My Rating: 3 /5
Goodreads Average Rating: 3/ 5
The Whole Thing Together is a slow burn that tells the story of a blended family. I have never read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, so I honestly had very little expectation when it came to Brashares’ writing. However, I definitely expected a much lighter and fluffier contemporary than what I got. The Whole Thing Together tells the story of Ray and Sasha and what its like to grow up in a blended family of divorce. Ray and Sasha aren’t related by blood but they are connected by the fact that they share three half sisters. Ray’s mom and Sasha’s dad used to be married. Now, they can’t even stand to be in the same room with each other. They have orchestrated their entire post-divorce life with the sole intention of never having to run into one another, which means Ray and Sasha have never met. To make things even more complicated they still share a beach house neither was willing to give up in the divorce. They go back and forth to it every other week all summer long. Ray and Sasha share a bedroom (when the other isn’t there obviously), books, and even the occasional hoodie. They feel connected in so many ways even as complete strangers. This novel all takes place over the course of one summer when fates collide and Ray and Sasha finally meet.
Even as I explain the plot, I feel like this should be a summer fling romance story. However, this book is really more driven by the family, the decisions they make, and the ripple effects of those decisions. It’s definitely a slow burn, and took me over half the book to get into or connect to at all. In the end though I liked what the author was trying to do and say about divorce, even if I didn’t always love the execution.
It’s a unique premise – especially the bond between Ray and Sasha. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with this sort of family dynamic. I’ve read books with an ex-husband, step moms, and step siblings but generally in those books both families are not at the forefront of the story and usually one is presented wholly in a negative light. I liked how each of the older sisters had unique relationships with both Ray and Sasha. I also liked that neither of the parents were the “bad parent.” The dad is definitely shown in the less forgiving light, but both parents are extremely flawed and both make selfish decisions that impact their children. Not one is completely to blame. It was also crazy to me how connected Ray and Sasha were, despite never meeting each other. However, the more I thought about it the more I realized this type of relationship could totally exist. There are plenty of parents who remarry and have little to no desire to ever see their ex again and even less desire for their new spouse and children to have any relationship with their ex. I think it’s important to see unique families like these presented in literature, especially YA, when so many kids come from families of divorce.
The writing is beautiful.
All the opposites, everything at once came together. The despair washed away, and that was the thing that stayed. There was the past and there was the future. It felt whole.
It is easy for me to see how Brashares made an entire generation of girls fall in love with her stories. The writing sucked me in, even when the characters and plot didn’t. At times it even felt poetic. It was always an incredibly readable story. I read this book in practically one sitting, not because the story line was so gripping, but because an hour would pass and I was hundred pages farther along.
For the first half of the book, there really is no plot. My husband kept asking me what the book was about and I would struggle to come up with an answer. “It’s about rich kids. Rich kids who own this beach house. And their parents are divorced…” I’d vaguely answer. This is definitely a character driven story, not a plot driven story, which I don’t tend to favor. I like a story with plenty of drama and action that propels that story forward. So I’d say this isn’t necessarily a fault of the book or the writing. It’s simply a matter of taste. I have plenty of friends who are definitely character driven readers and they would probably enjoy this more than I did.
I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick read that will tug at your heartstrings. You’ll fall in love the quaint beach town setting and get swept away by the writing.