But all families had those kinds of arguments, didn't they? It didn't mean it was okay to run off with another man. Especially the coach of your husband and daughter's favorite team. (1.37)
Sure Mclean's parents fought from time to time, but she doesn't think that's reason enough for her mom to cheat on her dad, have another man's babies, and tear apart their happy family. After all, that is pretty harsh.
She could have her bright and shiny new life, with a new husband and new kids, but she didn't get to have me, too. I decided I was going with my dad. (2.8)
When her parents divorce, Mclean knows that they can't just split their family down the middle—after all, she can't be cut into two equal pieces. Because she feels so betrayed, she decides that her dad deserves to have her support more, while her mom is a treasonous traitor.
I pulled my list out of my pocket, unfolding it on the bar between us. "Okay," I began. "All the utilities are up and running, except the cable's still not getting half the channels, but that should be fixed by tomorrow. Recycling is on Thursday, garbage pickup is Tuesday. I can register at the school on Monday morning, just need to bring my transcripts and come early." (2.49)
Talk about an organized kid—whenever they move into a new town, Mclean takes on all the house set-up duties for her dad. Now that it's just the two of them, she's had to take on the role of caretaker to her dad too.
As he picked up his phone and left the room, I looked back at Dave's house. His parents seemed nice enough, hardly the strict Gulag types Heather had described. But then again, as Riley had said, no one was really normal, and you couldn't tell a thing from the outside anyway. (3.285)
No family is perfect, and you can't tell what complicated things are going on inside any household when you're just an outsider. That's how Mclean feels when she sees Dave's relationship with his parents—in a way, it's just as messy as her own relationship with her mom.
Ever since the divorce, and my ensuing that I did in fact have a choice and an opinion concerning it, I'd justified every bit of my anger toward my mom simply because of how she'd wrecked my dad. (6.197)
Mclean's mom certainly messed up big. She's going to have to do a lot more than invite her daughter to the beach and send her books about college applications to win her back.
But in the real world, you couldn't just split a family down the middle, mom on one side, dad on the other, with the child divided equally between. It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. (6.218)
Like a paper doll, Mclean's been split in two and can't be repaired perfectly again. She'll never be able to see her family—even with their good memories—in the same light again. What a bummer.
It had been weird, I had to admit, to be having such a, well, pleasant conversation with my mom. Like once again, the beach had somehow become a safe place for us to be together, separate from the conflict of her house or this one. (12.27)
Well, this is new—Mclean hasn't talked to her mom without resentment or anger for a while (which is pretty much standard teenage behavior). But now that they're trying to move past the divorce, they can make attempts to start communicating normally again.
She'd never want for anything. And even though I knew that for her, and even Connor and Maddie, this was a good thing, it made me feel sad in a way I wasn't sure I even understood. (14.55)
It's good to see that her mom and stepsiblings will be well cared for, but it still makes Mclean pretty sad because it just drives home the point that they're two separate families now—complete with separate lives.
It was my mom, and my dad was right beside her. They looked at me, then at the room behind me, their faces as tired as my own. "Oh, Mclean," my mom said, putting a hand to her mouth. "Thank God. There you are." (15.31)
Mclean may think that her parents don't care about her that much—after all, her mom's busy with her new family and her dad's got restaurant business to take care of—but they'll still go to the ends of the earth for her. Or at least to the Poseidon.
It was all so familiar, like a place I knew well, even though I'd never been there before. I looked at my mom beside me, and my dad across the table, both of them reading their menus, here with just me, just us, for once. (16.93)
For the first time in a long time, Mclean's whole family is together in one place again. It's not the same family—it can't be since her parents are divorced now—but it's still good to have the people that she loves most in the world in one place.
But I missed the Cream Ofs and the potato chips, the same way I missed everything about my old life. (2.6)
We're not sure who would miss cream-of-something soup in every single meal, but Mclean's still got a hankering for the stuff, mostly because it reminds her of home and when her family was still complete.
"Wait," he said, moving over to the next cabinet and opening it. Empty. "Is this… What's going on here? Are you, like, survivalists or something?" (8.245)
How embarrassing. Dave's caught Mclean and her dad in the act of being weird lone wolves who travel from place to place without accumulating much stuff… or food.
"Not that many, I said. He did not look convinced, so I added, "I've been living with Dad for almost two years… and I guess this is the fourth place. Or something." (8.258)
How can you possibly feel at home in any place if you're constantly picking up all your belongings and moving again? It's no wonder that Mclean and her dad can't form lasting relationships; they're practically nomads.
