Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.
What a stupid book. Seriously. At the end, you find out all that most of the main characters died in a fire, and my only thought was “good”. I did feel bad for the doggies, though.
Backing up. In her 15th summer, something happened to Cadence on her family’s private island (get ready to meet some really rich people, by the way). Some kind of head injury that wiped out her memories of that summer, and has left her with terrible migraines. The next year, she goes to Europe with her dad instead of the island (and bitches about it the whole time, poor thing). Then the next year, she gets to return to the island. The whole thing is owned by her grandfather, and her mother and two aunts each have a home there. Cadence and her cousins run wild all summer. She’s particularly tight with Johnny (who, at 3 weeks her junior, is the second oldest cousin), Mirren, and her aunt’s step-nephew, and Indian boy named Gat. Cadence and Gat had a brief love affair during head injury summer, and he’s ignored her ever since. Oh, and there’s so much description about how incredibly white Cadence is (hair, skin, etc.) while Gat has deep dark eyes and deep dark skin and is so very very Indian with his Indian-ness.
So the main push in the novel is basically Cadence trying to piece together that summer when she got hurt. There’s also a lot of crabby nonsense about her mother and aunts fighting over the inheritance from her (still alive! also, racist!) grandfather. Since Cadence was the first grandchild, should the money go to her? Or does it go to the first grandson, who’s only three weeks younger anyway? How about the money goes to ME for reading this crap?!? The women all push their kids into pleading their mothers’ various cases to the grandfather — “our (paid for, recently redecorated) home in Boston is too small”, “Grandma wanted my mother to have those earrings”, etc. The grandfather seems to be holding Gat’s existence against whichever aunt he belongs to (can’t remember, don’t care), since he doesn’t want the aunt to marry Gat’s Indian (gasp!) father. Meanwhile, head injury Cadence keeps giving her things away to better the world around her or some shit. They’re all extremely annoying people.
Here’s the twist: it turns out that Cadence and her bratty cousins + Gat burned down their grandfather’s estate, back in summer 15. That’s how she got hurt. Once she remembers this (and it’s, like, 4/5ths of the way through the damn book), then all the memories from that summer come tumbling back. It turns out that not only did Cadence, Johnny, Mirren and Gat burn down the house, but apparently Cadence was the only one to make it back out. The other three died, and have been haunting her all summer (insert spooky noises here). Also, two golden retrievers died in the fire and that makes me infinitely sad.
It’s just a dumb book. Yes, finding out that the other kids are dead explains a lot of the mysterious behavior that occurred all through the book — Cadence’s mother doesn’t want her to be alone, the kids never come to meals, one of them is sick all the time, Cadence hasn’t heard from them in two years, blah blah blah. But it’s so stupid! They’re all so spoiled and bratty that I just did not care that they all burned to death. If you, as an author, have spent 400 pages writing about four teenagers, then three of them DIE, and your reader doesn’t care? Something’s seriously wrong there.
Poor doggies, though.