The Compulsive Reader: The "Breaking Bad" of YA: My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The "Breaking Bad" of YA: My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp

Sarah Tomp's debut novel has a very Breaking Bad-esque premise, only minus the drugs, violence, and profanity. The content may be YA, but the emotions and danger are just as serious. Making moonshine may not be quite as serious as cooking meth, but both are illegal and potentially dangerous...

Our character is Lulu Mendez and she is all set to head off to San Diego in the fall and start college, leave her small Virginia town far behind...until her father reveals that he's lost all of her tuition money in a business venture that didn't pan out. Devastated, Lulu cooks up a scheme with her best friends and local bad boy Mason to "borrow" a still and make moonshine to fund her first year of college. (See, my Breaking Bad comparison isn't crazy!) But this plan is anything but straightforward (or legal). Mason may have all of the knowledge and connections to help get their still up and running and bring in top dollar for their shine, but he's haunted by mistakes of the past and hounded by his former connections. As Mason and Lulu begin to fall for each other, Lulu questions how far she's willing to go for a chance to leave town, and what she might be leaving behind for an uncertain future.

I love this book. I've been enamored by this story since I first heard Sarah read an excerpt almost two years ago in Vermont. The premise is intriguing and dangerous, but the characters are what will really hook you. Lulu, her best friend Roni, Roni's boyfriend Bucky, and Mason are all vividly portrayed and endlessly interesting characters. Their dynamics shift over the course of the novel as Lulu grapples with doubt and feelings of entrapment, Roni discovers a new passion, Bucky is faced with an unexpected change in plans, and Mason tries to stay levelheaded throughout a heady summer of illegal activities.

The story is told from Lulu's perspective, as she recounts the events of the summer to Mason, promising to go back and examine the events and find out if there is still hope for the two of them. It's an unconventional choice that works extremely well for Lulu's lyrical, honest voice, and it focuses the story not on the moonshine, but on Lulu and her evolving perspective on her hometown of Dale and Mason, who inspired her change of perspective. I love that Lulu grapples with big issues of money and privilege, and Tomp's depiction of small town life is carefully and affectionately written.

There's romance and action and risk in My Best Everything, but the story is full of big ideas about expectations, family legacy, and striking out on your own while honoring your upbringing. The ending is tense, heartbreaking, believable--but also hopeful. This is a contemporary novel unlike any I've read in YA. I can't wait to see what Sarah comes up with next!

Book purchased from my indie!

1 comment:

LinWash said...

I have to read this book! Laurie Morrison also mentioned it in a post on my blog. So with you two recommending it so highly, I definitely need to read it.