I have nothing but good things to say about Amy Spalding's debut The Reece Malcolm List. It was completely what I was in the mood to read right now being just the right mix of a light fluffy read but with some serious undertones - the perfect balance of both really.
This is the story of 16 year-old Devan. Devan is sent to live with her mother following the death of her father in a car accident. Her step-mother barely tolerated her when her father was around but after he dies she is shipped off to live with her mother, Reece Malcolm, who is a famous but somewhat elusive writer. Devan has never even met her mother prior to this and she finds herself thrust into a new living arrangement with a woman who is a stranger to her. Her mother's boyfriend Brad has also recently moved in and Devan feels that she is intruding on their new life together. Luckily Bran is a decent and friendly guy, and Devan warms more quickly to him than to Reece who comes across as a little difficult and anti-social.
After discovering that Devan is interested in musical theatre, Reece enrolls her in a performing arts school and Devan soon blossoms in this environment. She soon meets some like-minded friends and there are even a couple of romantic possibilities (happy to report no dreaded love triangles present in this novel). Devan is a shy and withdrawn young girl but when she is performing you see another side to her, her confidence really shines when she is on stage. Devan is talented - immensely so - and this is one area of her life where she feels free to be herself (ironically since she is playing someone else).
The strengths of this novel lies in the characters and their relationships with each other though. The dialogue is very realistic (Devan sounds like a 16 year-old girl but never in an annoying way - her voice is very authentic) and the situations and issues raised encounters are realistically depicted. The strongest element is the novel is the building of the mother-daughter relationship between Devan and Reece.
Reece was very young when she had Devan and is still in some ways quite immature. She clearly finds it difficult having to deal with a teenage daughter and does not seems overly equipped to handle it. It was interesting seeing their interactions with each, initially very awkward and stilted, but soon developing a rapport with each other as they discovered their similarities and differences. Devan keeps a 'list' about her mother (hence the title). She jots down all the new things she learns about her, often snooping around trying to find clues about her instead of just asking Reece about herself. You can see why she goes about it in this manner though as Reece is certainly not the most approachable person. I was rooting for both characters to overcome their differences and the baggage they carry about with them and was not disappointed with the resolution.
Overall a very strong debut. I was thoroughly engrossed in the story and the characters. The supporting characters were all fun and interesting but it was Devan and Reece's story and I related to them both the most.