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My Best Everything
     

My Best Everything

4.2 9
by Sarah Tomp
 

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An Appalachian summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating in this debut novel about first loves, broken hearts, and moonshine.


Luisa "Lulu" Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college

Overview

An Appalachian summer walks the line between toxic and intoxicating in this debut novel about first loves, broken hearts, and moonshine.


Luisa "Lulu" Mendez has just finished her final year of high school in a small Virginia town, determined to move on and leave her job at the local junkyard behind. So when her father loses her college tuition money, Lulu needs a new ticket out.

Desperate for funds, she cooks up the (illegal) plan to make and sell moonshine with her friends. Quickly realizing they're out of their depth, they turn to Mason, a local boy who's always seemed like a dead end. As Mason guides Lulu through the secret world of moonshine, it looks like her plan might actually work. But can she leave town before she loses everything? My Best Everything is Lulu's letter to Mason—but is it a love letter, an apology, or a good-bye?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/12/2015
Seventeen-year-old Lulu Mendez cannot wait to leave sleepy Dale, Va., for the University of San Diego. Although she loves her job as a “junkyard girl” at Sal’s Salvage and will miss her best friend Roni—who is intent on marrying her boyfriend, Bucky, and starting a family—Lulu believes she has never belonged in her agoraphobic mother’s hometown. When Lulu’s father’s business dealings fall through, her college dreams are threatened until a chance (and potentially lucrative) meeting with Mason Malone, an older friend of Bucky’s who is struggling with sobriety, family estrangement, and his girlfriend’s death. In epistolary fashion, Tomp (Red, White, and Blue Good-bye) chronicles the fateful summer between high school and college when Lulu, Roni, Bucky, and Mason make moonshine together in a moneymaking scheme. When summer ends with Lulu’s college goal in sight, Mason moves dangerously close to his old life while the others discover that their futures are in jeopardy. Surprises are few, but Tomp’s descriptions of small-town Virginia life, a blend of haunting beauty and impoverishment, are forceful. Ages 15–up. Agent: Catherine Drayton, InkWell Management. (Mar.)
VOYA, February 2015 (Vol. 37, No. 6) - Elizabeth Matson
Unlike most of her high school classmates, Lulu Mendez has abstained from sex and alcohol, with the goal of getting out of Dale, Virginia. When her father’s failed business speculation results in no money for her private college in San Diego, Lulu decides to spend the summer making and selling moonshine to earn her own way. “Borrowing” a confiscated still from the junkyard where she works, she enlists the help of two friends and an experienced moonshiner, Mason Malone. As Lulu’s desperate plan spirals out of control, she and her friends discover they are not quite the people they thought they were. Throughout the first-person narrative, Lulu uses the pronoun “you” to refer to Mason. This makes sense at the end but is jarring when he does not appear for long passages. All of the young moonshiners endure cataclysmic change as they make their first adult discoveries of how life plans can be rewritten at a moment’s notice. There are issues of alcoholism, agoraphobia, and an unplanned pregnancy, in addition to the illegal moonshining operation. Disappointingly, however, it is Lulu who emerges the most unscathed. The only thing Lulu really focuses on is her deepening relationship with Mason, a boy she must leave behind if she succeeds in raising the money for college. Despite the setup for disaster, with the suspicion of Lulu’s parents, boss, rival moonshiners, and the authorities, Lulu gets off scot-free, her college dreams intact, through an unsatisfying deus ex machine device. Reviewer: Elizabeth Matson; Ages 15 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-12-06
A Virginia teen tries to pay for college—and escape home—by brewing moonshine in Tomp's debut for teens. Lulu Mendez has just graduated high school and can't wait to leave her junkyard job, her agoraphobic mother, her mostly absent father, and even her best friend, Roni, to attend college in San Diego. When her father loses her tuition in a business venture, Lulu steals a still left at the junkyard and enlists the help of Roni, Roni's boyfriend, Bucky, and local bad-boy Mason to make and sell moonshine. Mason's family has long dealt in the trade; in fact, he is a recovering alcoholic who has distanced himself from his roots. Nevertheless, he joins in this somewhat improbable venture and sees it to its catastrophic close. The second-person narration begins as an interesting device—Lulu is writing to Mason, but why?—but becomes a liability as the story progresses. Lulu's emotions become specifically told, not shown, especially regarding her family and her past, so readers can't fully invest in her as a character. The story takes too long to develop and the ending wraps up a little too neatly, moreover, and Appalachian stereotypes abound. Despite stumbles, Tomp's smooth prose marks her as a writer with a future. (Fiction 14-18)
From the Publisher
"This is an impressive debut of last summers and first loves, set against the backdrop of faded rural grandeur. Suggest to fans of Sarah Dessen looking for tough-as-nails heroines, enduring friendships, and romance with a side of grit."—Booklist

