Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: The Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

An Appalachian summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating in this debut novel about first loves, broken hearts, and moonshine.


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 (illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends. Quickly realizing they're out of their depth, they turn 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?

My Best Everything is Lulu's letter to Mason--but it a love letter, an apology, or a good-bye

 I'm not one for epistolary novels. I don't care much for reading letters or e-mails as the novels are often written now so I'll admit to being a little hesitant to pick this one up when I saw it in the Netgalley newsletter but something made me click the "Read Now" button and I'm so glad for that little meant-to-be.
As a graduate student I spend a lot of time highlighting for academic reasons but I almost never flag books that I read for pleasure; unless I'm marking it for an article I might want to write on it in the future. If it wasn't such a pain in the butt for me to highlight things on my Kindle than this book would be a plethora of rainbow text. As it is I'm probably going to have to buy it, reread and flag the heck out of it. I cannot stress how much I loved the writing. It was beautiful. It was poignant. It was rich. It was everything I didn't even know I wanted. And the fact that it was a letter from Lu to Mason? I just loved the way that she looked at things then, narrated from the perspective of what she knows now.
And what the reader doesn't. That's right, as the last line of the synopsis leads you to believe, we don't know why Lulu is writing this letter to Mason. But it doesn't feel like a letter, it isn't one of those old epistolary novels where each chapter is a new letter. We never see Lulu write the words "Dear Mason", but we know she's writing to him because she mentions him by name. She tells him everything, no holds barred. She's writing to him with her eyes wide open and there's a raw honesty there that makes the reader connect with her; whether or not they've made moonshine themselves or suffered through what she's dealing with, we've all felt that we've come to the end of our rope like Lulu at some point in our life. 

And that's where this novel shines, because it isn't about the experience so much as the emotion. I read the last chapter with blurred eyes. I didn't have any idea how attached I was to these characters, how invested I was in there story until I came to the end and was about to discover the answers to all of the questions the first chapter had opened up for me. My love for this novel was of the slow-burning kind and it's definitely one that I'll pick up again in the future; revisiting it the beautiful style as well as the troubled characters.

4.5/5

*I received this e-ARC on Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.*