South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf is not an easy book to read. One may look at the beautiful cover, at the Young Adult label, and expect nothing but a happy ending. To be fair, that is usually what you get from such a combination. However, South of Sunshine is much more than its ending. Its beginning, its middle… they are important.
I must confess that at the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to get along with Kaycee, the main character. There was something that bothered me about her and it was starting to get on my nerves. I was about ready to roll my eyes at her permanently when I realized what I was doing. I was judging. You see, Kaycee was educated in a certain way, brought up in a town with certain expectations. Even though she, as a human being of her own, has a say, it’s not easy to question your own roots when they seem to be the only thing keeping you from falling. That and the fear of disappointing others, specially when family is concerned, can drive one to say and do insane things. At some point self-preservation will kick in, but till then… You will call your girlfriend an experimentation, you will call your best friend a hypocrite, you will throw your phone out the window and explode, setting everything and everyone around you on fire. Then hope is born from the ashes. Without the weight on your shoulders, you decide you can do it, that you must do it for your own sake. That’s when magic happens.
The only real issue I had with this book was that it seemed to start out of nowhere. The general pace is slow, but the beginning feels like we are inside a ship to Mars during the lift off. It’s rocky, a bit too fast and confusing. I think we should have been given a little more background between the whole meeting Bren thing and the relationship status.
Written in a rather humorous and simple way, South of Sunshine is a charming read. Visits some commonplaces, yes, but they have become common for a reason. An “Annie on My Mind” for younger audiences, I would say.
ARC provided by Albert Whitman & Company via NetGalley.