This is one emotional hike for me.
DISCLAIMER #1: My dad was diagnosed with MILD GLAUCOMA just a month ago. He was told that he's lucky that the doctors diagnosed it early because it could lead to permanent blindness. My dad's a pastry chef. He doesn't only need his hands, he needs his eyes, so you can just imagine the terror that his condition brought to the family. Thankfully, it was quickly remedied. Why am I saying this? I'm saying it as a disclaimer so that you guys won't be surprised with the level of emotion that I have for this book. It struck too close to my heart. Blame it on the plot! :)
DISCLAIMER #2: I have read NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL and I absolutely love (yes, I still do) it, so my expectation for this book is sky high. Did it meet my expectations? I'm not telling you just yet. READ ON. :)
Now onto the review...
Yes, I feel like I hiked with the characters and it's so... fulfilling.
First of all, I thought that this book would be very much just about a teenager's struggle with relationships. I made a big mistake (or not) of not re-reading the blurb when I read this, so I really thought that it would be just about that. It started out with her past relationship as the focus. However, I couldn't be more wrong. It's way more than that... just... way more than I ever expected!
Shana, our heroine, is a typical teen. She has school and boy problems, a blog to update, a Facebook profile, small bug problems for her family and a big dream to be a photographer. She likes to have fun and she is determined to tell stories using her camera. I think her biggest negative trait here is that she was leaving a trail of broken hearts. Yeah, she's a serial flirt because of a not so nice past. She then decides to not entertain boys anymore... until she meets Quattro, a guy who could possibly break down all of her defenses. The boy has his own problems to deal with, so their relationship slowly built. I like that her reactions are totally realistic. While I was reading this, I couldn't count the times wherein I said "Yeah, if I were still a teen, I would definitely say that or react that way too." To be honest, I found her problems ( at first ) quite simple and then everything else starts to happen.
Her dad gets diagnosed with a worst possible illness for a photographer and a man who loves adventures. He's told that he's only got a number of months until his eyesight diminishes. Her family scrambles for some normalcy after that Earth shaking news while she internally cringes for her own future --> again, a big sign of being so realistic. Which teen wouldn't worry about her future when the basic foundation of her life is rapidly changing? Anyway, her parents suddenly decides that they should go to those trips that they planned a long time ago. Her destination with her parents: Machu Picchu.
One way to desribe Machu Picchu for them? It was a vacation that turned out to be an adventure and then turned out to be a venue for soul searching.
They go on the hike of their lives. They meet various people with colorful personalities. I personally love GRACE because she's courageous and maybe it comes with her age, but she's so determined. I think she's a fictional symbol that when you want something, nothing can stop you. I also like Stesha because she's so wise and has a lot of quotable quotes. I like almost everyone in their travel group except for Hank who's a fictional embodiment of cowardice and selfishness. I say that because in the face of danger and panic, a person's true color does show and unfortunately, even though he made up for it, he still did something that I'd be ashamed of if her were nonfictional and related to me. LOL.
That trip served as their beacon of light because there were so many realizations and so many fears that were resolved. I guess that if I were Shana's dad and I'm about to go blind, I'd be as frustrated as he is and if I were her mom, I'd be so scared, but would want to stay positive too. Needless to say, I admire her parents' togetherness after everything.
I also admire Shana because she has seen the light. She realized her worth with the help of adults, of course (which should be the case in real life for every teen). She got the chance to try and make a big difference using her photos here. I'm happy for her character in the end.
Her love life is also fun to read about. It's kinda funny when the serial flirt experiences the same treatment that she had for boys. They are so cute together. :) Quattro is lucky because Shana is quite talented and very loyal too. Her talent with capturing moments of life is outstanding for a teenager. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that the author is also an accomplished photographer to have described pictures that can really make me imagine images in my head.
The ending is really dramatic and made my tear up. It reminded me that moments in one's life should be cherished and that we can really treat everyday as an adventure. :)