Without Merit
by Hoover, Colleen

Tired of living a life surrounded by lies, Merit Voss reveals the dark secrets of her outwardly happy family before she leaves them behind, only to be confronted by the consequences of her decision when her escape plan fails.

Merit is ditching school and poking around in an antiques shop when she meets a really interesting guy, Sagan. They talk a little, then he gives her a sweeping, epic kiss, interrupted by his phone. Her twin, Honor, is calling him: he thought Merit was Honor. Merit is used to that sort of embarrassment and hides out in her room from the family she already dislikes. Eventually, she realizes that Sagan has moved in, so now she has to keep her feelings for him in check all the time. While Merit's mother lives in the basement and never leaves, her father tries to keep everyone on track, and every person in the house, except for Merit's four-and-a-half-year-old brother, has secrets. Merit knows most everything, and all the hidden truths and strong feelings fill her until she finally gets everyone's attention with a desperate act. Merit is complex and charming as she struggles with depression, and Hoover (It Ends with Us, 2016) shines here as she reveals hope glowing within a house of dysfunction. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

With the help of unusual houseguests, a teenage girl who tries to rebel by airing her family's dirty laundry cleans up her act instead.To Merit Voss, the white picket fence around her house is the only thing normal about the family it contains. She lives in a converted church with her father, stepmother, and siblings, and although her parents have been divorced for years, her mother still lives in the basement, struggling with social anxiety. No one in her family is religious, so her brother Utah updates the church marquee every day with fun facts instead of Bible verses. Merit is less accomplished than her identical twin sister, Honor, so she likes to buy used trophies to celebrate her failures. But Honor seems to have a fetish for terminally ill boys, so it's a surprise to Merit when Sagan, who is perfectly healthy, kisses Merit after mistaking her for her sister—and then reveals that he's living in their house. Soon they have another houseguest, Luck, whose connectio n to the family makes Merit even more convinced she's living in a madhouse. So why is everyone so angry at her? Merit has a love/hate relationship with her sister. She's conflicted by her feelings for Sagan, who leaves intriguing sketches (illustrated by Adams) around the house for her to decipher. She's simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by Luck, who annoys her with his questions but is also her confidant. She can't sit through dinner without starting a fight; she's been skipping school for days; and when she decides to give her whole family the silent treatment, Sagan is the only one who notices. In fact, he and Luck are the only people in the house who recognize Merit's quirks for what they really are—cries for help. And when Merit takes drastic measures to be heard, the fallout is both worse and much better than she feared. Hoover (It Ends With Us, 2016, etc.) does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinica l depression, and Merit's aha moment is worthy of every trophy in her collection. This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what's normal. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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