"Readers will race to turn the pages....A wholly original and most satisfying debut."—SLJ

"It's not very often that I feel a little tremor of excitement when I read the opening lines of a book. Sarah Tomp had me from the first."—Karen Foxlee, author of The Midnight Dress

"My Best Everything sweetly portrays the inevitable and often painful discoveries about family, friends, and first loves that come with growing up."—Jo Knowles, author of Jumping Off Swings

Children's Literature - Jill Walton
The fine writing never stops in ambitious Lulu Mendez’s flashback narrative. She describes herself as the upright, rule abiding, honors graduate who is now celebrating her future through scientifically introducing herself to alcohol. Lulu is finally following her dreams and leaving her small town in Virginia for liberating academia in southern California. But then her father tells her he cannot afford her college education. Lulu “borrows” a shiny still that is in the lot where she works for a salvage company. She is determined to finance her education with moonshine and will need help from more than her friends. This young adult novel describes a local culture that has developed over many years and serves as an illegal and very profitable source of income. Lulu’s only choice seems clear. She is to become someone she does not know and she bonds with a dangerous young man she would have avoided in her old life. Mason is much older than she and is used to the consequences of bad choices and bad luck. Readers will savor the characters and their decisions, as well as learning how to make moonshine. Reviewer: Jill Walton; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
11/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Luisa "Lulu" Mendez dreams of leaving her dead-end small town behind. She cannot wait to immerse herself in the University of San Diego's biochemistry program in the fall. So she is devastated when her dad admits that he has lost her college funds in a bad investment. Lulu is determined to make her college dreams a reality, and when a confiscated distillery turns up at the junkyard where she and her best friend work, she sees it as a bit of serendipitous luck. Although Lulu is not a party girl, she is aware that the moonshine business, illegal or not, is still thriving in the rural mountains of Virginia. Roni and Bucky do not take much convincing to go along with her plan—some extra cash will hurry her friends' wedding date along—and through some creative paperwork, the still disappears from the impound lot where it sits awaiting a trial. Lulu has recently met Mason Malone, whose family wealth comes from generations of "shining." There's an instant attraction between the two, and although Mason is a recovering alcoholic who has sworn off the family business, he reluctantly agrees to share his knowledge with the three 18-year-olds so that they can operate the still without blowing themselves up. As the still starts producing and the enterprising friends see the money coming in, college no longer seems out of reach—but will she be able to walk away from Mason at the end of the summer? And will her unorthodox college fund scheme mean his destruction as he edges closer and closer to his addiction? Lulu narrates the story in second-person, as a confessional of sorts to Mason, and readers will race to turn the pages as it becomes apparent that Lulu's gamble may result in the destruction of the people she cares about the most. A wholly original and most satisfying debut.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316324786
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
03/03/2015
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
15 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Sarah Tomp lives in San Diego, California with her husband and three children. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. My Best Everything is her debut novel.

