by Jennifer Gooch Hummer
Apron Bramhall has come unmoored. It’s 1985 and her mom has passed away, her evil stepmother is pregnant, and her best friend has traded her in for a newer model. Fortunately, she’s about to be saved by Jesus. Not that Jesus—the actor who plays him in Jesus Christ, Superstar. Apron is desperate to avoid the look-alike Mike (no one should look that much like Jesus unless they can perform a miracle or two), but suddenly he’s everywhere. Until one day, she’s stuck in church with him—of all places. And then something happens; Apron’s broken teenage heart blinks on for the first time since she’s been adrift.
Mike and his grumpy boyfriend, Chad, offer her a summer job in their flower store and Apron’s world seems to calm. But when she uncovers Chad’s secret, coming of age becomes almost too much bear. She’s forced to see things the adults around her fail to—like what love really means and who is paying too much for it.
This novel is by Jennifer Gooch Hummer, the same author that wrote the Milk Face blog post. But if you're expecting something like that in this book, don't be. This is a very serious book. Apron is in 7th grade and has lost everything. Her mother died six months ago, her best friend dumped her for a girl that hates Apron and she's lost her father to her pregnant stepmother, a woman whose name she won't say, she just calls her "M".
"M" is from Brazil and was Apron's mother's nurse while she was dying. To say that she is mean, is an understatement. To say that Apron hates her and is trying to show her Dad "M's" true colors is also an understatement. I instantly hated M. She was like poison and then the things she did while she was pregnant, oh, if you've ever been pregnant you will totally despise her. I didn't really connect with Apron, but I did feel sorry for her. She had a lot on her plate, I just wasn't emotionally connected to her.
The novel takes place in the Regan era, when AIDS is first coming to light and people are calling it a disease that only gay people get. But Apron, in an unfortunate mishap at her father's and M's wedding, ends up meeting two floral designers when she gets left behind at the church. She ends up helping them with the floral arrangements and making friends with them. She eventually finds out they are lovers and that one of them, Chad, has full blown AIDS. He's dying. Apron helps them and they help her and eventually she begins working at their shop. This is doubly good for Apron because she can be away from M who is increasingly meaner and demanding.
I fell hard for the characters of Mike and Chad the two lovers who owned the flower shop, Scent Appeal. They took care of Apron when she needed it the most, providing laughs and jokes and even love at a time when Apron was vulnerable and alone. Chad is dying. Apron chronicles it to us with his weight loss, the spots that show up on his skin, the loss of appetite and worse. But instead of being scared, she reads to him, she shows him greater kindness than anyone other than her parents ever showed to her and Chad and Mike become her world. They are the characters I connected with. They were funny, loving, philosophical about the hatred others showed them, and totally giving of themselves to anyone that needed them. They were so comfortable with who they were and what the love meant. I was bawling by the end. And not just because of Chad and Mike.
Something happens between M and Apron's father and the baby that isn't easy to accept. I had long suspected that Apron's father wasn't the father of the baby, but I was wrong. Still things go bad. And then, they are better. Apron definitely grows as a character, learning a lot in one summer. Love, loss, betrayal, and finally happiness. As much as a teen can be happy :)!
It's an emotional rollercoaster. You will cry. You will laugh at Apron's klutzyness and some of her quotes like "Always wear underwear". I think it's good advice! Funny things happen, sad heart wrenching things happen and great life changing things happen. This is a book for anyone that loves YA contemporary fiction.
Thank you to Fiction Studio and Jennifer Gooch Hummer for the review copy from Net Galley.
This in know way influenced my opinion of the novel.