Christmas break has begun, and the students have all gone home, but Marin has chosen to spend the holiday all alone in her college dorm. Orphaned when her grandfather died last summer, Marin not only has no place to go, but isn’t sure she wants to return to the home they shared in San Francisco. Staying in New York keeps the ghosts at bay, and helps Marin keep from slipping back into the emotional abyss she fell into when she discovered her grandfather was gone.
But New York is so much colder than California, and while snow is pretty, it’s a bit much for a girl raised near beaches and sun. And now that her best friend, Mabel, has come to visit, Marin finds herself facing some tough questions. Will she stay in New York or come back to California? And, if she does return, who exactly will she be?
Told in chapters that alternate between the present and the summer prior to Marin’s coming to college, this novel explores the events leading up to her grandfather’s tragic death and the subsequent grief she chooses to navigate on her own. While Marin and her grandfather had lived together since her mother died when she was three, the two navigated in separate circles that overlapped in the shared center space of their home. Marin does not question the fact that she has never entered her grandfather’s bedroom or study, nor has he ever ventured into her rooms at the front of the house. She simply believes it is because they both like their privacy, and doesn’t think the arrangement odd until her friends question why she doesn’t even know how many bedrooms her home contains.
This separation and the revelation of several secrets Marin discovers after her grandfather dies leaves her not only grieving his death, but questioning their relationship and whether she ever even knew who her grandfather was. In addition, Marin must face the fact that she had been deeply lonely her entire life, and that she is worthy of the love and support Mabel and her family continue to offer her.
This novel, which was selected as the 2018 Printz award winner by the Young Adult Library Services Association, is a very strong novel that I would recommend to any teen reader.