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My Best Everything 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
WriterSharon More than 1 year ago
I totally fell in love with this book. It was so dang original and cleverly written and fun and funny and heartbreaking and honest. What a perfect debut! I'll be first in line for Sarah's next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My Best Everything is a great read! It is part love letter, and part adventure story. It portrays the joys and fears of being young and ambitious. Lulu Mendez lives in a small Virginia town and works in the office of the local junkyard. She dreams of going away to college and to become a scientist. She is strong, courageous, and willing to take chances. When her parents say they can’t pay her way to college, she comes up with a plan to raise the money herself. Her plan involves her long-time friends and a new relationship with a handsome young man, who has the knowledge she lacks and problems of his own. Lulu and her friends spend this first summer after high school learning more about themselves and the dangers and rewards of taking risks. They make moonshine and they look for love, all under the light of the summer moon.
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
It is going to be really difficult to describe just how much I love “My Best Everything” and what makes it amazing, but I am going to give it a try. At its heart it is a coming of age story and a romance, and one that uses some of the standard tropes, but somehow manages to turn them around and make them into something completely different.  You have the bad boy, a common staple of romances, but he is not at all typical and by chapter ten you know his story is not what you think it will be.  There is bullying and stereotypes, but they are not the ones usually addressed in books, and it makes the reader think beyond what they would normally define as “bullying”. The novel is written in the first person, but as a letter to the male protagonist, making the word “you” draw the reader into the experience.  It makes the entire thing more personal and intimate, with the narrator expressing feelings in a direct fashion, skipping flowery language, exposing the very real problems with the relationship, and yet somehow making this the type of  love story you are glad you were given the chance to become a part of.  There’s also the mystery of exactly why the letter is being written in the first place, adding some suspense, as well as reader anxiety, to the reading. The character development is some of the best I have ever read in this novel’s genre, with traits and backstories being revealed with perfect timing.  All of the characters are flawed, with qualities that make you want to hug them and qualities that make you want to shake some sense into them.  In other words, they are realistic and react to their circumstances in a manner consistent with their personalities.  Additionally, the environment of the Blue Ridge Mountains is written in a way that makes them their own character.  Beautiful and flawed, they evoke feelings of longing and frustration. I want to make note that the main character, Lulu, is Latino, and that is refreshing.  It is so rare to find diversity in books without it being the central theme of the book that it was a wonderful surprise to have her race being something that just is part of her and not the driving plot of the story. The characters in “My Best Everything” act realistically, so there is underage drinking, sexual situations, and quite a bit of colorful language.  There is also a relationship with an age difference that may bother some, though the girl is only a couple of months shy of eighteen, so keep that in mind if that is the sort of thing that will decrease your enjoyment of the book.  Also, it’s about making moonshine, so if alcohol bothers you in any way, this is most definitely not the book for you. As for my opinion, I highly recommend “My Best Everything” for older young adults as well as those who are no longer young.  It’s wonderful and I did not want to leave the characters and world behind.  I will never stop hoping that Sarah Tomp revisits Lulu and Mason at sometime in the future. This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
MarisaR More than 1 year ago
This book has my whole heart. I absolutely adored it. Lulu and her friends were so vivid and well-drawn that they popped from the pages. The town. The mistakes. The heartbreak. The hope. All of it wrapped together so beautifully and brilliantly to make a story that I'll never forget. There is no doubt that Sarah Tomp will be an insta-buy author for me.
Kristen_Noel More than 1 year ago