It was a plastic container of thyme, already opened, but more than half full. JUST IN CASE YOU DECIDE TO STICK AROUND, the note said in messy, slanted writing. WE HAD THREE OF THESE. (8.332)
What a sneaky way to convey your feelings to the girl you have a crush on, right? Dave's obviously trying to find a way to tell Mclean that he thinks she should stick around and, you know, maybe even go on a date with him.
"Hey Mclean," Dave called out through the screen door. I looked over to see him surrounded by white: on the ground at his feet, blown onto the wall behind him, and flakes still falling. "You ready to go?"
I looked back at my dad's door, now all quiet behind it. No, I thought. I'm not. (9.274-275)
Mclean's used to picking up and moving away, but she's not quite ready to leave Lakeview, despite the fact that she prides herself in not getting attached to a place. Nope—to her surprise, she'd like to stay here for as long as she can, if she can help it.
From this distance, in the dimness, the model looked surreal, made up of parts filled with buildings, bordered by long stretches of empty space. It reminded me of the way cities and towns look when you are flying at night. You can't make out much. But the places where people have come together, and stayed, are collections of tiny lights, breaking up the darkness. (10.46)
Home is different for everyone, but it always involves other people. Mclean knows this to be true when she flies—the places where lights are gathered and clumped together are the places where people have made their homes and their communities.
It made me think of my mother, suddenly, and I wished in that moment she could see me here, in a real home, with a family, just like she wanted. Maybe it wasn't ours. But it was still good. (11.198)
After so much time spent living out of drafty, empty rental buildings, Mclean knows a real home when she sees it. And she's grateful that she has a friend like Riley who will share her home—and her family—with her.
It was amazing what a little noise and brightness could do to a house and a life, how much the smallest bit of each could change everything. After all these years of just passing through, I was beginning to finally feel at home. (12.42)
Mclean's always been pretty weird about building up clutter—especially when she's going to be moving a lot—but now that she's in her Lakeview home, she starts to settle in a little bit. After all, there's no harm in playing music and decorating, is there?
Home. As he said this word, nothing came to mind. Not an image, or a place. "So those are the options?" I said. "Mom's or Hawaii?" (13.45)
Mclean's dad mistakenly thinks that her mom's place—in her hometown—is still his daughter's true home. He's completely wrong, though; Lakeview is her home now.
Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, wherever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go. (16.93)
Ah, what a wise realization, young grasshopper. Mclean's finally got it all figured out—it doesn't matter where she is and what kind of a house she's living in. What really matters is that she has people who love her.
The strangest thing about all of this was that, before, in my old life, I hadn't been any of these things: not a student leader or an actress or an athlete. There, I was just average, normal, unremarkable. Just Mclean. (1.31)
None of Mclean's new personas really match up with who she was before the divorce. In fact, they're all pretty much exaggerated characters that she makes up, like a little girl playing dress-up for the day.
The name I'd chosen, the girl I'd decided to be here, was poised on the tip of my tongue. But in that place, at that moment, something changed. Like that quick trip below the surface had changed not only the trajectory of my life here, but maybe me, as well. (2.211)
So much for being Liz Sweet this time around. Mclean messes up when she tells Dave her real name—or does she? Maybe she's actually not messing up her introductions for the first time ever.
Sitting there, I realized that one of two things could happen from here. Either I would hate Deb, or we'd be best friends and Liz Sweet would end up just like her. (3.55)
Why does it have to be one or the other? Mclean's obviously not used to just letting things go with the flow—everything has to be a decision that impacts how she's going to define herself for the remainder of her time in a place.
Because my best efforts otherwise, Mclean already had a story here. She was the girl who'd discovered Dave on the back porch, then taken refuge in his hideout. The girl at the party, the girl Deb welcomed in her own spazzy freaker style. She was not the same Mclean I'd been for the first fourteen years of my life. But she was Mclean. (3.94)
For the first time in the past two years, Mclean gets to be… well, Mclean. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but for our shape-shifting protagonist, it marks a huge change. It's kind of scary to be herself for the first time ever.
"Well the truth is, Dave's changed a lot since he transferred here. I think it's a good thing, because he's, like, a real person now. But it freaks his folks out. I think they liked it better when he was just like them, completely under their control." (4.82)
Dave isn't putting on a front or becoming a bad boy now that he's enrolled at a public school—he's just discovering who he is away from his parents' stuffy scientist upbringing.
In real life, she wore rain boots, had dirt under her nails, and squelched around in the garden mud, picking aphids off of the tomato plants one by one.
Now, though, my mom looked exactly like Katherine Hamilton, high-profile coach's wife. (7.5-6)
Whatever happened to Katie Sweet? That's what Mclean wonders every time she sees the new, glossy, rich version of her mom. It's not the mom that she remembers growing up with, and she resents how different she looks now.
