Top critical review
Some Kudos from a Kingsbury Skeptic
Reviewed in the United States on November 2, 2013
I've been very critical of Kingsbury's most recent books, but I thought she did a good job on this one. Although few of us have to face the exact choices that Zack Dylan does, we all must make decisions that may lead us closer to or further away from God. And we're all pretty good at talking ourselves into things that deep down we know aren't good for us. So in that sense, the central conflict of this book rang true.
Beyond that, I really liked several other things. The subplot of Kelly Morgan finding her way back to her true self was moving. I thought the Chandra Olson story was powerful and compelling. And--good for Reese at the end. Karen could have gone for the quick resolution, and she resisted it. Nicely done.
A couple of things were less effective. First, the early part of the story beat us over the head with the conflict: Zack's family and girlfriend were seriously worried about his plans. He kept insisting nothing would change him. You knew all along that it would. It was just a bit too obvious. Instead, Zack could have been developed more as a character: Why he loved singing, why he wanted to pursue it, other than his family needing money. I also felt that his motives--to help his financially struggling family--seemed real and even noble, and they weren't addressed with particular sympathy. If he was really one who would be so easily seduced by fame, this should have been made clearer in the beginning of the story. If he wasn't, then his rapid fall seems unlikely. This was a disconnect in the drawing of the main character.
Second, Zack's "inability" to keep in contact with Reese seemed unrealistic. We live in a time of constant connection, and we're supposed to believe that for hours/days/weeks/months Zack is constantly too busy or in a place with no service? This is a tired plot device that Kingsbury has used over and over and over--the lovers can't communicate because they are kept apart, usually by mean parents/unscrupulous agents/remote set locations, etc., etc. It's getting a bit lazy, and it honestly makes me roll my eyes ("here we go again").
That said, this was her best book in quite awhile. Three stars because I agree with the other reviewers that Kingsbury has overdone it on the "fame" angle. At least this time, though, she said something thoughtful about it (beyond just Katy/Dayne or Bailey/Brandon running from the paparazzi). You can substitute "fame" for "any bad decision that leads you away from God and has a very real cost." In that regard, Kingsbury has returned to her Life-Changing Fiction roots.