Author: Emma Lord
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby’s growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
DNA services, such as Ancestry or 23andMe, have become almost commonplace for most people as many are anxious to find out more about where they came from and to see how they connect to various distant relations, either known or unknown. I’ve done one myself and it’s nice to see which countries/areas all my ancestors came from with a few surprise ones thrown in. This books sets out to see what happens after the main character and her friends take their own tests. This is actually my first book by this author as I never got around to reading her other novel, Tweet Cute, yet.
Our main character Abby Day takes a DNA test as her best friend, Leo, who is also her long-time crush, wants to take one to find out where he came from. There is a discount if you buy multiple tests so Leo also asked Connie, the third member of their best friend group. Abby is fully motivated to take the test as it is Leo who asked her, which fits a more stereotypical need of a younger teenager wants to do something to please their crush. Leo’s reasoning for doing the test is more personal as he and his full-sister, Carla, were adopted by white parents and they are from the Philippines. Connie agrees to take the test as she forms a bet with Abby about who has a higher percentage of Irish heritage found.
Sure enough, Abby finds that her percentage is higher than Connie’s, but she wasn’t expecting a certain surprise. It turns out that Abby has a full-blood sister named Savannah Tully. Unfortunately, Leo does not find a match for his search for family. Although Abby feels bad for him, she becomes wrapped up in the idea that she has a surprise sibling that is only a little over a year older than her 16-year-old self. Although it’s expected that the reader’s focus is pulled to Abby’s situation (the story is written from her point of view), but it seems to gloss over Leo’s situation a lot. There’s no mention in that maybe his ancestors didn’t take this test, have access to this test, or maybe something in the algorithm didn’t match them together. Abby acknowledges Leo’s sadness over the results, but she’s very selfish in this situation considering her massive crush on him. Of course, the news of a surprise sibling is overwhelming, but you’d think that she would also be more aware of what’s going on with one of her best friends and take a minute to solely focus on his needs before returning to dealing with her own situation.
We continue to the main part of the story as Abby receives a message from Savannah (“Savvy”) who wants to meet-up. This kicks off the adventure of the two of them getting together to know only get to know the other, but also to figure out the mystery of why they were separated and never knew about the other. Savvy invites Abby to the summer camp where she will work over the summer. As it turns out, Leo also works at the camp and has been friends with Savvy for a long time. This plot point weaves together Abby’s two stories where she not only has to balance her feelings for Leo while also being with Savvy. Abby’s character as she does everything well, but has extremely low confidence in her. She’s an avid photographer that is fearful her work isn’t good enough, yet every single person who ever comes across it tells her that it’s good enough to sell or be museum-quality work. Although natural talent exists, it just seemed way too ideal that Abby is a perfect photographer without any training to hone her skills. Also, I need to buy a camera like Abby’s ASAP as the equipment is hit against objects, falls to the ground, among other incidents and it comes away unscathed.
Not only does Abby get to spend some time with Leo and Savvy during her time at camp, but she also makes new friends, including those she shares a cabin with. As this camp is a mix of academic (SAT prep) and fun, Abby is slightly frustrated by the situation as she’s exhausted from her parents’ expectations. Again, Abby is a very smart person, but her lower confidence affects her ability to express herself to her parents to let them know that all this extra academic work is not for her. Essentially, this adds a third story to our novel. Our first is the main focus for Abby’s discovery of her secret sister. The second is her dealing her feelings for Leo and the confusion if they are meant to be just friends or if there’s the possibility to more. Our third is Abby’s confidence itself, whether it’s her photography or her ability to express herself to her parents. The three stories become muddled at times as the focus continues to shift between the three pieces so the details can get lost. There was a lot of potential in this novel, but it doesn’t quite make the mark with me.
Overall, I’ve read many YA books with teenage characters and they can be both mature and immature as you would expect of this age group. Abby, to me, just felt immature, yet those around her were more mature. However, both Savvy and Abby’s parents were all beyond immature and I have no idea how they got by when they lacked a lot of common sense at times. I didn’t agree with their backstory so it soured what was turning out to be a decent tale. I think if I were a teenager reading this story, I would’ve breezed past any negatives as the concept is fantastic. However, as an adult who enjoys reading some YA, it just doesn’t quite meet my expectations. The writing is still very humorous and it flows, albite a little fast at times, but it was a very enjoyable read that is light-hearted with some great heart behind it. Even though I’ve expressed critiques, I’m still thrilled that I read this story and I’m very curious to read more work by this author!
**I give a special thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books for the ARC to read and review. Opinions expressed are completely my own.**