I have to admit, I was sucked into wanting to read this book mainly by that cover. Jay Asher, count your lucky stars because you hit it out of the park with that cover. Sadly, I didn’t feel what was under that cover was solid enough to really be a good read. What I mean is this: I did not enjoy this book as much as I wanted. There were huge holes in the story that bothered me.
Sierra is a seventeen year old girl who’s parents run a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Every year she travels with them from California to spend 5-6 weeks selling Christmas trees to families. This year is different because it may be the last year Sierra’s parents can afford the tree lot. Finances have been tight and Sierra is worried sick over it. Sierra leans on her friends for support and one of her girl friends pushes her into trying to date someone, almost anyone in order to put her in a better mood. This is when Caleb walks into her tree lot. Caleb is everything tall and dreamy, but Sierra doesn’t want to get involved with someone when she’ll only be in Oregon for a few weeks. That’s when Sierra hears about Caleb’s violent past. Was it true? Has he moved past it? Can Sierra help him see that he is worthy of forgiveness?
Just by that blurb, can you sense some of my frustrations? Let me start with the characters. I liked the protagonist, Sierra, but she felt far too old and mature for being only seventeen. She put a lot of pressure on herself to help keep her parent’s tree lot from closing down. Uh, okay. I appreciate you being concerned about your parents but there is no need to force your parents into telling you what is going on. Most parents try to shield their children from adult problems, like financial woes. She also felt wishy-washy with her friends. Eleven months out of the year she is in California with her good friends, and the one other months she is in Oregon. Still, her California friends chose to be very standoffish and pissy when Sierra couldn’t travel back to see her friend in a play. Give me a break. Those don’t sound like true friends to me. It felt like all they added to the story was unnecessary drama. Sierra’s friend in Oregon was more of a friend, but she also had her own agendas. She was all over the place with her boyfriend and quick to jump to conclusions so she wasn’t stable either. No wonder Sierra was a little confused about things, she hasn’t had a solid support system outside of her parents. Sierra was awkward, don’t get me wrong, but she was so forceful at times it was almost uncomfortable. She would try to be funny and playful but it fell short.
Now Caleb. He is supposed to be the ultimate dream boat of the story. Tall, dark, brooding, has unruly hair, and he had a dimple smile. I point that out only because Asher makes it a point to remind you, the reader, every time he can that Caleb has a dimple. You will read it a dozen or so times, which causes it to quickly lose its charm. Poor Caleb was dealt a rough hand in life and made a very unwise decision. He paid the price for that decision and moved on. Unfortunately nobody else can let it go. He spends most of the story explaining his side of happened a little bit at a time. He was a sweet character but I never felt anything swoony for him.
Now, when Sierra and Caleb start to hang out, it felt like Sierra became insta-obsessed. She was that much more intent on finding out what really happened in his past, where he goes during the day, who he buys trees for. Calm down, girl. There are laws against stalking. Things just moved too quickly for me to believe it when they both confessed the I love yous at the end. They only knew each other for four-ish weeks! I know it can happen but come on, this did not feel real.
I’m not sure I want to talk about the creepy boy that works at the tree lot that has been madly in love with Sierra for years. She has no interest in him but that’s not enough for him to take a hint and move on. Oh no! He is still working at the tree lot, creeping on her the entire time. Why is he even in this story? Was it to force a love triangle where there is no love triangle? Only Asher knows that answer.
The plot of the story was just too confusing. There were too many things fighting to be the main topic: parents cannot afford tree lot; Sierra wants to get to know new boy; creepy boy working at tree lot is very obsessed with Sierra and tries to say who she can date; Caleb’s past. There is just too much. I felt confused during this story. It had strong cheesy moments where Sierra and Caleb act as if they have been dating for years, not only knowing each other a few days. All I could think about during the first half of this story is how incredibly cheesy it was. I had several moments when I rolled my eyes outloud at how bad it sounded.
Overall, I somewhat enjoyed this story. I did finish it so I didn’t hate it as much as this review would lead you to believe. For me, the only saving grace is that it is a quick read and it put me in the mood for Christmas. That’s why I gave this story 2.5 stars. I really wanted so much more from this story. I wanted some kind of solid story that would grab my attention and never let go until the last page. This was not that story.