Michelle Deveraux, the unsung hero of Don’t Fail Me Now, has grit. And tenacity. And a resilience like no one I’ve ever met before, fictional or otherwise. Unfortunately, when we’re first introduced to Michelle, life just seems to be beating her up, one punch at a time. The last thing she needs is a half-sister from the other side of the tracks coming in search of her for a quest to find their shared dead beat dad, the very catalyst of her problems. There’s a chance, though, that this road trip might be the one thing to keep her family from falling off the brink. So is it a journey worth embarking?
The first thing that jumped out at me as I turned the first pages of Don’t Fail Me Now was the startling resemblance of Michelle to Katniss Everdeen. You know, the little known hero of The Hunger Games? Yeah, that one. So, just to make it loud and clear, I LOVE Michelle. In fact, I feel like it would be a discredit to Lamrche’s skill to say she created a well-rounded character, when in actuality she wrote a person who could jump off the page into our world in a second. How exactly does she blend the line between realism and fiction, might you ask? I have a theory though that it’s something about the way Michelle finds humor in situations most people would balk at, such as whilst awaiting child protective services while their mother detoxes she explains, in all its twisted ways, their family tree to her seven year old brother. Michelle isn’t the only great character in Don’t Fail Me Now though, the honor also goes to Tim, Cass, and Denny (a little boy who’s probably cuter than the last time a video of a panda sneezing went viral). Tim is a character universally accessible to everyone through his sharp wit, kind heart, and his uncanny tendency to bust into song at the most inopportune moments. He may know he’s dually unprepared for what this road trip is bound to throw at him but he’s not afraid to try. If Tim is the voice of reason that makes Cass the heart and soul, a character who like a bird with a broken wing you just want to scoop up and make her see how great she really is. Oh, and like I said, any scene with a Denny quip is bound to be cuter than a baby a with a head cold. Characters=fabulous!
So what exactly went wrong to make this a three star book for me? Well, lots of things actually. I blame most of them less on the actual book itself and more on the synopsis the publishing house provided and the expectations it gave me. I was under the impression the book would be dually narrated with Michelle telling one part and Leah, her half-sister, filling in the rest. This could have offered all kinds of unique insight and really added fire to the racial tension that is hinted at, but never really comes to fruition, on the cover. It also made it so that even though Leah isn’t a flat character she never became as fleshed out as I thought she needed to be. I often times found her relationship with Michelle very teen soap-opera. They hate each other, they hate each other more, they form a grudging acceptance, and then BOOM! They’re besties. My other major problem was the pacing of the book. As I said before the first hundred pages were great, engaging, and had me excited to turn the pages and find out where Lamarche was taking everything. After that though it was like the story hit a brick wall, where nothing worth noting happened for a hundred pages, and instead of noticing all the good that was happening I only saw the absence of things Lamarche could’ve done.
So to read or not to read? I think if you go in with an open mind just to enjoy the light hearted humor and easy breezy writing style you’ll be very happy with your selection. Even if you’re looking for a slightly more thought provoking read, I believe it could still deliver through the characters you’ll root for from the very beginning. I’m definitely excited to pick up Una Lamarche’s other works!