Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anyone But You

Anyone But You by Lara M. Zeises

The Plot: Critter,17, and Seattle,15, are quasi-stepsiblings. Years ago, Seattle's father moved in with Jesse and Critter's mother; her Dad took off, leaving Sea behind; and Critter's mother has raised Seattle as her own daughter ever since. School's out, and both teens have nothing better to do than to hang out waiting for summer school to start. They sneak into a private pool, where Critter meets a rich girl; then Seattle falls for a cute guy. The quasi-family dynamics are about to change, and no one is prepared for it.

The Good: Zeises addresses complex questions of family, love, and relationships. Critter and Seattle are stepsiblings, but are not related by blood or by law. They have also always been best friends; and both get confused by their own jealous feelings as their closer-than-a-sibling but not-quite-a-sibling best pal falls for someone else. The author works her way thru these tricky emotions, without giving easy answers. I especially liked how the teens had to work their way through whether their emotions were those of family, of best friends, or something more. Their relationship lacks a real name; which means it lacks boundaries or rules; which means it is also suprisingly fragile.

This is a working class family; when Seattle's father left, he also left debts, and Layla (Critter's mom) has been working nonstop to take care of her family. The car breaks down, the air conditioner doesn't work, yet she insists that Critter's and Sea's priority is to concentrate on school. This is a family that is struggling, financially and emotionally.

Sea's father comes back into the picture, raising new issues of responsibility and love. I loved how Zeises allowed Sea to be angry -- to be very angry -- and that the father was not let off the hook. Sea's fears of abandonment work nicely with her worries about whether the boy she likes likes her back, and whether she is about to lose her best friend, Critter.

This is a high school book; the feelings and emotions that the Sea and Critter deal with are mature. (Code for Critter engages in certain activities with a local girl -- a friend with benefits.)

I did have one pet peeve: the names. Sorry, Lara. But even tho Critter was short for Christopher, and Scooter for Scott, I thought the names too over the top. But, on the good side, I was reminded very much of The Outsiders (Soda, Ponyboy) and wondered if the odd name choices were deliberate; they both share a working class world.

Sea is a skateboarder, which was way cool.

Author interview at cynsations; the Pop Goes the Library interview.


Anonymous said...

Okay, so I only *just* saw this. But, I have to tell you - I think this is one of my favorite reviews of ANYONE yet. (Even if you don't like my names. Pbbllltt.) Honestly, though - there were only a few reviewers who could look past the pseudo-incestual overtones to see what was underneath, and your description of the "underneath" is better than any I could give myself. So thank you.

BTW, I'm making notes on a future project with a character whose name is Pee Shy, so my guess is that will REALLY peeve you ... :)

Liz B said...

Pee Shy? Hmmm.....

I can't wait to find out how that name came about.