Title: Blue Plate Special
Author: Michelle D. Kwasney
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 366 Pages
Published September 2009
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Summary: Big Macs and pop tunes mask the emptiness as Madeline watches her mom drink away their welfare checks. Until the day Tad, a quirky McDonald's counter boy, asks Madeline out for a date, and she gets her first taste of normal. But with a life thats anything but, how long can normal really last? Hanging with Jeremy, avoiding Mam, sticking Do Not Disturb Post-its on her heart, Desiree's mission is simple: party hard, graduate (well, maybe), get out of town. But after Desiree accepts half a meatball grinder, a cold drink, and a ride from her mother's boyfriend one rainy afternoon, nothing is ever simple again. Too many AP classes. Workaholic mom. Dad in prison. Still, Ariel's sultry new boyfriend, Shane, manages to make even the worst days delicious. But when an unexpected phone call forces a trip to visit a sick grandmother she's never met, revealing her family's dark past, Ariel struggles to find the courage to make the right choice for her own future. As three girls from three different decades lives converge, they discover they are connected ways they could never imagine. Each of them finds strength that brings her closer to healing a painful past, and faith that there is a happier future.A friend of mine read and added this book on Goodreads, and I was immediately curious to see what it was about. Upon reading the summary, my interest grew even more - especially since all three perspectives in the story were told from different decades. So I gave this one a shot, and it definitely ended up being worth it.
Blue Plate Special is about three different girls - Madeline, from the 1970's, Desiree, from the 1990's, and Ariel, from 2009. Each girl goes through her own issues in their own perspectives in the story. Madeline is an overweight outcast at her school struggling for a companion while dealing with her alcoholic, waste-of-space mother. Desiree is fighting for her mother's attention while dodging unsettling vibes from her mother's boyfriend, which eventually leads to another problem. And Ariel, an only child with a father in jail that she's never met, dealing with the sudden sickness of a grandmother that is a stranger to her while also dealing with her clingy, obsessive boyfriend.
I really, really liked this book. So I'll comment my thoughts on each of the three perspectives first, and then talk about the book as a whole:
Madeline's Perspective: It was interesting to see how Madeline dealt with her mother, who spent all of her money on beer and cigarettes and drained their welfare checks every month. On top of being the "parent" of the household while her mother sits back and did nothing productive, Madeline also had to deal with being bullied in school for being the "fat girl." Until she meets Tad. Gosh, I loved Tad. He was the light that made everything better for Madeline, and he inspired a positive change in her, which I really, really liked to see. He was cute and kind and funny and sweet and loved her for who she was - he didn't try t use her. Tad was definitely the kind of guy I'd be interested in if it was present-day and not the 1970's! Madeline changed herself for the better up until the very end and her story definitely added a touch of hope to the plot. The only thing I wish I would've been able to read was her response in the end. The reader is left wondering what happens to her...and I wish I knew for certain!
Desiree's Perspective: Even though Desiree's point of view was written in a little odd for my taste,
going like this,
all of the time without
or rhyme or
and she didn't use capitals
which bothered my inner grammar
or punctuation when someone spoke
so if i said something it was quoted like this,
I eventually got used to it. And her point of view was definitely my favorite of the three to read - maybe because her struggles seemed the most drastic and gripping at that point. I hated Larry from the very beginning, and I really really hated Desiree's mother when she didn't do anything to help when her daughter came clean and cried for help after Larry, her mother's BOYFRIEND, raped her. It grossed me out and I don't know how I would have responded in that situation if nobody had reached out and helped me.
But after all of that stuff goes down, following Desiree's story and watching her persevere was uplifting. Her perspective in the novel definitely adds a tough of struggle and working through the pain and horror of your past - letting it go for a better future.
Ariel's Perspective: Ariel's perspective is supposed to be the most recent, set in 2009. I was only eleven years old in '09, but for the most part Ariel's perspective could have still translated to 2015. There were only minor changes - such as the fact that not everyone had cell phones or iPods or iPads. Other than that, however, most was the same. Ariel frustrated me a little bit because it was so clear how obsessive her boyfriend was and she didn't realize it until the very end. Girl, your boyfriend got you a shiny new cell phone for your two month anniversary and installed a GPS device so he could know your location at every moment. If you don't pick up and answer his calls immediately, you immediately receive twelve more demanding where you are. And forget Friday nights - he demands that all of those are for him and you can't do anything else with any family or friends, but you must go on a date with him. He even gets mad when you say you have to visit your grandmother with cancer because none of that "family crap" should be your priority, but he should be.
Yeah, a little creepy, to say the least. And frustrating. But Ariel's perspective was the perspective that tied the whole thing together and answered most of my questions as a reader. The only thing that frustrated me with this book (other than Ariel not noticing her boyfriend's obsessive behavior) was the fact that I figured out the plot twist waaay before I was supposed to, which disappointed me.
This book wasn't even predictable, per say. The thing is that in the beginning, I had trouble figuring out how the three girls' stories correlated to one another. Each had different problems, different families, and even different decades. None of their individual plot points lined up.
But their stories are connected, and they're connected in a way that you'd never believe if I told you. Plus, it's kind of hard to explain. Which is why I won't explain it - go pick up a copy of Blue Plate Special and read it for yourself!
All in all, Blue Plate Special was a shockingly original book and a very gripping read. I was hooked from start to finish and will definitely be recommending this book to several other people. Michelle D. Kwasney created a wonderful novel filled with love, loss, heartbreak, drama, and perseverance - all woven together in a single thread that connects all three stories. I really liked this book and definitely recommend picking it up if you're in a reading slump and need a for-sure way out!