It wasn't the first time I didn't know how to answer this. In fact, I'd taken pains over the last few years to have a different response every time… I knew anything I said would be drowned out. And maybe it was because no one could hear that I answered anyway. "I don't know," I said. I don't know. (7.47)
When Dave asks Mclean who in the world she is, she has to think about her answer—and the actual honest to goodness truth is that she has no idea anymore. She's going to have to take a rain check on that question.
Here, though, despite my best efforts, I'd somehow ended up behind myself again: Mclean Sweet, she of the messed-up parents and weird basketball connections, Super Shitty and a U-Haul's worth of baggage. All those clean, fresh starts had made me forget what it was like, until now, to be messy and honest and out of control. To be real. (9.138)
How in the world did Mclean end up as… well, Mclean Sweet again? She tried pretty freaking hard to shed this name and to develop a thick layer of random personas to protect herself from having to be real and honest and raw.
But really, it was about six months, or a summer. It wasn't about the divorce, or all these moves, and all the girls I'd chosen to be. This time, more than any before, it was about me. About a life I'd built in not much more than a month, a town where I felt finally somewhat at home, and the friends I'd made there. (10.126)
When Mclean's mom brings in the lawyers, she panics—and not just because she doesn't want to get separated from her dad. It's also because she doesn't want to leave Lakeview since she's just started to feel like herself again after three years on the run.
In my head, it went off in a million directions—I'm not that girl anymore. I'm not sure who I am—each of them only leading to more complications and explanations. (13.65)
It's hard for Mclean to explain to her dad just why she's freaking out so hard when he mentions the move to Hawaii. Maybe saying, "I keep changing my name when we move," isn't the best way to do it, but it's a start…
And back in Wescott, another awesome girl sat texting or calling, wondering why on earth her boyfriend, the one who was so charming but just couldn't commit, wasn't returning her calls or messages. Maybe he was in the shower. Or forgot his phone again. Or maybe he was sitting in a restaurant in a town hundreds of miles away with his daughter, about to start their lives all over again. (1.21)
Ouch—Gus Sweet may be popular with the ladies, but that doesn't mean he's a particularly good boyfriend. Even Mclean knows that he's a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of guy.
Even all this time later, it still seemed impossible that she'd done it, the very act and fact still capable of unexpectedly knocking the wind out of me at random moments. (1.37)
Mclean puts on this tough girl act, like she doesn't care about what her mom did, but she's really hurt by the whole divorce. In fact, she avoids talking to her mom because she doesn't want to deal with all those icky feelings.
When she left my dad for Peter, I honestly could not believe it was happening, even as I witnessed the debris—snickers in the hallways at school, her moving out, the sudden, heavy fatigue in my dad's features—all around me. (2.4)
Her mom acts like everything is fine and dandy now, but Mclean knows otherwise. After the divorce, she had to deal with feelings of abandonment and the fact that everyone was talking about the awful thing her mom did.
Now, though, like everything else was since the divorce, the beach would be different. And the truth was, those weekends, spontaneous and shabby, were some of the best times I'd had with my mom before everything fell apart. (4.93)
By leaving Mclean and her dad for another man, Mclean's mom has pretty much tainted all their good memories. Even all those lovely beach trips are forever screwed up in Mclean's mind—especially if her mom insists on dragging her out for more of them.
I must have seemed like a stranger to her, I realized, when she saw me like this. In a town she didn't know, with people she'd never met, and both of us wading through this limbo world between what we'd been and what we might be. (7.107)
How weird is it that Mclean's mom pretty much knows nothing about her daughter's new life? She has no idea who her friends are, or what she likes to do at school—and that's all because their family has been torn apart.
"Sure," I said. "When you move a lot, you don't have a lot of entanglements. There's not really time to get all caught up in things. It's simpler." (8.265)
Boy, Mclean's not the best when it comes to flirting with a boy that she likes. She tries to scare Dave off with her whole I-don't-do-entanglements party line, but he's persistent.
"He didn't take me away." My voice was rising now. She'd fumbled around, poking and prodding, and now she'd found it, that one button that could not be unpushed. I'd changed? Please. "That was my choice. You made choices, too. Remember?" (9.43)
The truth comes out: Mclean's not avoiding her mom because she's a moody, mean teenager, she's avoiding her because she's still hurt and upset about her mom walking out on their family. That seems like a reasonable excuse to hold a grudge.
"Why can't she just leave me alone?" My voice was breaking now, the tears audible if not visible yet. "Jesus. Hasn't she gotten enough?" (10.74)
Mclean's mom has already walked out on their family—and as far as Mclean's concerned, she should just leave them alone for good. She's betrayed them, so why does she keep trying to come around and hang out with Mclean?
