Let first say I've enjoyed other books by Melody Carlson. I loved A Mile in my Flipflops. I'm an adult so I don't usually read teen fiction, but I've also enjoyed the Carter House Girls series. This book just wasn't on par with those.
While I found the premise of the story heart wrenching and eye-opening, there was just too much to tell in the span of the short book. It also felt like the author may have been late for a deadline when she wrote the ending. Much of the book focused on a very short period of time and the week leading to the dance was given pages and pages of details. This is the style of writing I'm used to from Melody. There were a number of ways the author could have added details and developed characters, Genevieve, her friend at the nursing home could have been developed more, for example. The mother Character (Carlene) was so evil she felt one dimensional. And she's not even dealt with in the ending. It's like she never existed in the book at all.
But by far the most glaring example of this failure to develop plot lines was the ending. A few months of a huge transition is summed up in a couple of pages. I did not understand why the ending was given the bum's rush. There were so many questions I had when I finished reading this book, what happened to Cybil? Where is the mother? For that matter where is the father? Everything just seems to tie up in a neat little package and it seemed a bit unrealistic to me. I love the redemption story and learning to lean on others, but for everything to just work out perfectly seems a tad unreasonable. God is great and he can turn your life around, but to a non-Christian going through trouble and turning to God, they might expect everything will all of a sudden turn around and become sunshine and rainbows, and that's very misleading to put it mildly. God promised we would have troubles in this world; Jesus is to help us get through them, not to clear a wide smooth path.