  I tried to love this book. I really, really tried. As soon as I heard about My Best Everything, I thought it'd be for me. Appalachians, moonshine, and a romance? Yes, please! But My Best Everything quickly became a letdown for me.   My biggest complaint with this one is that it seemed so damn long. It became such a chore to finish this book. I felt like I'd read for an hour and only get through 5% of it on my Kindle. For me, the writing style is what slowed this book down. It's written as a letter from the main character, Lulu, to the love interest, Mason. For the first few chapters, it was quirky and cute. I liked it. But after 15% of the awkward writing, I was completely over it. It would have been better to post a paragraph or two in letter form at the beginning of the chapters or something. Anything but the way it was written would be an improvement.   Aside from my issues with the writing style, I did find myself enjoying parts of My Best Everything. As a fellow Appalachian small town girl, I understood where Lulu was coming from and her desire need to spread her wings. There was a connection between us because of that. But what I couldn't understand were her decisions. Lulu was able to plot up a devious and lucrative plan to rake in money illegally. But she lacked so much common sense.   I know it sounds like I disliked this book so much. But I really didn't; I promise! My hopes were just a bit too high, I think. Teenagers will enjoy My Best Everything. It's got a slow burn romance that I enjoyed, a bit of finding yourself through illegal means, and the bittersweet feeling of being on the brink of adulthood. Overall, My Best Everything was an enjoyable read. I just wish that a more complete story had been told without the letter! **I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review with no compensation.
gaele More than 1 year ago
A coming of age story unlike any I’ve read before, told in second person past in letter form, it is the explanation of events and self of Lulu,  a new high school graduate in the small southwestern Virginia town, best known for the lack of opportunity.   But Lulu was meant to be different, with her acceptance to UC San Diego and opportunities to make a new life away from the sheltered town, she has one last summer before her life begins anew: the girl who always did her best and believed that education was key.  Not all is going as planned though, when her plans are turned upside down and there is no money for her education. Lulu is understandably devastated, and turns to an always available option: drinking. During her first experience, she meets Mason, a year  older and a high school dropout, his family is known in the area as moonshiners, and he is dealing with his own alcoholism.   Through the retelling of the story, we see just how desperate and determined Lulu is to get out of town and move on to college, and just how much she is willing to sacrifice to gain her own exit.  Contrasting with that is Mason, in a journey of his own to change his life, even  when it seems, at first glance, that he has few options available to him.  The dynamic is an interesting one as insights and events are presented with the benefit of hindsight, but feel so utterly honest and emotionally available.  Every character is presented through Lulu’s point of view: with her own observations and suppositions, even as she does infuse some  hopes and dreams into much of the retelling, it isn’t always hopes or dreams fulfilled. There are so many different elements at play in  this letter: from betrayals that wounded deeply at the time but feel almost fated, to consequences, family dynamics, first loves and all  types of obligations.  Each element unfolds and reveals itself gradually and gently, as Lulu seems to come to terms with the events, and what is and isn’t possible in the now. A lovely coming of age story that gives a glimpse into the ‘wrapping up’ of childhood with that  final summer before university and all the growth that occurs.  I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review:  all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
KDH_Reviews More than 1 year ago
My Best Everything was so much more than I could have hoped for. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book. The story is told from Lulu’s point of view as a letter to Mason. Like the blurb says, we don’t know what kind of letter it is and you don’t find out until the end. That’s one of the many reasons that I found this book so easy to read. I was intrigued and wanted to know how things played out for everyone. Fantastic writing. Great characters. Unique storyline. This book has it all. Definitely recommended. One thing I’d like to note, though… I don’t understand the title for this book. It doesn’t really work for the story, but eh. Don’t judge a book by its title? * This book was received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. * You can read all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
TheBumbleGirl1 More than 1 year ago
