Review: Don't Fail Me Now

Una LaMarche - Don't Fail Me Now
Published: September 1st, 2015 by Razorbill
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find on: Amazon, Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: 2/5

Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.

After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.

Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before....

Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.
Okay, sorry, but I just couldn't.

I've heard rave things about Una LaMarche's writing but it's never appealed to me. When I first got word of Don't Fail Me Now's premise, I was like, "GIMME NOW PLS." I mean, hello. Just look at that synopsis.

Michelle, Cass, and Denny find themselves under the gaze of CPS when their mother is yet again arrested. Still only seventeen, Michelle has no idea where to turn until Aunt Sam comes to rescue, taking in Michelle and her younger siblings, and asking for a chunk of Michelle's Taco Bell paycheck to pay half her rent. It's either Aunt Sam's dingy apartment or foster care. Michelle's hands are tied.

And while working her daily Taco Bell shift, Michelle is approached by a Caucasian teenager, Tim. He's immediately startled to discover that Michelle is African-American, but he drops his revelation, anyway. Her long-gone father - his former stepfather - is wanting to see her.

Michelle is less than thrilled. She's further perplexed when her half-sister, Tim's stepsister, Leah, is hesitant to meet her. Michelle takes the initiative, then grabs her siblings, Denny and Cass, miraculously snatches Tim and Leah, too, and begins the roadtrip to LA to find their daddy. * Technically, not Tim's daddy.

Honestly, I just hated this cast. Michelle would throw spontaneous outbursts, say the shittiest things to everyone, and be automatically forgiven a second later. Tim vied to be Mr. Rogers 99% of the time, but his only method of comfort was, "Oh, that sucks." and "Jesus. Sorry about that." I'd hated Leah, at first, too, but rethinking it, she's a mostly realistic gal.

And while Tim and Leah are rather close-knit, Michelle isn't quite the same with her own biological siblings, Denny and Cass. Then, when the unthinkable happens to Cass, Michelle is shocked while Leah seemingly holds down the fort.

Instalove occurs. Another tragedy. The calamity is calmed just in time. The ending is a teeny bit open-ended but with a happy note for Michelle's family. This is practically a mashup of This Raging Light and any Lifetime movie of your choice. Though I loved the concept (and the diversity, of course), I can't say I was a fan of this.