Synopsis from Amazon: How far are you willing to go for fame? Fifteen-year-old Charlene Shaw runs away from home to pursue dreams of becoming an actress. Taking a chance, she meets a truck driver with a cross around his neck. She's always been a bit hesitant about God granting her "luck," but takes this as a golden opportunity to get closer to her goal. On the rugged road to stardom, Charlene's using everything in her might to erase the past and the baby she abandoned--her daughter, Raven. Just thinking about Raven sends chills of fear down Charlene's spine.
Meanwhile, Raven Shaw grows up in her mother's hometown, tight-knit Bellwood, North Carolina and has been dubbed "Miss Goodie Two Shoes." She's head of the children's choir, but nothing can calm her rage when someone gossips about her mom--she takes up for a woman she doesn't even know. On a mission, Raven wants to learn about Charlene, but her grandparents and people of the small town won't reveal anything. All the while, she finds love. Now Raven knows she can't be fully committed to the man that has her heart until she learns why her mother neglected her. When mother's and daughter's path collide, Raven asks her mother two requests--two family secrets that can ruin both of their lives. Leading Charlene and Raven down the road of feeling like... a "Miss Nobody."
Well, I have the synopsis above, so I won't restate that, but will just get right to it. This was a book that kept me turning pages. I like that. Once those pages start speed-turning, I know I'm in for a treat. This story incorporated drama, humor, love, pain, surprise, suspense and shock value. Dunlap paints an unforgettable picture of drama between two families, emphasis on unforgettable. She shows how secrets can ruin lives, and the simplicity of truth shall undeniably set people free ... if only it is told.
From the beginning, there are twists and turns starting from when Charlene ran away from home as a bitter but hopeful teen chasing her dream of becoming a movie star. Being raped during a hitchhiked ride by a truck driver with a nice smile is her second real-life lesson that seriously scars her but doesn't sway her from her dreams. The first lesson is what made her leave home. Just when I thought this was the brunt of the story, it made a turn and captivated me into her pregnancy and abandonment of her baby, thought to be that of the rapist. The audacity of her just bemused me the whole story. She seemed to selfish and immature, not to mention a nasty attitude. (This will be somewhat justified later in the book.) But at times, I just wanted to hold her and smack her. Her parents ended up with her daughter, Raven, which was yet another twist to the story. Raven was a feisty, confident young thing who didn't hesitate to use her fist when bullies mocked her as a bastard in their small town. She grew up under-privileged but well taken care of, nonetheless.
What is most intriguing about the book is that it seems very realistic and made me think of people in real-life I know who resemble some of the despicable yet lovable characters. This one slept with that one. The seemingly innocent are SO not! Lust, hunger for money and power, evidence of betrayal and of loyalty, all find a place in this story. We've all been through family drama, but this one is about five times the norm, and anyone who loves gossip, whether he admits it or not, will fall for that vibe in this book. It made me feel like I was eavesdropping on juicy gossip at the barber shop, and that is part of what makes it a fun read.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Raven ends up falling in love with Jon, a member of the rival family, and their relationship has a disastrous chip on its shoulder. They develop feelings as kids, best friends, then lovers, and seem like the perfect love story until this deep secret comes to light, devastating them both and their families. I have to say that Jon was one of my favorite characters until the end when he just bails on his responsibilities. After Raven gives up everything for him, he just cuts out without a word or warning, leaving his evil mother to rip Raven's heart out even further. The half-sibling issue was nasty at first, but it sickly started to grow on me with these two, and I sat hoping the paternity tests would prove it false. Jon's mother's little secret about her unknown fling resulting in Jon, I must say, was a little bit overkill to the story at first, BUT since it made the half-sibling issue NOT an issue after all, I realized it was yet another twist that Dunlap clever injected into the story line. There are many of those!
Almost everyone in this story had a dirty little secret, and all of them weaved together somehow. I can tell Dunlap put a whole lot of thought into this story, and her creativity shined through. The flow of the book was perfect! She managed to juggle a few different ongoing scenes between all the different characters so that I didn't have to wait long to find out what each was doing in their corner of the world. The character descriptions were delicate and not overdone, and she provided enough that it was easy to keep up with all of them. Dunlap sprinkled in just enough lovable ones vs. despicable ones, which gave the story a good balance. When Alice died, I literally felt sad and sorry for Charlene. Damien wasn't perfect, but the greatest guy ever. I have a "Damien," so I know how "real-life" he is! :) I love how Dunlap created a world full of interesting people, dramatic events, memorable moments between friends and lovers alike, encounters that could happen to anyone, and a whole lot of "Wow!" I am happy to report there were NO boring parts in this book. If anything, some parts just seemed too rushed-through, and I wished there was more elaboration. That says a lot when you WANT the author to do some more rambling. There were minor typos, which you all know is my life's pet peeve, but the story was powerful enough to overlook that.
I rate this book 5 stars. I would recommend it to anyone! It's a great read, and I loved it and enjoyed every page of it. GO GET IT!