It's one thing to have a character make a bad decision that sets in motion the string of events that leads the plot of the novel. It's another thing to have a character who leads the narration through deliberately antagonistic choices. And it's quite another to have a lead like this...
99 Days, by Katie Cotugno, tells the story of Molly, who returns after a year hiding away at boarding school, to find that the reverberations of one bad decision are still being felt throughout her sleepy home town. From her ex-boyfriend Patrick - the boy she cheated on - to his older brother, Gabe - the boy she cheated on him with - it seems like everywhere she turns, there's yet another reminder of the past she tried so hard to leave behind. However, it seems like Gabe might just be willing to take the chance to make things right. Can one summer really change everything?
The premise intrigued me. Going into it, I was kind of rationalizing with myself, this is going to be a book about redemption, and this is how Molly turns things around. Everyone loves a good comeback story, right?
It all comes down to whether you can effectively make the actions of the character - no matter how bad they were - understandable to the reader. In that case, 99 Days is a success, because it does a good job at weaving the complexities of the relationships Molly has with both Gabe and Patrick, as well as their sister, Julia, and her own mother, into an organic environment that could have lead to the jaw-droppingly awful environment she lives in.
However, that still didn't make it good enough. It wasn't just that Molly made one bad decision... there were things she did as a character that made me grind my teeth and flinch. Bad, Molly! I have a seriously hard time thinking anyone could think a character like this was realistic, because I've never met anyone who makes this level of terrible decisions in my life.
The writing style was fairly general for YA contemporary. so that wasn't much of a redeeming factor. The characters were fairly well flushed-out, but then again, that was kind of one of the problems, wasn't it?
And final nail in the coffin, the ending was also a little too ambiguous for my taste, and it ended in such a way that I didn't feel like any of the characters were either redeemed or had learned anything. But hey, at least I finished it, right?
Final Verdict: This study in moral relativity wasn't exactly a great read, but from a technical standpoint, it was fairly well-written, aside from the lackluster ending. Maybe pass on this one, and find yourself a better summer read in Dessen.