Lulu Mendez has grown up in the small town of Dale, Virginia, focused as long as she can remember on getting out, going to college, pursing a future in medical research. She's just finished her senior year of high school, and her dream is within her grasp.
Then her father tells her that he's lost her college fund and she won't be leaving for the University of San Diego after all. Or anywhere, for a while. Or ever, since she has no confidence in his promise to win back her college fund in some big deal, real soon now.
As Lulu's dreams are exploding, her friend Roni, who has only dreamed of marrying her boyfriend Bucky and having babies, is invited to audition for a local, but increasingly popular and successful, band called Lullaby Breaker.
Suddenly Roni has a future that could take her away from Dale, while Lulu is looking at a future of continuing to work in Sal's Salvage, the local junkyard. But Lulu is not going to accept such a constricted future. In a matter of days, good girl Lulu has a plan.
It's a plan steeped in the traditions of the Virginia hills, but it's also illegal, and dangerous. It couldn't be a bigger break from her past, but she's desperate, and convinced it's the only key to her future.
Bucky and Roni are willing to help, but none of them knows what they're doing, and they need the help of someone who does. Lulu recruits Mason--a few years older, from a moonshining family, and with his own secrets, troubles, and dreams.
Lulu tells the story of her summer in a letter to Mason, some months after the end of that fateful summer. Is it an apology? An explanation? A love letter? We're on tenterhooks the whole time, not knowing the end until the end. What we do see are the growing tensions--between Lulu and Mason, with their growing attraction and determination to resist it; between Roni and Bucky, as they fight to maintain a relationship fraying under the pressure of Roni's new future; between Lulu and Roni, with their reversed positions, now that Roni has a future and Lulu is in danger of losing hers forever. And of course, the tensions between Lulu and her parents, whose love gave her dreams and whose weaknesses seem to be snatching those dreams away.
This is a really excellent young adult novel, and as such not limited to a young adult audience. Recommended.
I received a free electronic galley from the publisher via NetGalley.