I was glad to spend more time with the characters I loved from Saving Francesca. Once again, I'm blown away by Marchetta's ability to write three dimensional characters that act and feel like people you could really know. As in Saving Francesca the relationships between the characters are also compelling. I loved how Tom's friends stuck with him through everything. They didn't allow themselves to be doormats but they were there for him when he was ready to be their friend again. The relationship between the Finch-Mackee family members also felt real. There was the normal family disfunction but it was clear that they still loved each other.
Marchetta is also a prolific writer. She is able to pull off present tense in both first and third person. There were no glaring grammatical errors and the prose flows effortlessly. Her song lyrics were a bit hit or miss for me but they weren't horrifyingly bad.
Despite my praise above, there were some problems that prevented this from being a five star book for me. Like with Saving Francesca Marchetta skimped on the physical descriptions of characters to the point where I had a hard time visualizing them. I appreciate that she doesn't describe ever minute detail about how they look and what they're wearing, but some minor descriptions would be nice. Hair color, eye color, some defining characteristic, body type, etc.
My other issue is hidden in a spoiler. Do not read unless you've read the book or don't mind having the ending completely spoiled. I was also a little bothered by the way all of the romantic relationships worked out in the end. Georgie forgives Sam, Tara forgives Tom, Tom's parents reconcile, Francesca and Will are still together, and Justine's crush likes her back. While part of me is happy because I was rooting for all of these couples, a part of me thinks that it's a little too idealistic for a novel that had thus far portrayed life in a very realistic way with both the good and the bad. In real life, relationships don't always work out and people can't move past their hurt even if they want to. Maybe I'm just jaded, but I just felt the ending was a little too neat and tidy.
Lastly, I'd like to note that this was the first Marchetta novel I've read where I really felt my ignorance of Australian geography and culture. This in now way impacted my star rating as it is a reflection of my own cultural incompetence rather than a flaw with the book itself, but it was still an issue for me. There were times when I wasn't quite sure where people were located or where things were taking place. Also, I wished I knew more about the Australian higher education system before I read this novel.
Overall, a great read.
P.S. The classification of this novel as a Young Adult novel is a bit odd. Although the novel is appropriate for teens (as are many adult novels), the main characters are in their twenties and thirties, and it deals with mature situations. The novel was more adult than some of the actual adult novels I've read. I'm convinced the only reason this was classified as young adult is that it was written by a young adult author and because it is the sequel to a young adult novel.