This is a tough book to rate- there are things I really enjoyed about the writing and the story, and things that made me want to shake the characters nearly to death.
Basic Plotline: Jude and Noah are twins living with a magical mother (and grandmother), and their scientifically-minded father (the artichoke). The story opens with Noah’s arc beginning at age 13. Noah is a quiet loner who is obsessed with art, and getting into the art high school nearby, when he falls in love with the new boy next door. His sister, Jude, is a gorgeous surf diva/daredevil popular with the local set of high schoolers who does the talking for both of them. We then jump to Jude’s story line, which starts at age 16, and it is clear that things have gone terribly wrong for both siblings, but in very different ways. The story alternates between the two, and it is clear that one honest conversation over a big cup of java would have put them both on the path to health and healing.
The voices of the two main characters, Jude and Noah, were incredibly distinct. Not an easy task. I also enjoyed the vehicles of one arc beginning at age 13 , and one arc beginning at age 16 – it can be tricky to pull that off without it going into gimmick territory.
I also have to admit, the prose was frequently beautiful. The author certainly knows how to turn a phrase- and many of them are lovely. Some of them are a little cringe worthy (the 14-17 year old me would probably have swooned muchly), and some phrases are crazy ridiculous, but you roll with it because they are teenage artists. Tortured artists, and teenagers. So, sure.
Many of the secondary characters are also fantastic. Grandma, Mom, and Heather were certainly wonderful, interesting women. The sense of magic and wonder if really lovely, and that is largely driven by the matriarchs; their personalities really echo through the novel, which I liked. Sure, they are quirky and weird, but they own it, and impart it to their children/grandchildren, which was fun.
The main problem for me was how completely (and conveniently, in terms of plot), the family fell apart. So many bad things happened on one day, and EVERYONE HAS SO MANY SECRETS. Why were there so many secrets? Perhaps this happens in some families, but it seems like a bit of a stretch that on one fateful day, heretofore completely in-sync twins just suddenly stop communicating in every single way? Even the little things can’t be discussed? Not anything? Really?
Also, I found that I initially really loved Noah, and was completely annoyed by Jude’s narrative style, and then about 40% into it, that opinion radically switched. And I just wanted Noah to get it together and stop doing verbal portraits.
All in all, a very decent read. I think perhaps I’m just a little too cynical and old to completely buy in, but had I been more pure-hearted, romantic, and 15 years younger, I would have been all in.