Updated review, 06/2012:
OK I still really, really love this book.
I mean, it's a little twee and cloying in places. As a stylistic choice it didn't turn me off, but I get that this is a book you either immediately love or hate. So many italics and !'s. And the characters all have personalities that, if they aren't identical, are verrry similar.
BUT. This thing clicks together like clockwork. Not just the details falling into place, but the slightly-rewound construction, where you get Friday from one person's perspective and then rewind to see if from another person's perspective, is engaging without making you feel lost. It struck me as very well constructed.
I also feel even more strongly this time around that the book is misfiled as YA. No way. This is commercial fiction, straight up. It's primary concern is the adults, not the kids. This is a book about marriage and fidelity and infidelity and it has very interesting things to say about these topics. The emotion of: Is this person terrible? Or am I just a bad person for thinking they might be terrible? is a very difficult thing to write about, much less write about engagingly, and it just swims here.
The backstory, the really old one, about the hot air balloons, is the only part that doesn't thrill me. Everything else I was cool with. And even if there are at times a sameishness to the characters, for a book with such a large cast, I was never lost, never had to remind myself who some person was or what their story was.
All of which is to say, for me this is a book worth studying. I'm into it.
original review from 2/2008:
I really, really loved this.
Every time I would open it to start a new chapter, I would spend 5 minutes going back and re-reading favorite parts from previous chapters. Every sentence was just such a pleasure, totally worth lingering over.
There were parts that caused genuine laughing-out-loud, and also parts where I was pretty much sobbing? If it's OK for me to share that?
I'm not sure I would call this book straight-up YA, because it spends an awful lot of time being about adults and their relationships, but still. Listen Taylor is a super cool character and your heart breaks for her and then you're SO PROUD of her at the end.
What else. It's about junior high, and family secrets, and crushes, and relationships where you wonder if what you're feeling is love, or maybe just or boredom, and parenthood, and spy missions, and magic spells.
Easily one of my favorite books of all time.