by Stephanie Lawton
pub date: December 3, 2013
product description from goodreads.com
It’s impossible to focus on college biology when your family believes doomsday is imminent and the government is out to get you.
All Pete Wilson’s ever wanted is to become a veterinarian, but those dreams are going up in flames. Commuting to an urban college and helping his parents with their apocalyptic prepper crap is more than he can handle.
Worse, Pete’s asshole neighbor is stirring up trouble, his family’s stockpile has been destroyed and farm animals are turning up dead.
Lindsey Linger is the tomboy sister of his best friend. Now a sexy spitfire, she and Pete are liable to set the barn ablaze as their romance finally heats up. But she’s hiding a terrible secret, and rural life isn’t all bonfires and hayloft romps. That becomes clear one icy winter night when the survival of everyone Pete loves hangs in the balance.
Can Pete be the hero they need, or will this be the end of the world as he knows it?
Oh, what can I say about SHELF LIFE. Just as Lawton's other works, this novel is written with such expert precision and talent, woven together with just the right amount of pacing to keep you flipping pages (or frantically tapping that little arrow on your e-reader) til the very end.
Let's start with the meat of SHELF LIFE (and all Lawton's novels): the characters. Pete Wilson is the MC here (a male, yay!), and he's a damn good one. Flaws, both internal and external ones, plague poor Pete from the very beginning, and it's truly a pleasure watching him strive to overcome each and every one over the course of this story. He's born into pragmatism in some respects, having parents who are religious when it comes to preparedness, but even with that sort of rigid, stoic upbringing, Pete isn't afraid to dream, to look beyond his life toward possibility and change. That alone is enough to love this guy, but Lawton takes Pete even further by making him a good, honest boy who truly does want to make everyone in his life happy. That's not something you see much of in today's NA/YA males, so it's refreshing. (note: SHELF LIFE is definitely more New Adult)
Pete's love interest and counterpart, Lindsey, is, in my mind, the polar opposite. But not because she chooses to be. Where Pete is optimistic about having a future of his own, outside the realm of his parents' sometimes Mad World, Lindsey seems to have given up on any sort of "pipe dream" life beyond the walls of the one she's currently living. It's sad, really, to see her so broken and defeated, but it's inspiring to watch Pete fight to make her see the possibility her life holds. And the relationship these two share? Let's just say it's a roller coaster if ever there was one.
Second to Lawton's outstanding characters is the overall plot of SHELF LIFE. As told in the description, Pete's family is known as the Doomsday Preppers by pretty much everyone in town. This is such a unique take on what I see as social outcasting. Much like gays and blacks and various religious sects are shunned and treated as "less than" just because they're different, Pete's family is looked upon that way by those around them. Even by one of Pete's college classmates, who although polite and in no way derogatory, shows disdain for their eccentric way of life. Even while reading this novel, I couldn't help but imagine how I myself would react if the Wilsons were real and lived next door. I'd like to think I would be accepting just as I am in real life, but you never know. That's one of the many, many things I love about SHELF LIFE, how it burrows in and makes you think. Ah, such a great book!
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I happily give Lawton's latest novel 5 stars, and urge you all to pick it up and devour it when it comes out December 3rd!
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