This is one of those quirky stories that you need to read in one sitting. It's one that you need to slowly let yourself fall into, have a look around, and let it unfold as it needs to in order for you to fully understand it. It is one of a kind. And truly worth the time to get to know. Lulu is a good girl counting down the days of leaving it all behind and starting a fresh new life in college. For her last summer in her small town, she plans on working at the junkyard and hanging out with her best friend Roni. But life has a way of challenging Lulu and she is smacked with the fact that her father no longer has the means to pay for her tuition. Desperate to make her dreams come true, Lulu looks for a way to undo what her father has done... and is surprised to find out that she will go to great lengths to get her life back to where she wants it to go. At times, Lulu's stubbornness and meddling gets them all so close to trouble. But with Mason's quick tricks and experience, he manages to set things back in track.  Mason is not your usual handsome bad-boy to swoon over. Described as average with a buzz-cut, his presence and personality is what draws Lulu (and myself) to him. He is a few years older than Lulu, but, seems even older than that due to his history... his past is what makes him who he is now, but, it does not shape who he will be in the future. Filled with so much potential and knowledge; Lulu is determined to help Mason out of their small-town and situation too. He deserves so much more than the hand that he's been dealt with.  The entire book is told from Lulu's point-of-view, it's her letter to Mason. She speaks directly to Mason - oftentimes, it was a little confusing as to who she was referring to when she said "you" and "us". But, it did very little to take away from the momentum and the importance she felt in writing this letter, her side of the story. We see Lulu mature and come into her own in such a unique way. Everything about her, the town, the people who live there, Mason, the moonshiners - everything and everyone is so anomalous. My mind was stretched and challenged in such a wondrous way, it was a pleasure to see this group come together, fall apart, and make peace with what happened. The ending is bittersweet. And I'm really hoping that some day soon we will get to read Mason's response to Lulu's letter. So the question is, is Lulu's letter to Mason, a love letter, an apology or a good-bye? And the answer is... it's so much more! More than you could ever imagine.  *A hardcover book was sent to me from the publisher for the blog tour and an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
LovinLosLibros More than 1 year ago
This was definitely a different read for me. I am all for contemporaries and the premise of this one just sounded so unique, what with the moonshine making aspect of it all. It was a little different reading this, as the main character, Lulu is writing TO Mason and uses second person when it comes to him. As interesting as this one was, it just lacked a certain spark for me. I had trouble with the romance, and when it boiled down to it, I felt Lulu was selfish and undeserving of Mason's affections. I really did feel for Lulu and understand her plight. She is desperate and will do whatever it takes to get her life back on track. She refuses to become a permanent fixture of Dale, Virginia. Her way out comes in the form of college in San Diego. However, when her father informs her they simply can't afford it anymore, Lulu will not accept that everything she's worked so hard for is suddenly coming down around her. Working in a junkyard with her best friend Roni, a still is brought in, thus starting Lulu's crazy plan to make moonshine as a means of earning money. However, Lulu, Roni, and Roni's boyfriend Bucky, don't know the first thing about making moonshine. Bucky's friend, Mason on the other hand.... Lulu turns to Mason for help and what agrees as a small favor ends up turning into more. I felt for Mason, because at 19 years old he really doesn't have much going for him. He is a recovering alcoholic for one, and has no plans of leaving Dale. Lulu ends up finding herself enjoying spending her time with him and starts to develop feelings for him, even though she knows they have to be fleeting, what with her leaving as soon as the summer ends. I just didn't like that Lulu pressured Mason into the position she did. Knowing he struggles with alcohol, he ends up being the main player in the moonshine operation, mainly because it's in his family's blood to do so. Lulu is also quite impulsive. Again, I realize her desperation far outweighs her logic, but good grief. If I were conducting an illegal operation, I would probably listen a bit more to the person who has actually done this before and knows the right way of doing things so they don't get caught! She wanted to be in on everything and makes deals herself, thus exposing them to unreliable sources. I do think she genuinely cared for Mason, but I just didn't feel the overwhelming chemistry between them that I would have liked. I do like the way Tomp handled Lulu's best friend Roni's storyline though. Roni feels she's going nowhere and will end up marrying her boyfriend Bucky and that will be it. However, when opportunity presents itself, Lulu encourages Roni to pursue more, something Roni only thought Lulu would have. Roni ends up finding something she's passionate about and that will take her places- not condemning her to a life where she would be settling. I was really pleased to see that in the book, as I really liked Roni and how vibrant she was. Overall, this was definitely not a bad read for me, but I wasn't crazy about it either. Like I said, the spark just wasn't there for me. I was engaged, but not blown away. The underlying thrill of getting caught was very prevalent through the characters, which transferred to me the reader though, so I did really enjoy that. The ending is a bit open ended in terms of the romance, but overall I was satisfied with the direction it took.