Monday, June 23, 2014

Just Sing (Seven Oaks #1) by René Gilley

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Sixteen-year-old Lily O’Brien has one goal in life—to sing. Her dream is to get into a topnotch college vocal program, but the summer before her junior year, her high school cuts their awarding-winning vocal ensemble. She might as well kiss her dreams goodbye.

When the snobby new neighbors move into their mansion up the hill, Lily is positive summer can’t get any worse, and she’s determined to hate and ignore them—until she meets Aiden.

He’s broken and beautiful, and they become reluctant friends. Through her newfound friendship, she finds the strength to step outside the comfort of her plan and follow her dream.

But when Lily’s family is about to lose their home, she puts her wishes aside and finds the answer to save their generations-old ranch in the last place she expected.

Lily is rather unique in that where many of her peers feel a sense of entitlement about everything and neglect the benefits of hard work, she doesn’t take things for granted. Her family has been displaced because of financial problems and has had to sell off parts of their ranch in order to keep above water.  Her mother left them years ago and she lives with her grandmother, younger brother, an aunt and her daughter and finally, her alcoholic father. It’s rather depressing but Lily’s bright spot, her escape, has always been singing. When the program is cancelled at school because of sour grapes on a schoolmate’s part (this is where the entitlement things comes in), Lily is forced to find alternate plans for her future.

I expected the story to continue to focus on her search for a new school that would nurture her singing career and how she could possibly manage that. But the story diverges from that as she reluctantly befriends her new neighbours. Why reluctant? They happen to be moving into her former home. Not only that, the new guy Aiden, is hot and cold towards her and she’s never quite certain where exactly she stands with him. She figures he’s going through something so she patiently waits for him to come around at his own pace. In the meantime, he just makes things confusing.

This is a very sincerely written story.  The language makes you feel you’re inside the mind of a seventeen-year-old. One who’s facing changes and experiencing new emotions. When she realizes what Aiden goes through, and that all families have their problems, she tries to become the friend that he needs. You get the sense that she's always being the adult among all the "grown ups" in her life. She works on her mixed feelings toward her mother, a person who has consistently disappointed her and yet to whom she’s always granting second chances. How should she help her father whose drinking is a problem that no one wants to admit aloud? 

At the heart of it, she is still a kid who simply wants her dream to come true. Once she gets back on track, you just want to cheer her on. She deserves that elusive reward and she deserves that happiness. But most importantly, on this path, she comes to recognize her own self-worth. She may be an underdog but she's a fighter. You go girl!

~ Bel

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