All that was clear was that everything, including me, suddenly felt wholly temporary. I looked down at the model again. There, the entire world was simple in miniature, clean and orderly, if only because there were none of us, no people, there to complicate things. (12.111)
Just when Mclean is starting to get her bearings in a place, her dad goes ahead and insinuates that they might be moving again. She doesn't want to be the one to pick up and leave this time, though.
"But I get the feeling you're in a hurry, leaving and all, so I figured I should cut to the chase." (13.93)
Even though Dave knows that Mclean's got a cut-and-run kind of tendency when it comes to relationships and entanglements, he takes his chances and asks her out anyway. After all, there's no time like the present.
"This is Deb," I said, nodding to where she stood at the curtain's opening, purse over her shoulder. "She gave me… She's my friend." (4.177)
She's been in Lakeview for a grand total of a couple days, and Mclean is already claiming the weirdest girl in school as her new friend. That's a bold move, Mclean—we like your style.
It was so cold, looking through my blurry gaze, but then, suddenly, I felt Dave slide his arm around my shoulders. He was warm and close, and at the same moment I realized this, I spotted the outline of Orion. Three, I thought, and then rested my head against him, closing my eyes. (7.199)
After that long basketball game and dinner with her mom and Peter, it's no wonder that Mclean needs someone to lean on. It's a good thing that Dave's there for her—and that he's got a nice, warm shoulder.
"Mclean," she said. "I'm sitting here with you, in the nurse's office, during my free period. That means we're friends." (8.55)
For such a savvy girl, Mclean can sure be dense sometimes. Somehow she didn't even notice that in Lakeview, she's made real friends, including one who will go with her to the nurse's office when she accidentally smacks herself in the face with a locker door.
As she leaned in to inspect the damage, I looked through the glass of the door out into the room beyond. It was blurred and thick for privacy, so you couldn't really see details. Even so, I could make out the shape of a figure sitting there, a presence nearby, waiting. For me. (8.65)
Riley's the kind of girl who is loyal to a fault with all her friends—whether they're old friends like Dave, or new friends like Mclean. Dave's parents may think that she's a bad influence, but she's really a good egg to have around. You can always depend on her.
"You know. The person you can call at two a.m., and no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they're asleep or it's cold or you need to be bailed out of jail… they'll come for you. It's, like, the highest level of friendship." (8.268)
Poor Mclean doesn't have anyone that she considers her 2:00AM, especially since she only makes surface level friendships whenever she moves to a new town. But hearing Dave talk about it makes her rethink what she's been doing—maybe she should form tighter friendships. It just might be good for her.
Yet it was this image, this moment, that I kept going back to hours later, after we'd made it safely to the walkway and gone our separate ways to classes. How it felt to have the world moving beneath me, a hand gripping mine, knowing if I fell, at least I wouldn't do it alone. (9.142)
Dave's proven himself to be a really solid dude—even if he can be kind of a weird dork sometimes (he is a boy genius, after all). When they're walking along the icy sidewalk, Mclean just knows that she can count on him; he won't let her fall and hurt herself.
But when it was just me and him, there was a different ebb and flow; some conversation, some silence, always something to think about. It was like another language I was learning, how to be with someone and remain there, even when the conversation—and I—got uncomfortable. (10.32)
With Dave, Mclean doesn't have to posture or pretend to be someone that she's not—she can just remain silent, and they still have some kind of quiet understanding. That's a rare and special gift.
It was just a tiny moment. Not a kiss, not even real contact. But for all the things it wasn't, it meant so much. I'd been running for years: there was nothing scarier, to me, than to just be still with someone. And yet, there on that dark road, going home, I was. (12.32)
So much for leaving Lakeview without any complicated "entanglements." It's clear that Mclean has developed strong relationships here… although some may be stronger than others (wink, wink).
I nodded, not saying anything as my phone buzzed in my pocket. I'd finally turned off the ringer after logging calls from my dad, Riley, and Deb in the first twenty minutes we'd been on the road. (14.11)
Even when she's revealed the worst side of herself—the duplicitous side that comes with a bunch of different personas and names—Mclean's friends are still worried about her well-being. Riley and Deb are totally going to have her back no matter what.
I started crying again, my voice ragged. He told me to calm down. He told me it was going to be all right. And then, he told me he'd be there soon. (15.16)
So Mclean does have a 2:00AM friend that she can count on. She never thought that she'd be able to rely on someone like that, and yet Dave is ready to answer her call and tell her that it's going to be okay—he'll be right there.
