Before reading this book, I was unaware that Viv Daniels is the alias of Diana Peterfreund. I enjoyed Peterfreund’s YA post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (For Darkness Shows the Stars – see my review here). I was a bit surprised to read that she labels this book “an adult romance novel,” but it does have a protagonist who starts out at age 18 and ends at 21, and does feature sex. (It seems to me it fits more in that new “in between” genre for older young adults called “New Adult” which roughly means YA but with explicit sex.)
One & Only is the story of Tess McMann, who, along with her mom, lives a life shrouded in lies. They are the second family of a rich married man who insists they tell no one about him. In spite of the struggles (especially financial) Tess and her mom have had, Tess is always generous in her judgment of her dad:
As much as I hated to admit this, I understood why Dad had made the choices he did. I understood that he thought he could better provide for his families if he kept his reputation and his business intact.”
Tess is a science whiz, and wants to go to her dad’s alma mater, Canton University, because it has one of the best bioengineering departments in the country. But her dad insists she go to the state college, and refuses to pay for Canton. He has the money and he makes the rules, so she reluctantly agrees and heads off to a summer science camp at Cornell, for which she paid herself by winning a science prize. There she meets Dylan Kingsley, and they fall for each other. But he is going to Canton, three hours away, so Tess breaks it off.
Two years later, Tess wins a scholarship to transfer to Canton, and runs into Dylan again, but he has a girlfriend: Hannah. When Tess was six, she found out, by looking in her dad’s wallet, that she had a sister who looked about her own age. And of course, this sister is Hannah, and this is why her dad resisted her going to Canton. So Hannah not only has a “legitimate” family and the money to do what she wants and attend college without working, but now she also has the only boy Tess has ever loved.
Discussion: The mother, who puts up with a life for herself and her daughter of monetary deprivation, secrecy and isolation is portrayed as a sympathetic character who is just a reasonable victim of love. That’s very annoying. Tess also accepts her fate to a degree that doesn’t ring true, especially since she is obsessed with not ending up like her mother. Dylan is perfect to a degree that seems unrealistic. The sex scenes are kind of hackneyed and insipid. Once again, I found myself making grocery lists while reading about sex…
Evaluation: I liked that the protagonist was a female who excelled at science, but otherwise, I wasn’t much taken with this book. But many reviewers on Goodreads disagree with my assessment. Be sure to check out their reviews here.
Published by Word for Word, 2013