Lexi Baill grew up with a drug addict as her mother. A mother who made empty promises and abandoned her daughter before her death. After years in foster care, Lexi finds out her Aunt Eva want to adopt her. So, Lexi finds herself living in Oregon.
Lexi befriends Mia and Zach, twins from a well to do family. Their parents, Jude and Miles, welcome Lexi into their lives. All through high school, Mia and Lexi are inseparable friends. When Lexi and Zach fall in love, Mia supports them even as Zach tells her he doesn’t want to go to USC with her for college as was always the plan. Lexi could not afford that college, so Zach wanted to go to Seattle with her instead.
On a Saturday night right before graduation, Mia, Zach, and Lexi drink too much, despite their promise to Jude that they wouldn’t. Zach was supposed to be designated driver, but he was well over the legal limit. So was Mia. Lexi volunteered to drive, even though she wasn’t sober either. Less than a mile from home, their car crashes into a tree.
At the hospital, Jude and Miles find that Zach had chemical burns on his face and Mia was in surgery. Lexi, with Eva at her side, had a few broken bones but would be fine. Then, Mia doesn’t survive surgery. She was the only one not wearing a seatbelt.
The small town community wanted to used Lexi as an example for future generations. They wanted the maximum sentence for vehicular manslaughter. Riddled with guilt, Lexi pleads guilty and is sentenced to over five years in prison. After she arrives, she discovers she is pregnant. Thinking of her own childhood where she had to visit her mother in prison, Lexi does not want the same for her own child. She gives the baby to Zach.
Over the next several years, Jude, Miles, and Zach do what they can to continue on without Mia. Jude barely hangs on, having cut off who she was because she believes that moving on is forgetting her daughter. Her own granddaughter, Grace, doesn’t believe that Jude loves her. That is apparent when Lexi is released from prison and shows back up to find her.
The conclusion of the story is pure Kristen Hannah. The characters find a way back to each other. They find a way to forgive and to let go of their grief. And they realize that Mia was with them all along.
This book is heartbreaking. It brought me to tears more than once, which is saying a lot because book rarely make me cry. In the end though, the ending is a happy one, at least as happy as it can be under the circumstances. Love wins in a tragic story where a girls life is cut too short. Kristen Hannah has my highest recommendation here. Certainly one of her better novels.