Palmer, Hannah, Claire and Kat begin the spring semester ready for any challenge. Kinda. Palmer wants to be among the elite writers of the university magazine, but she can’t seem to break into the group. That is, without a glass of Moscato in her hand. After years of being the supportive best friend to the girl who could have any guy, Hannah finally has a boyfriend of her own. When a chance to see Germany with her guy arises, Hannah really wants to go, even if it means missing the spring break beach trip with her roomies. Surely Palmer, of all people, will understand?
Claire and Kat almost have their own secret code. After the trauma Claire endured in France and Kat’s unexpected loss, they seem to sense the things that trigger the other’s grief. Counseling has helped Claire make progress toward healing, but when her mom flakes out and forgets to pay for, well, everything, Claire is stuck. Trying to break through her mom’s hyper haze isn’t working and though Palmer offers to pay for everything, Claire doesn’t want to be a charity project.
Running is the only salve to Kat’s wounds. Everything seems to remind her of her brother, but he’s gone. With pressure to perform on the soccer team building around her, Kat’s only escape is to work out until she’s too tired to feel anything. More and more, though, she finds herself alienated from those she loves most.
Smith really captures the beat of college living and the relationships between the girls and other students on campus. Hannah’s first-boyfriend experience will resonate with many as will her battle for balance in her relationships with her new love and her old friends. Palmer’s personal drive and her vulnerability to alcohol are well-explored without glorifying what she’s doing. Consequences follow her choices to drink.
Claire’s story offers a whole different perspective. As the functional one in her relationship with her mother, Claire struggles to maintain a healthy distance from her mother’s unhealthy behavior, something she’s never managed to do in the past. Her friends rally around her as a supportive community and a great message of hope.
Smith has been hailed as a brave voice, telling it like it is, and fearlessly digging through some of early adulthood’s tough issues. In the third novel in her Status Updates series, she lives up to that reputation, peeling back layers of denial and revealing hurting hearts and soothing them with the balm of hope in God.
Brief references to making out. A boy spends the night in one of the girls’ rooms, though she insists they simply fell asleep talking.
Through their experiences with addictive behaviors, the girls realize they need more than personal strength and determination to achieve their goals, whether social or academic. They realize their needs for mutual support they receive from one another and, even more, spiritual support from faith and relationship with God.
Palmer uses wine to loosen up socially. Her friends notice what she does not: that more and more she turns to alcohol to relax and connect with others, and it’s getting out of hand. Claire battles her mother’s neglect from a distance, worrying when her mother’s behavior indicates she may be using (or overusing) some sort of pharmaceutical stimulants.