Author: R. P. MacIntyre & Wendy MacIntyre
Year of Publication: 2007
Apart is the story of a 16 year old girl named Jessica and a seventeen year old boy named James Charles MacSween, who just goes by Sween. It is an epistolary novel, which means that it is told in the form of letters (epistolary could also mean notes, e-mails, diary entries, etc.). The two main characters become pen pals when Jessica puts an ad in a newspaper asking if anyone has seen her father. Sween writes back from the other side of Canada saying he thinks he's seen him based on the description. This turns out to be a mistake, but it begins a friendship that both really need.
I picked up this book because it seemed like it'd be a quick read and the cover was really appealing. It's been a little while since I read an epistolary novel. I liked this book when it started and it was hooking me in, but I couldn't get as into it as I would have liked to. I don't know why, but something kept pushing me back from absolutely loving it. It's definitely not because of the setting. I enjoyed getting to experience Canada through the eyes of Jessica and Sween. This is the first book I've read that takes place in Canada, so it was cool having a new setting from my usual fare. I was connecting really well to the characters at first, but somewhere along the way, I became detached. Jessica lives with her mom and wants to find her father so that her mom will be okay. When her biker dad left, her mom basically fell apart. Tensions are raised in Jessica's situation by her younger brother, Timmy, who is autistic. She has a lot of conflicts trying to be a good caretaker while trying to achieve her own dreams. She doesn't get along with her father and neither of them really understands the other. Sween is the son of a rich scientist dad whose mom is plantlike towards his father. His father works with plants, so their relationship works well for them. Sween doesn't really like it. He has trouble in school, but it isn't because he is not smart. He says straight up that he has an attitude and that he has a problem with authority. We know that up front. Sween ends up trying to get away from it all several times. He also has a younger sister who he barely understands, but who he begins connecting with as the story progresses.
This book is really a coming of age story that shows how two teens who live at opposite ends of the same country face similar problems in life, while highlighting how they each react based on their different personalities and backgrounds. It also depicts the way in which this pen pal friendship helps both to get through the conflicts they are faced with. Ultimately though, its a very bittersweet book that just couldn't keep me hooked all the way through. I like the format and the way that the letters slowly unveil different aspects of all the characters involved. I thought the two characters were very distinct, but at some points it felt like they were both trying too hard. Things just feel like they fall apart towards the last quarter of the novel, and maybe that's how its intended to feel. For me though, it just didn't work. This is not one of my favorite books and I'm not sure I would highly recommend it, but it is a good little read for a summer day if you don't have any books that you're pressed or super excited to read. I have to give Apart a 3 out of 5. A plus is that this book really made me want to see if I can find a good travel/road-trip YA book, which isn't a subject that I've read a lot of yet. When one door closes, as they say...or as I'd like to say, when one cover closes, another book opens.
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