Three years ago my parents, college sweethearts, were happily married and raising me, their only child. (1.34)
From Mclean's perspective, everything was just fine and dandy with her parents' marriage and their home life. Maybe that's why her mom's betrayal—and the subsequent divorce—was such an awful shock to her.
Instead, her party line was one sentence: "What happens in a marriage is between the two people within it. Your father and I both love you very much. That will never change." (1.38)
Her mom may stick to her party line all the time, but it's not an adequate explanation for Mclean when it comes to figuring out why her mom would leave her family to go off with a basketball coach. Why would she want to start a new life?
Mclean's built all her ideas of romance and marriage by looking at her parents' example; after all, they pretty much have <em>the perfect</em> love story. But when it doesn't last, she's in a state of utter shock. How could they have been any more perfect for each other? When my parents' marriage first imploded, I was in a total state of shock. Maybe it was naïve, but I'd always thought they had the Great American Love Story. She was from a wealthy southern family that bred beauty queens, he the late, only child of an autoworker and the third-grade teacher. (2.3)
Mclean's built all her ideas of romance and marriage by looking at her parents' example; after all, they pretty much have the perfect love story. But when it doesn't last, she's in a state of utter shock. How could they have been any more perfect for each other?
It was always jarring when he called her by her full name. Until they'd married, she was Katie Sweet. Now she was Katherine Hamilton. They sounded like totally different people, not that I was anyone to talk. (5.293)
Not only has the divorce broken up their family, it's also catapulted Mclean's mom into a new role—and a new family. It's hard for her to feel like she still has a place in her mom's life when she has a fancy new husband and a couple of babies now.
Rich, popular girl meets working-class scholarship kid, who steals her heart and whisks her away to the ramshackle charm and chaos of the restaurant world. It was the best kind of love story… until there was an ending to it. (7.4)
Yeah, that sounds like the kind of love story you'd see in a Disney movie, except the scholarship kid and the popular rich girl would live together happily ever after. Too bad real life isn't like a fairy tale.
"She cheated on my dad. With Peter. Left him, got pregnant, got married. It was a mess." (7.129)
Mclean's mom may have thought that cheating, getting pregnant, and marrying someone else only affected her (and Mclean's dad), but that wasn't the case at all. It's obviously messed up Mclean pretty good too.
If I had more time, I thought, but really, it wasn't about that. I just wasn't sure any relationship could work. If the perfect love story turned out not to be, what did that mean for the rest of us? (8.311)
Now that her parents have split up, Mclean's all weird and skeptical about romance. After all, what's the point of getting attached to someone if it's all going to end someday, right?
"I didn't know any different. I think my mom had trouble with it at times. I mean, she loved our place. But she did call herself a 'restaurant widow,'" (10.27)
Maybe the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Sweet wasn't so perfect after all. Mclean's dad may be an awesome father, but that doesn't mean that he was always a great (and present) husband.
"I'll call you as soon as we're back here," my mom continued, digging around in her purse. "I know. Me, too. It's not the same without you. Okay, love you. Goodbye." (14.42)
From the outside, Mclean can observe a little bit of her mom's relationship with her new husband. It might not be what she wants—for her mom to have a new husband and a new family—but it's obviously a good, healthy relationship for her mom.
It had been so long since I'd seen them like this, just the two of them, that for a moment I just stood there, taking it in. He was rubbing a hand over his face, while she had a coffee cup with both hands, her head cocked to the side as she said something. From a distance, you couldn't guess all the history and changes. (16.38)
They may be divorced, but Mclean's parents are still her parents, and they'll come together to take care of their beloved daughter. When she sees them like this—here to parent her together—she knows that not everything has changed.
I liked this feeling so much that, when we moved to Petree, our next place, I took it further, calling myself Lizbet and taking up with the drama mamas and dancers. I wore cut-off tights, black turtlenecks, and bright red lipstick, my hair pulled back into the tightest bun possible as I counted calories, took up cigarettes, and made everything Into A Production. (1.30)
Mclean doesn't just change her name slightly when she starts at a new school—she straight up makes up a new character for herself. It's not a true reflection of who she is, but it makes things a lot easier to deal with when she's just following a predetermined script.
But idols fall, and sometimes they land right on you and leave you flattened. They destroy your family, shame you in the eyes of the town you love, and ruin the sport of basketball for you forever. (1.36)
It's really hard to get into basketball again when your mom's run off with your favorite team's basketball coach. Now even Mclean's favorite sport is tainted by all the lies and betrayal.
