You say it was all meant to be. You and me. The way we met. Our secrets in the woods. Even the way it all exploded. It was simply a matter of fate.
Maybe if you were here to tell me again, to explain it one more time, then maybe I wouldn’t feel so uncertain. But I’m going back to the beginning on my own. To see what happened and why.
Luisa “Lulu” Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.
Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (definitely illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends, Roni and Bucky. Quickly realizing they’re out of their depth, Lulu turns to Mason: a local boy who’s always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything – including her heart?
The summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating. My Best Everything is Lulu’s letter to Mason – though is it an apology, a good-bye, or a love letter?
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Four stars: A love letter written to a lost love that recounts the highs and lows of falling in love over a life changing summer.
Luisa "Lulu" Mendez is anxious for summer to be over so she can finally be free of her small home town. Dale is a town sequestered away in the Appalachians. It is a place where everyone knows your secrets, and a spot where moonshine flows. Lulu's dreams are pulled out from underneath her when her father tells her that the money for her college education is gone. Fate smiles on Lulu soon after when a large moonshine still is delivered to the junk yard where Lulu works, she seizes the opportunity and hatches a daring plan. A scheme that is dangerous, illegal, but so profitable. If it works, Lulu would have enough money to escape Dale. Unfortunately, Lulu knows nothing about making moonshine, so she asks a local boy, Mason, for help. Mason is a high school dropout, a recovering alcoholic, and he comes from a long line of moonshiners. What follows is a summer of romance, moonshine and changes. Will Lulu get out of Dale?
What I Liked:
- My Best Everything was a delightful and surprising tale. It is a beautifully written book that takes you through a summer of making moonshine and kisses. It is a book that will grab you with its story, and unique format. I was most impressed with this debut novel by Ms. Tomp, and I absolutely will be reading her future works.
- What sets this book apart is the writing style. The book is an epistolary novel. Lulu relates the events of the past summer in a letter to Mason. The portions where Lulu talks about what occurred are written in first person, and then there are interjections where she relays how she felt during certain moments, and it is here that she speaks directly to Mason, but she never uses his name, all of her ponderings are addressed to you. I was intrigued by the method the author used, it was unique and different. It doesn't read like a letter. I thought it was lovely and creative. Not to mention, the writing is gorgeous. There are so many beautiful metaphors and descriptions that I thought were delightful. It is haunting, lyrical and gorgeous. Big props to Ms. Tomp for being able to pull it off.
- The main story centers around Lulu and her two best friends, Bucky and Roni, and Mason making moonshine. I know basically nothing about moonshine and the process of making moonshine. I was surprised to find that I was fascinated by the whole plot about moonshine. The reader is taken step by step through the moonshine process. It was dangerous, scary and so interesting. I loved it.
- The secondary plot follows a summer romance. How many of you have experienced the butterfly highs of a fleeting summer romance, where both parties know it will end at the close of summer, when the lovers must part and go their separate ways? I thought Ms. Tomp captured the emotions of a summer romance perfectly. It was sweet and full of emotion, and also full of hunger and trepidation, knowing it will end. I thought the romance was beautifully done. The reader knows from the get go that for some reason the romance is over, since Lulu is writing the letter and reflecting over her experiences during the summer. The question is what happened? Did something happen to Mason? I have to admit, I was pleased when the book ended and I learned the truth.
- This is a story of growth, and change as well as finding your own path and choosing new beginnings. It follows Lulu as she struggles to escape her small town life and reach for her college dreams, even if she does it by making illegal moonshine. It also is the story of Mason, a young man, who everyone gave up on due to his alcoholic past and his family roots. No one thinks Mason will amount to anything, but he is strong, courageous and determined to refrain from alcohol and find his way. I loved his quiet strength and his restraint. Then there is Bucky and Roni. Two high school lovers at a crossroads. Will they marry and stay in Dale or will Bucky go to school while Roni pursues her singing career? I loved how the author blended the four different stories of young people at the point in life where they must make those first, big, bold decisions that will set their course in life.
- The book culminates with a big dramatic finish, and it ends rather open ended. The reader learns Roni and Bucky's fate, and we know what happens to Lulu, but the rest is a mystery. There is a flicker of hope for the future, and I was left satisfied, but still wanting more. I think though, that fate will step in and it will work out, because I am an optimist, but in reality the ending is up to the reader. Normally that type of ending would bother me, but in this case it works.
And The Not So Much:
- The book moves at a slow and steady pace as it reveals all the antics of moonshining and sweet summer kisses, and then, the ending is fast and a bit chaotic. The reader gets a big information dump right at the end, which was a bit frustrating, especially in comparison to the pace of the rest of the novel.
- For the majority of the story, Roni and Bucky play a big role, but then something big happens to Roni, forcing her to make a life changing decision. At this point, Roni and Bucky fade from the story line. They only make a couple of appearances, and the reader is filled in on what happened to them in the big information dump at the end. I wished that more time had been spent on Roni, especially when it came to resolving her problem. I didn't like the way it was glossed over.
- I felt like I was in the dark when it came to Mason, his family and his past. I wanted a better understanding of his relationship with his parents, there are only briefly mentioned. I needed more depth and detail on his past and his family life.
- Even though this is a YA book, it is best suited for mature readers. While the romance is tame, it deals with alcohol, drinking and making moonshine.
My Best Everything was a surprising find and an impressive debut. I loved the writing and the format of the book, and I was fascinated by the process of making moonshine. This is a book that details the highs and lows of a fleeting summer romance. The ending is a bit jumbled, and the reader is left pondering over an open ending. Still I enjoyed this lovely little book, and I recommend it for those who love a good story, and enjoy gorgeous writing.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.