Monday, 26 April 2010
Review: The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter
Released: March 23rd, 2010
Grade rating: B/B+
Lainey Pike can tell you everything you need to know about the people in her family just by letting you know how they died. Her reckless stepfather drove his motorcycle off the highway and caused the biggest traffic jam in years. Her long-suffering grandmother lived through cancer and a heart attack before finally succumbing to a stroke. And Lainey's mother—well, Lainey's mother hanged herself in the basement just days after Lainey's high school graduation. Now Lainey's five-year-old brother is an orphan and her estranged older sister is moving back home to be his guardian. Meanwhile, Lainey's boyfriend is thinking about having a family of their own, and her best friends are always asking the wrong sorts of questions and giving advice Lainey doesn't want to hear. As she tries to pull away from everything familiar, Lainey meets an intriguing new guy who, through a series of Slurpees, burgers, and snowballs, helps her to make peace with a parent she never understood.
From just reading the above summary, The Snowball Effect probably sounds like quite a depressing book about death, suicide and other such depressing parts of life. While it does touch on the deaths of Lainey's immediate family members, it's more about surviving what life throws at you, and appreciating what, and who, you have left.
Hoxter's writing is engaging and easy to become engrossed in, though it's her characters that are the true stars of the story. After Lainey's mum dies, older sister Vallery comes to live with Lainey and her younger brother Collin, who suffers from behavioural problems. Lainey's long-term boyfriend, Riley, is also in the mix, and he's the kind of guy I think anyone would be lucky to have. They end up forming a really tight family unit, and learning to trust and depend on each other. Hoxter writes each character with such care and precision that you're left feeling as if they could be your own family, friends and neighbours, rather than fictional people born from someone's imagination.
I don't have many problems with The Snowball Effect, besides the way Lainey treats Riley. As soon as new boy Eric comes into the picture, she seems to forget about the years she's spent with Riley, as well as everything he's done for her and her family, and treats him horribly. I know everyone makes mistakes, and the grieving process can affect people in different ways, but I just didn't understand why Lainey would be so rash with her strong, loving relationship. It didn't seem to fit with her overall personality - why build a life with someone to forget them because of a chance meeting with a stranger? It didn't make sense to me, but it does serve its purpose, as you'll find out later in the book.
I enjoyed The Snowball Effect; it's a good, solid debut to add to the list of 2010 releases. I'm not a fan of the cover at all, but that's besides the point. Don't let it put you off, though, because the content is so much better than what you might originally think, and Lainey is a character you'll definitely learn to love.