Grace is 16 years old, pregnant and adopted. Her adoptive parents advise her to give up her baby and she is happy that the couple who are taking her will give her a good life. However, she holds her baby briefly after the birth and then is unable to alleviate the pain of giving her away. She makes the decision to find her biological mother in an attempt to be `tethered again.’ The search yields a surprising discovery-a brother and sister, Joaquin and Maya-of whose existence she was unaware.
Both have their own troubles-Maya is volatile and restless, adopted but with a sister conceived after her adoption. Joaquin has been fostered for 17 years and is convinced that he cannot allow himself to be loved, as he feels he is not worthy of such commitment. As a result, he tries to shatter the two relationships which mean most to him-with his girlfriend Birdie and his current foster parents, Mark and Linda, who want to adopt him.
Thus far, the book is entirely convincing-characters are alive, fully formed and dialogue is particularly well observed and created. The developing relationship between Grace and her friend Rafe is particularly skilfully handled and emotional challenges are often memorably and honestly described. However, when Maya and Joaquin agree to join Grace in her search for their biological mother, plot lines begin to be far too neatly tied. Their mother’s details are discovered, her house visited but they are met by her sister, with news of their mother’s death many years earlier and her unwavering love for them all. All other relationship problems are solved, happiness prevails and the end of the book reads rather like the script for a saccharine movie – a disappointment after such a careful exploration of some very difficult issues.