I'm just going to dive right in on this one. Something I can admire in an author's style is being sparse. The reason I can admire it is because I know how difficult it is to maintain that and to not get carried away in details, details, details. I am constantly stripping down my own writing and trying to convey the same message with less words. Gudenkauf has mastered this. While I was reading I couldn't help but notice how swiftly I, as the reader, was taken from moment to moment in these effortless little nuances. I felt like I was given just enough, yet I still wanted more. I devoured this novel because I felt I could learn something from Gudenkauf.
The storyline was emotionally intense. I was not particularly a fan of the premise. However, if I'd known what it was about from the jacket premise, I would not have picked it up and I would have missed out on this gifted writer's talent. That being said, if you read this, do not put it down because it has a "baby killer" in it. The themes in this story are prevalent to anyone who reads it.
I loved the voices in this book. Allison was surprisingly sympathetic. Brynn was quite antagonistic, and I was amazed because I thought it would be the other way around. Charm and Claire are strong female voices, but I felt distanced from them, probably because their side was told from a third person narrative. Gudenkauf did that for a reason, and that was, in my humble opinion, to show how it feels to be on the outside looking in on this boy's life. I truly felt how Allison must have felt to see Joshua being raised by Claire. Well, I at least got an inkling of it.
There were some elements I wasn't too fond of. There was a flip-flop in tenses and I wasn't sure how to respond to them. By the time I realized it was just Gudenkauf's style, I was already 75% of the way through the novel. It was disarming enough to be distracting for me.
The other not-so-fond moment, for me, was the climax. It seemed to just come and go. I felt like there could have been a little more lead-in to make me believe that Brynn was really off-kilter. She seemed fine-ish (even though she always comes off as a little whacked), but then she has a weird meltdown. I just wasn't sure what triggered it, so the ending of her story was a little more nonchalant than I had wanted it to be.
Other than that, excellent book. I gave it four out of five soccer trophies.