top three annoying characters in descending order, starting with Jenny, the narrator. Jenny is truly funny and, at times, exactly like I was when I was a teen. She is grossed out that her mother is in love, pissed that she has to move to England, and just generally awkward in that teen way. Some reviews have been all "it's so realistic to see how Jenny grows and matures emotionally over the book as she comes to love her family!" but I disagree. Thirteen year olds don't feel bad about talking back to their parents! As soon as Jenny says anything to anyone ever, she instantly regrets it and shame spirals. I felt sorry for her initially but enough is enough. Yes, we get it, teenage girls are insecure and self-conscious and are ashamed of who they are and everything they do. It was too much! In the words of the great Nancy Mitford, shame is a bourgeois notion, so if you're going to be a bitch, own it.
Moving on to Tamsin and Jenny's mother who were both Special Snowflakes, which really needs to stop being a thing in fiction.
Jenny's friendship with Tamsin is centered around her obsession with Tamsin's smile. When I was 13 year old, I had these crazy, obsessive friendships but I'm pretty sure I never felt as though my stomach turned to chocolate sauce upon seeing a friend. Nor did I feel the need to reiterate how swirly I felt inside every time my friend smiled. This smile obsession culminates when Tamsin reappears in the bathroom as Jenny is naked and inspecting herself. Jenny puts on a robe, reassuring us it is not because she's shy, but because of the chill. She notices Tamsin's wonky smile and says: "You've got a beautiful smile for God's sake," I said, I never saw a smile like yours. I'll do anything - I mean, people would do anything when you smile." There is nothing we learn about Tamsin except that she has a killer smile, she smells like vanilla, and that everyone who sees her falls in love with her. Oh, and on her death bed she cursed her beloved to 300 years of misery. Whoops! THIS IS NOT ENOUGH TO MAKE ME LIKE HER, PETER BEAGLE.
And finally, Jenny's mom. When I was growing up my biggest fear was that my family would move to a new town and I would have to be the new girl at school and make new friends. Apparently, that fear still exists because I want to punch Jenny's mom in the face for moving poor Jenny from New York City to England AND expecting her to be happy about it. I detest everything about this woman. How she calls herself a Yank (which no American in the history of the world has ever done). How she is so irritating and mushy in love and expects her 13 old daughter to understand and stop bringing her down. How her feelings are hurt because Jenny won't sing in front of stepbrothers she literally just met on the way to their new house. How everyone loves her and thinks she is beautiful and the most wonderful piano teacher in the world, etc. Jenny comments she can see why her father and her stepfather fell in love with her mother. Really? Please enlighten me Jenny, because I think she's annoying as hell.