The Heroine: Leah Tyler, a high school junior and soccer star with a bright future at an Ivy League college ahead of her. Meeting Todd Corbett, however, changes all that as her new boyfriend opens her up to a world of sex, drugs and hardcore partying. As Leah's life begins to fall apart, the effects of her behaviour echoes through her parent's shaky marriage and her younger sister Justine's life.
The Highs: An ensemble novel told from the perspectives of each member of the Tyler family, In Leah's Wake provides a full 360 view of a family in crisis. I enjoyed reading all the family member's perspectives, especially Zoe, Leah's mother. I also appreciated how well rounded and realistic each character is. Leah in particular reflects the regular motivations and thought processes of a young adult, though I felt she seemed a lot more like a thirteen- or fourteen year old than a seventeen year old.
I really feel the topics discussed in this book such as drug use and sex in the teen years are really relevant to today's western culture and society. While I am not for or against sex, partying and alcohol, I really can agree with the message in this story that communication between parents and teens is really important in order to preserve family relationships and help guide teens to make the right choices for them. I definitely sympathized with Zoe and Will, Leah's parents, who were only trying to do what was best for their daughter, but I didn't agree with their methods at all.
My favourite character in the story was Justine, Leah's young sister, who is adorably geeky and such a sweetheart. Of course, her choices begin to change as well, since she idolizes her older sister. I felt bad for Justine because she became lost in the conflict between her parents and her sister and was basically ignored by her family for the majority of the story. Remarkably insightful for her age, I would love to see what happens to Justine as she grows older!
The Lows: While at first I could understand Leah's conflicting ideas about who she is and who she is supposed to be (the typically teenage identity crisis), her selfish attitude and lack of common sense really began to bug me. By the end of the story, I no longer cared what happened to Leah as I felt she deserved whatever she got for her self-absorbed and ungrateful behaviour toward basically all the other characters in the story.
I also worry that Leah will give a bad reputation, so to speak, for real-life teenagers when adults read this book. I know that at age seventeen, for instance, I would never be stupid enough to think I could make a living as a musician when I had never even touched a guitar, or silly enough to throw my whole life away for any boy. I can only hope that the adults who read this book know that most teenagers are much more intelligent, mature and insightful than Leah.
Final Thoughts: While I enjoyed the book, I felt the plot moved a little slow at some points. However, I really enjoyed Terri Giuliano Long's writing and definitely plan on picking up her next novel!
Rating: In Leah's Wake earns seven beers out of ten.
Buy 'In Leah's Wake' at the Book Depository here
Connect with author Terri Giuliano Long at her blog here
Photo from here