Joëlle Anthony’s The Right & the Real has a great concept, about a teen attempting to rescue her father from a cult. Who wouldn’t want to read this? And it starts off strong, with Chapter 2 particularly heart-breaking, as a dad chooses his new love and the Right & the Real church over his daughter. Since Jamie Lexington-Cross won’t sign the Pledge, she’s forced out of her home and onto the streets. But instead of confiding about her homelessness to a trusted adult, or even her friends, she keeps quiet. If she tells, she’ll be sent to live across the country with her drug-addicted mother.
And this is where the book fails. The author’s previous novel is also a quiet one, skipping oomph for a very down-home read. Jamie’s secret-keeping is really frustrating, as much as she not dumping her boyfriend who so clearly needs to be dumped. (Being forced to hide under gym mats, and making out in closets, does not make a relationship.)
But Jamie’s homelessness isn’t as hopeless as one would think. She has enough cash to fund a room in a shoddy, scary motel, but wins a protector in the form of an ex-con who cooks her meals, teaches her to clean, and escorts her places. She quickly gains employment, and a better love interest, in her new favourite coffee shop. And she’s accepted into her dream drama school.
Jamie’s father is broken out, but the major drama at the mixer happens while Jamie listens in and gets explained to. I know it’s a first-person novel, but a third-person narration of Megan and Liz’s adventure would’ve been better. And normally I’m not one to demand an epilogue (I hate those happily-ever-after saps where everyone’s married with children), but I want to know what happened to R&R: Did the police get involved, was there prosecution, etc? I need closure, damn it!
It’s a good enough novel, but lacks the oomph that would’ve made it great.