Grit is a debut novel that started a bit iffy for me but soon gathered momentum, and before long I was reading straight through to the end. I liked this one a lot and a lot of that has to do with the characters. Darcy is the protagonist, a girl who knows how to have a good time, but underneath her hard drinking exterior is someone who has taken some hard shots and is stronger for it. Darcy has a reputation and doesn't really care- her mom is permissive and her aunt hates her, but she has a good relationship with her sister Mags and her cousin Nell. She has a good heart but is also carrying around a lot of baggage- something happened the summer before between her and Rhiannon Foss, a girl who used to be her best friend- and when Rhiannon disappeared people think she had something to do with it. Or that she knows more than she is letting on.
The disappearance of Rhiannon has affected the town in a big way- this is set in rural Maine- and in many ways this is an exploration of what it's like to grow up in a small town, with the petty jealousies and everyone knowing everyone else's business. As the story unfolds we find that not only is Darcy carrying around guilt for Rhiannon, but there are other secrets she is carrying around- and they may hit close to home. I don't want to say much else on that front, but I thought the author skillfully unveiled this realization as the book progresses, so that a story that seemed to have one mystery going on really has two. And not only that but Darcy has her own personal issues to resolve, not the least of which is her relationship with Jesse.
I liked Jesse and it was nice to seer him develop. We all know how guys can be in high school, and this story looks at hook up culture and all the ways that girls have to struggle with coming of age, slut shaming, and everything else. Jesse seemed at first like he might be another guy just out for a good time, but he cares about Darcy and has her back. The only thing I didn't like was at one point I thought Darcy took offense at something in a ridiculous way, and it felt manufactured. But other than that the relationships seemed real and I really cared about Darcy's dysfunctional family.
One thing I also enjoyed was the writing style and the narrative voice. There's a wry awareness here of life in a small town, how it can affect those living there, and she gets the little details of daily life right in a way that feels very real. I thought a few times that the descriptive voice and the feeling of recognition I got with some of her characters really enhanced the story. And while I thought this would be more of a mystery or even a YA thriller it had enough mystery, especially as it moves along, to keep me reading.
Grit is a book that I liked more and more the farther along I got. I wasn't sure about Darcy and some of her choices at times, but the author really sold why she did what she did, or at least I thought she did. I cared about the family and was anxious to see where things would go, and there were genuine moments where I felt awful for Darcy and the things she had been though- things that anyone who has lived through high school and adolescence can relate to. That's the true beauty of this one- it makes you think, and remember- I was really touched by one scene in particular- and this is one of the better, more thought provoking YA stories I've read.