I received an ARC from Razorbill in exchange for an honest review.
Title: Don’t Fail Me Now
Author: Una LaMarche
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Summary (from Goodreads): From the author of Like No Other, the novel Entertainment Weekly calls “One of the most poignant and star-crossed love stories since The Fault in Our Stars”: What if the last hope to save your family is the person who broke it up to begin with?
“Fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Sharon Flake will find much to love in [Don’t Fail Me Now].”
–School Library Journal
Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.
Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.
Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.
After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.
Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first–herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before….
Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.
A realistic road trip book with a unique twist. Readers will be both inspired and moved by this novel. Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche has a perfect mix with its gripping plot line, plucky protagonist and so much diversity.
The most fantastic thing about Don’t Fail Me Now is its plot. This is such an amazing road trip novel that follows Michelle, who meets her stepsister for the first time and learns that their father is dying. With very little cash and a beat-up station wagon, they travel across the country to visit him. Not everything goes as planned, which makes this book very realistic and more entertaining to read. Don’t Fail Me Now is definitely different from other road trip books, however, because it is not as upbeat and picture perfect.
Michelle is an amazing main character for Don’t Fail Me Now. She goes through so many events that are very hard on her and her siblings, like her mother being in prison and having to work at the Taco Bell to pay rent to live with her own aunt. Despite all this, she doesn’t really complain and is very selfless. She takes care of her siblings all by herself and still manages to remain pretty positive. I really admired this, because it shows that no one’s life is perfect and speaks to her incredible determination.
The way that Una LaMarche weaves diversity into Don’t Fail Me Now is so unique. I have read quite a few books recently that have attempted adding cultural diversity and some don’t pull it off well. This book explores different cultures in an authentic manner. For example, the main character and her siblings are African-American and don’t have a lot of money. When they meet their stepsister and stepbrother who are white and fairly wealthy, they learn through their interactions that everyone is different and essentially to not judge a book by its cover. While, not a unique concept, it is an important one that LaMarche has seamlessly included in her writing.
If you are on the hunt for a book that has a different vibe from the typical road trip novel, you will find that Don’t Fail Me Now is the perfect choice. It will take you on a cross country adventure with a selfless main character and a diverse theme that is like no other. Pack some tissues for this ride, however, as it is sure to bring on some feels.