My mother didn't tell me about this when she split up with my dad, but if I did the math—and oh, how I hated having to do the math—it became clear that she not only knew about it, but it was the reason she finally came clean. (2.7)
Ugh—it's bad enough that her mom was cheating on her dad with another man, but it's even worse when Mclean does the math and realizes that her mom only came clean because she was pregnant with Peter's babies. What a web of lies and deceit.
Faking all of these things was easy, because I could plan them out, selected the friends and activities that best suited whomever I'd decided to be. (5.146)
Sometimes it's easier to pretend to be someone else. When Mclean is taking on one of her personas, she doesn't have to confront her own feelings—she just chooses friends, picks activities, and does things based off of what her persona would do. Rinse and repeat.
And all because I'd done the one thing I hadn't been able to for all this time: speak the truth. If my mother loved me enough to fight for me, even against my will, why couldn't she accept that I was angry at her? (10.83)
Mclean finally tells her mom the cold harsh truth, that it's her fault that they have such an icy relationship now. It may not be what her mom wanted to hear, but at least they're not lying to each other anymore, right?
We just stood there for a moment, both of us still. Coffee, Kona, aloha, not to mention Luna Blu's apparent reprieve and his date with the councilwoman: it suddenly all made sense. "We're going to Hawaii?" I asked finally. "When?" (13.37)
Oh, boy. Here's a big thing that Mclean's dad was trying to keep from her… at least for the time being. He's thinking of moving to Hawaii, which will definitely change her whole life and force her to start over again.
I felt my mouth go dry as the impact of what they'd discovered finally began to hit me. I stepped forward, my eyes narrowing to the screen on the table, and the list of names there. Five girls, five profiles, four pictures. Mclean Sweet. Eliza Sweet. Lizbet Sweet. Beth Sweet. (13.127)
Well this isn't good—Mclean should have really deleted all of her old profiles when she moved to a new town. What was she thinking? If she were a secret spy, she'd be the worst at covering her tracks.
They'd all been so honest with me, so open. Dave and his past embarrassments, Riley and her dirtbags, Ellis and the Love Van, Deb and, well, everything… With this, they had perfectly good reason to doubt everything I had told them in return. (13.129)
Mclean's not just embarrassed about all her past personas—she's also worried that she'll lose all of her new friends. After all, who wants to be friends with a crazy pathological liar who has multiple identities?
"You should have told me," she said over her shoulder. Her face was flushed, angry. "You let me just go along here like an idiot, thinking things were okay." (13.133)
Mclean's dad might typically get away with leaving a town and slipping off from all the complications of departing, but not this time. Opal's going to call him out on his nonsense—especially the fact that he lied to her about how well Luna Blu was doing.
"It wasn't about being happy or unhappy. I just didn't want to be me anymore." (16.52)
Finally we get a proper explanation for Mclean's obsession with coming up with new identities. It was all a coping mechanism in order to escape from the harsh realities of her parents' divorce, and the fact that she didn't want that to be her life anymore.
"He wanted to be normal," Riley said quietly, picking out another pretzel. Then, glancing at me, she explained, "Dave had never been in public school. He was actually going to go to college early, because he's so smart and got moved up so much. But then he decided he wanted to, you know, live like a regular teenager." (3.106)
Dave may be a super brilliant math geek, but he's not so well versed in normal teenage life. It makes a lot of sense that he'd want to spend some time at a public school, making friends and doing normal teenage stuff.
But the truth was, I still wasn't sure who this Mclean was, here. I kept waiting for her to turn up, falling into place as easily as Eliza and Lizbet and Beth before her, but so far it hadn't happened. Instead, I still felt unformed, like a cake half baked with edges crisp, but still mushy in the middle. (5.145)
Being in Lakeview is giving Mclean a chance to figure out who she really is, and while it may not be a totally comfortable ride, it's an important lesson for her to have. At the end of the day, you can't keep hiding around personas.
"This math thing I've done every summer since fifth grade," he explained. I was supposed to be a counselor again this year. But Ellis, Riley, Heather and I want to do this big road trip to Texas. Which is, you know, somewhat less academic." (7.173-4)
Oh boy—if Dave's parents are freaked out by him wanting to go to public school, they'll definitely be freaked out when he announces that he's not doing Brain Camp and is going on a road trip instead. But it'll be good for him to vary what he does every summer.
I sighed, then bounced the ball once, squaring my shoulders. Other than that random Boomerang a few weeks ago, I hadn't had my hands on a basketball in years. But that morning had been all about doing things I had never planned to do again, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. (10.172)
Sometimes going forward means overcoming your fears—even if you fear something as silly as playing basketball again. Mclean needs to get past her parents' divorce, and one way to do that is to finally look at basketball as something other than the devil incarnate.
