Good For You by Tammara Webber
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This review won't contain any "spoilers," with respect to this book, but it does assume familiarity with the characters and events of the two previous books in the series, so it may be mildly spoilerish with respect to them.
This third book picks up where "Where You Are" leaves off. Reid is at somewhat of a personal nadir after the unsettling events on the night of the premiere of School Pride. He even gets uncharacteristically introspective, wondering what makes Emma think there's something more to him. Fortunately(?), his loyal friend John is there to steer him back to his "pointless, pleasure-driven life," with foreseeably disastrous results. When he's sentenced to community service at a Habitat for Humanity site as part of his punishment for a catastrophic drunk driving incident, he meets Dori, the volunteer assigned to "baby-sit" Reid while he fulfills his obligation. Dori, short for Dorcas, is there because she's committed to making the world a better place for others. She not only volunteers at Habitat, she helps with VBS, Sunday School and other programs at her dad's church, does meals on wheels, and is headed to Ecuador for a mission trip in just a few weeks. Reid and Dori come from two different worlds and world views, that's for sure, and their initial impressions of each other are not favorable, to say the least. But each feels drawn to the other as the summer progresses, and they begin to find something of value, something they need, in each other.
I loved the previous books in this series, and I really didn't expect this one to surpass them in reading and emotional enjoyment and intensity. I was always an ambivalent Reid supporter at best. Yes, it's been clear from the start that he had potential and character that lay fallow, awaiting some kind of awakening. But as Emma said at one point, it wasn't enough for me that he could be good, given the right motivation. He had to want to be, he had to do something about it, and he never seemed to have the gumption to do that. So, I sort of expected this to be about Reid finding a good girl who could sort of "convert" him, to "change" him to someone better behaved, the way that girls always seem to think they can do to bad boys. But this is a much deeper story, a story about choices, and growth and becoming a human being.
Dori is an amazing character, revealed slowly over the course of the book. You think you know her at the beginning of the book, that she's a classic do-gooder type, with values and strengths that motivate and drive her commitments. And all that is true, but there's so much more depth to her. As it turns out, when these two strangers meet in a modest little half built house, both of them are there under some kind of compulsion, one the no less strong for being self imposed. Both Reid and Dori have built themselves worlds of self-sufficiency, in different way and for different reasons. What happens when those constructions fall apart is what makes this book so powerful and affecting.
Some final random thoughts:
Do things happen for a reason? Dori spends a great deal of emotional energy denying that, at one point saying, "if I believed for two seconds that there was a reason behind some of the awful thing that occur in this life, I wouldn't be able to stand it." Exploring that idea, through some pretty horrific events, is a really interesting theme of this book, and while it's left unresolved (can it ever be resolved?), good does come from some terrible things in this story.
The name Dorcas. Whew, tough name for a kid, no wonder she goes by Dori. In the Bible, Dorcas was a woman known for her good deeds. She was also brought back from death by Peter, a guy who spent most of him time messing things up until he finally got it right. I'm not saying this is an allegory or anything, but I love how that story kind of resonates.
Alison Krauss. What an achingly pure and sweet voice she has. It seems so simple, and yet conveys such emotional power and depth. So it totally makes sense that when Dori sings, it's one of her songs. A particularly ambiguously heart-breaking one, too.
So, all in all, a wonderful book, a powerful read that will stick with you long after you finish, wishing and begging for more. I love how Brooke comes (briefly) back into things, and how parental relationships are such an important part of this story. Thanks so much, Tammara, for creating such a richly imagined world, that has such creatures in it.
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