Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley
For Missy Keiser, returning to Anna Maria Island, Florida, means two things: her mother made another poor decision with men, and Missy will have to reenter a world where she’s known as “Messy,” a social pariah who dared to have a crush on Sam King, the most popular boy in school.
But much has changed in the three years she’s been away. Missy’s next-door neighbor is no longer an elderly woman but Josh, an intriguing boy who seems genuinely interested in her. At school, she’s surprised to find few people remember who she once was. And any remaining taunts of Messy are silenced when Sam King gives her his nod of approval.
Just as things seem to be perfect, Josh’s sudden distance, her mother’s latest relationship implosion, and her brother’s strange behavior threaten to ruin it all. Missy is forced to decide between the boy she’s always wanted, a boy who is intent on trying to save her, and the brother she’s known all her life. And her decision could have consequences she can never undo. (Goodreads)
After three years away, Missy returns to her island home in Florida hoping her painful life filled with endless bullying at the hands of the popular kids will be long-forgotten. It’s not easy being raised by a flighty, irresponsible mom willing to shack up with practically any guy who’ll pay her way. This often leaves Missy with the job of caring for her younger sister and keeping an eye out for her troubled older brother, Robby, who seems to be headed down a dark path.
In those first few days after her return to school it becomes evident that everyone remembers Missy and no one has forgotten how to torture her. Her only saving grace is her best friend, Julie, who is as devoted as always. She encourages Missy to ignore the teasing, to go to parties, and to create a different life than she had before. And because Julie is dating a pretty popular guy who is absolutely nuts for her, they take Missy to the best bashes and hang outs, where she basically just tries not to be noticed. Missy’s only real escape from her home life and her fears about not being good enough is in the friendship she begins with her next-door neighbor, Josh. Josh is a popular guy, but he’s also pretty unfazed by it all. He doesn’t treat Missy with disdain, but with kindness.
Missy eventually gains the attention of Sam King, the big guy on campus, and when they start dating, life changes for her. She’s popular, she’s accepted and she feels beautiful–but she fears losing it all. Josh discourages her new life and new behaviors, and it affects their friendship because Missy can’t understand why Josh doesn’t see that she’s better off. And between worrying about keeping Sam happy, worrying about what Josh says, and trying to take care of her brother, who is spinning out of control, Missy just can’t keep up with it all. At times it feels like she has to choose between her boyfriend, her friend and her brother.
I really liked this book. There are Christian overtones here, which didn’t bother me at all because I am a Christian, but if you are someone who might avoid a book of that nature (and I normally do because they tend to be hokey), please do not skip this one for fear of preachiness or kumbaya or anything like that.
Nicole Quigley has done such a beautiful job at tacking real issues like bullying, partying, drug abuse, sex and suicide, with realism and grace. These things are faced head on, without fear, and yet they aren’t in any way gratuitous. The more religious topics are done simply and tastefully, and while they are an underlying inspiration in the story, they aren’t the only focus.
Missy is an imperfect girl who is, like so many of us, seeking happiness in the approval of others. She finds a temporal peace with Sam, but there’s always this threat looming in the balance, a deep fear that she’ll slip up and lose it all. I loved her character because I related to her way of thinking, the belief that everything will be good if I do things just right. It’s such an exhausting way of life, and I think Quigley nails it.
Josh was also very well-done. He’s a good boy without being mega preachy. He has the right words and intentions, but often his reactions are flawed. His concern for Missy sometimes plays out in cold-shoulder responses because he doesn’t know how to deal with his own jealousy, anger and frustration. He spends far more time being a solid foundation to her than he does spouting Bible verses and I think that makes him the very essence of what it means to be a Christian.
This was a wonderful, sad, and somehow uplifting book. The issues feel authentic, the relationships ring true and lessons about grace and forgiveness are ones we should all take the time to learn and remember. It was an excellent read.
Crush Intensity: 4.25/5
This is not a story about suicide. But you should know that when I was seventeen, the only boy who ever called me by my full name took his own life. It was the first time I ever saw a mistake that was permanent, that couldn’t be undone with whiteout or atoned for with an after-school detention. Nothing else I do for the rest of my life will ever be able to change this fact.
This story is actually about three boys. One who loved me. One who couldn’t. And one who didn’t know how.
Thank you to Zondervan for sending me a copy of Like Moonlight at Low Tide!