Suddenly, I was just sure he was going to kiss me. He was there, I could feel his breath, the ground solid beneath us. But then something crossed his face, a thought, a hesitation, and he shifted slightly. Not now. Not yet. (10.207)
It's tempting to test out this burgeoning new romance between Mclean and a certain boy next door, but they're both worried that if they take that step, they can't take it back—no matter what the consequences are.
But anyone can begin. It was the part with all the promise, the potential, the things I loved. More and more, though, I was finding myself wanting to find out what happened in the end. (11.39)
Mclean's always started projects, made new friends, created personas… and then skipped town before anything gets complicated. But maybe now she needs to see things to the end. Maybe that's an important part of her personal journey.
"Where is your sense of adventure? Of change? This could be really, really good for the restaurant. A return to its past glory days!" Opal said. (12.16)
Well, well, well… Talk about a change of heart. Opal—who was dead-set against change for Luna Blu—is now thinking about how she can revitalize the restaurant and make it more profitable in the future. Looks like Mclean's dad has rubbed off on her after all.
Here, though, it was different. We'd come in the same way, but since then everything had changed, from me using my real name to my dad starting to date even with no next move in sight. Add in the fact that I was actually on decent terms with my mom, and this was officially an entirely new ball game. (12.20)
Both Mclean and her dad are stepping outside of their comfort zone in Lakeview, and it's about time. They've been moving along like restaurant fixing robots for so long that they desperately needed a reminder to stop and actually live for once.
The street was dark, no cars in sight as I pulled onto the road. I had no idea where I was, but I knew how to get where I was going. I put on my blinker and turned right, toward North Reddemane. (14.131)
In her worst moment, Mclean knows that she has to go somewhere that feels like home to her… or at least someplace familiar. She gets into her car and hits the open road, because sometimes that's what you've got to do when you're feeling lost and lonely.
"But I have to say," I continued, "that it stinks when it comes down to it, there were only two choices. Go forward, to Hawaii, and start all over again, or backward, back to my old life, which doesn't even really exist anymore."
"You need a third option," he said. (16.212-213)
It's not fair that Mclean has only been presented with two options, when neither really appeals to her. What she really needs is a way to stay in Lakeview so that she can keep her awesome new friends and keep living her new life.
Of course everyone was talking. The neighbors, the sportswriters, the kids at my school. They were probably still talking, three years and twin little Hamiltons later, but thankfully, I was not around to hear it. (1.40)
Being stuck in the middle of juicy town gossip is the kind of thing that makes you not want to be a part of a community. That's certainly what happens to Mclean and her dad after her mom's scandalous affair.
"I started in high school. It was my first real job." She picked up the milk crate, moving it to the opposite wall, then folded the chairs, one by one. "Eventually, I left for college, but even then I came back and waited tables in the summers." (3.152)
At first it makes no sense that Opal would be so committed and attached to such a dumpy little restaurant. But it's not just a restaurant to her—it's a part of the community and a huge influence on her life.
"Parking! I did it for the parking," Opal told him. "But when I brought that up today, she totally ran a muddle on me about it. She started in about community responsibility and civic pride and I-"(5.97)
Opal may not be the best restaurant manager (or maybe she just doesn't have the best staff), but she's got a huge heart. Mclean's dad wants her to think of the bottom line all the time, but Opal is more swayed by helping the community—by making people happy and even allowing them to use the restaurant as a place for teenage delinquents to do community service hours.
"Just like you were nice to me, the other night at my car," she replied. "Plus you took Dave to the game. You invited Deb into a social gathering, which, believe me, no one has ever done here, to my knowledge. And you haven't smacked Heather yet, which is a much better record than most." (8.57)
Mclean may think of herself as a loner, but she's actually built a little community around herself. She even makes a point to look after all her new friends and to be there for them, which isn't exactly loner behavior.
I knew he thought my life was weird, and the truth was, I didn't expect him to understand where I was coming from. How could he, when he'd lived in the same place his entire life, with the same people around him, his history and his past always inescapable, inevitable? (8.295)
In a way, Mclean envies Dave for his simple, stable life—unlike Mclean, he's been in the same place his whole life. Maybe this makes it harder for him to change (since his parents freak out), but it also means that he feels secure right where he is.
"I had a hankering to serve my community," I told her, just as Dave turned around to look at me as well. "What are we doing?" (9.148)
Look at little miss I-don't-get-attached joining Deb and Dave in building the model town, even though she claims to have no attachment to Lakeview. Yeah, right—it looks like Mclean is getting pretty sucked into her new home.
