Amber Vaughn is a good girl. She sings solos at church, babysits her nephew after school, and spends every Friday night hanging out at her best friend Devon’s house. It’s only when Amber goes exploring in the woods near her home, singing camp songs with the hikers she meets on the Appalachian Trail, that she feels free—and when the bigger world feels just a little bit more in reach.
When Amber learns about an audition at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she decides that her dream—to sing on bigger stages—could also be her ticket to a new life. Devon’s older (and unavailable) brother, Will, helps Amber prepare for her one chance to try out for the hypercompetitive arts school. But the more time Will and Amber spend together, the more complicated their relationship becomes . . . and Amber starts to wonder if she’s such a good girl, after all.
Then, in an afternoon, the bottom drops out of her family’s world—and Amber is faced with an impossible choice between her promise as an artist and the people she loves. Amber always thought she knew what a good girl would do. But between “right” and “wrong,” there’s a whole world of possibilities.
Description taken from Goodreads.
There was one huge misconception about this book that I had going in, and that is that Amber Vaughn is a good girl. Yes, she sings solos at church–but because she loves singing and is too shy to sing anywhere else. She does baby-sit her nephew, but for the most part spends her time trying to forget her family is the way it is. She does spend every Friday night at “Devon’s house”, which is codeword for salamander hunting which is codeword for hooking-up-but-not-really-hooking-up and living vicariously through the hikers that come through her town.
If that’s what a good girl is, yes, I guess Amber Vaughn is a good girl.
There was a lot of good and bad to this story. Firstly, small town ideals. There are sentences like this:
“Red dot, not feather.”
when talking about Indian people. It also talks about the bad things that can come out of kids getting bored in a town where there’s really nothing to do. These were both good things once I realized Amber is not a good girl and will not become a good girl anytime in this book. Good girls, at least in my mind, don’t cheat, steal or do drugs.
Then there’s the fangirling-over-Amber. I really have come to dislike this mentality where everyone just lurvesssss the main character and they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread. Amber sings at a moment’s notice, for anyone who recognizes her infinite potential.
And the love interests. Because Amber is just so amazing, every single guy she meets that is not straight-up gay wants to be with her. The romance was the only thing remotely intriguing about this story, because nothing else really happens.
And after all that, there’s the setting. Everyone I know who has read this book either loves or hates the Southern feel to it, and it just didn’t work for me. It’s not because I don’t think people will like it or I just hate all books set in the South, neither or which are true, but it wasn’t my kind of story. There were many moments where I was charmed by it and almost fell in love with it, but ultimately it didn’t work. I did love the way Amber comes to appreciate things in her life like her family and growing up in a small town, but the setting threw me off quite a few times.
I really wanted to love this book, but it didn’t really work for me. I would recommend it to contemporary, slow-moving contemporary and contemporary romance fans, especially those who loved BOYS LIKE YOU by Juliana Stone or Lauren Barnholdt’s books (TWO WAY STREET, THE THING ABOUT THE TRUTH, ACES UP, etc.) 2 stars.
pg count for the hardback: 368