There are lots of things I loved about Carol Lynch Williams' newest YA novel, Signed, Skye Harper, starting with the voice of the fifteen-year-old protagonist, Winston (a girl, by the way), who loves swimming and a boy named Steve and her grandmother and trashy Harlequin romances (with titles that made me laugh).
She felt realistic to me as someone still trying to figure out her place in the world--and because of the way the YA/MG division works out, it doesn't feel like we have enough characters in that weird in-between stage. Winston fills this beautifully.
The story, set in the 1970s, begins with a bombshell--a letter from Winston's Mama (who goes by the stage name Skye Harper), who wants Winston and her Nanny to come get her in Las Vegas. The problem: they live in Florida and don't have the money for a cross country trip. But then Nanny gets the wild idea to steal an old friend (and boss)'s brand new motor home, and they set off, oblivious to the stowaway on board (Steve, who coincidentally happens to be Winston's local crush).
I liked Winston's relationship with her Nanny and found her conflicted feelings towards her mother (who abandoned her at four) to be utterly believable. The plot itself is pretty thin--aside from the basic premise, a lot of the action is more emotional than plot-driven. I didn't mind so much, because I enjoyed Winston's point of view, and the short chapters kept things moving.
Things I didn't love: I'm still not sure about the ending, and I didn't love Steve. I had a hard time buying his appeal--I wasn't ever convinced that his affection for Winston was more than physical attraction (here's a fifteen-year-old boy who's had three serious girlfriends, appears to be somewhat experienced sexually, and is smoking marijuana the first time we meet him). I guess I wanted someone with a little more sweetness and naivety to match Winston's inexperience.