Quick Plot Summary: Kenidee (note the stupid fake Utah name) serves a mission in Florida, and while she is there, her mother dies. When she comes home, she has to deal with the fact that her father has remarried a mother of three. She feels lost and confused and wants to leave to Salt Lake to wait for her missionary Brendan, but her plans are delayed so she eventually she falls in love with Camden, a childhood friend, who is now divorced and the father of two children.
I would say that the number one strength of this story would be that it builds suspense fairly easily in the beginning. Kenidee is faced with the fact that her mother is sick and dies while she is on her mission, and her father remarries. HOWEVER, this plot was extremely predictable. As soon as she returns from her mission to find out Camden is divorced, the reader just knows that she is going to end up with Camden and not Brendan, especially with how Brendan sounded distant in his letters. "His letters had slowly become more formal, which she understood, but the first time he wrote 'Dear Sister Ashford' she’d lost it" (17).
It's obvious that the Huang family will come in between Brendan and Kenidee, and I was even able to assume that there was another love interest for Brendan in the family, BEFORE they came to the country, because Kenidee was upset at their coming and because they were all Brendan could talk about. And because he constantly talked about how he loved the people and he felt like he was Taiwanese when he and Kenidee went on a date (271-275).
I didn't feel the characters were interesting enough to justify the actionless plot. It got really slow at times. Kenidee seems like a strong person in that she was able to complete her mission even though her mother passed away. Tension really builds within the character as she comes home, "Her mission had worn her out. She was physically and emotionally drained. She didn’t have strength to face what she was about to face. But she had no choice. People, some she knew, some she didn’t, expected her to come off the plane and act like she was happy to be home. But truth be told, she would be happy to stay on the plane until it turned around and landed back in Florida" (19).
She was also great at helping other characters with their household chores. However, I really thought Kenidee was very superficial. She seemed to be dishonest with herself and others, especially with all the times that I read about her fake smiles: "Kenidee forced a smile" (34), "Kenidee faked a smile" (149), "Kenidee kept the smile plastered on her face" and "her enthusiasm as fake as her smile" (260), "plastered on smile" (293), "Kenidee didn't realize she was such a good actress" (303), "smile felt wooden on her face" (311). It made her to be an unlikable protagonist.
She also cried a lot, which got annoying.
Kenidee's superficiality really shines through for me when she doesn't seem at all upset that her friend Dolly is crying and having such a hard time with her grandmother passing away, and she only gets upset when Dolly says she can't go with her to California anymore. She doesn't even cry until she is asked whether or not she is going:
"Are you still going to go to Sacramento?' That question flipped Kenidee’s emotional switch onto high. 'Probably not,' she managed to answer. Then before tears erupted, she abruptly left the room and went straight to bed. The quicker this day ended the less time there was for anything else to go wrong!" (P. 200)
Yeah, stupid friend's grandma. Why'd you have to go and die and ruin Kenidee's plans, huh? Self-centered grandma with her little having to die act . . . . /sarcasm
Brendan's dialogues were slightly didactic, bordering on the robotic, like when he told his parents that he got knifed and didn't seek medical care because he didn't want the President to close his area:
"Oh my goodness!" Patricia exclaimed. "Had I known I would have-well, I don’t know what, but I can’t believe you didn’t get medical care. How did you know it wouldn’t get infected?"
"I had faith, Mom." (P. 253)
Ultimately, it was really hard for me to like the protagonist and supporting characters. Combined with an actionless plot, it amounted to a huge waste of time.
I want those hours of my life back.
There were also some racist overtones throughout the book. But I won't elaborate on those.