"By, you know, a bunch of people from school. As friends." She pulled her purse a little closer to her chest. "It's really nice." (11.90)
Poor Deb has really been socially ostracized, huh? Thankfully she doesn't have to deal with mean girls anymore—she's part of the group now, and will have many more dinner invitations to come in her future.
As the conversation rose up again, I watched both it and the bread basket move down the table. Steadily, they went from hand to hand, person to person, like links on a chain, making their way to me. (11.143)
Riley's parents have done a really good job of putting together a monthly dinner party that people want to go to—even their teenage daughter and her friends. That's no small feat, but they're just that good at making everyone feel welcome and loved.
"Other people, however," she continued, clearing her throat, "feel that by organizing the people, we are removing the life force from the entire endeavor. Instead, they think that we should just arrange the figures in a more random way, as that mirrors the way the world actually is, which is what the model is supposed to be all about." (16.143)
Well, Dave does have a point there. What's the point of representing a community's population by sticking them all into rigidly defined sectors? Real life is a little messier than that, and that's not a bad thing.
I loved being able to finish out the year at Jackson. For once, I was really part of a class, able to partake in rituals like senior skip day and yearbook distribution, my time at a school ending when everyone else's did. (18.33)
After all these years of moving from school to school, Mclean finally gets to be a part of a class, and giddily participates in all the sort of school activities that other high school kids would roll their eyes at and proclaim to be, like, totally lame.
In the two years or so we'd been on the road, I did miss my mom. When I was really homesick in those first lonely, bumpy days at a new place, I wasn't lonely for my old house or friends, or anything else specific, as much as just the comfort she represented. (2.11)
It's not easy being on the road all the time—especially because it means that Mclean never gets to see her mom anymore. She doesn't want to visit her mom in her new home, though; she just wants to feel like she has a whole family again.
There was probably a term for it, some brand of codependence, a daughter acting too much like a wife, once said wife takes off. But what was I supposed to do? We had each other. That was all. (2.67)
Mclean and her dad are pretty much drifters, and they don't like to rely on anyone but each other. This makes things simple, but it also makes it so that they're both pretty lonely individuals.
Since we'd been moving, I'd gotten smart about dealing with people. I knew I wouldn't be staying forever, so I kept my feelings at the temporary stage, too. Which meant making friends easily, but never taking sides, and picking guys I knew wouldn't last in the long haul, or any haul at all, for that matter. (2.94)
How sad—Mclean doesn't even get attached to the guys that she dates. She just assumes that everything will end eventually, and moves on without trying to maintain contact.
I was almost there when I looked back in the direction Deb had gone, finding her a moment later by the bus parking lot. She was sitting under a tree, her green purse beside her, sipping a soda. Alone. (3.73)
Even though Deb welcomes everyone to Jackson High, she's received a pretty cold welcome from everyone else. Mclean gets how she feels—after all, she's an old pro at being lonely—and reaches out to her.
I glanced up, just in time to see Deb, her purse tucked tightly to her side, passing beside me. As our eyes met, her face brightened with recognition; when she saw I wasn't alone, though, she bit her lip and kept moving. (5.189)
Poor Deb—she may have weird interests, but she and Mclean still have a lot in common. They don't quite fit into the whole Lakeview scene—at least not yet.
Together, we looked down at the tiny house, the sole thing on this vast, flat surface. Like the only person living on the moon. It could be either lonely or peaceful, depending on how you looked at it. (6.88)
The little house on the table is kind of like Mclean—all alone in this vast world. But as they build the little model houses around it, she realizes that it's better to have friends around you.
"I don't know," I said. "I move around a lot. So I hardly get to know anybody. It might be easier, but it's kind of lonely." (8.48)
Wow, talk about a cold dose of the truth. Mclean admits to Riley what she doesn't really tell anyone else: that she might act like moving around is cool and fun, but it's actually pretty lonesome.
I probably should have been creeped out, sitting in a cellar beneath an empty house, alone. But after a moment or two to adjust my eyes and my nerves, I realized Dave was on to something. (10.82)
Doesn't Mclean know that sitting alone in a dark cellar is how all horror movie heroines die? She'd be better off seeking some alone time in her big empty house—after all, it's not like she and her dad have moved in lots of their belongings.
I nodded, looking at Deb again. She was sitting so still, like at any moment someone might realize their mistake and tell her to go. It made me sad, not for now but for whatever she'd been through to make this so new. (11.93)
Man, Deb hasn't had the most fulfilling social life before Mclean came along, has she? It's like she's Cinderella wondering if, when the clock chimes midnight, she'll end up losing all of her friends in a purple cloud of dust.
But what if I'd been wrong? What if this new life was just that, brand-new, like this gorgeous house, and she wanted to keep it fresh, no baggage? Katie Sweet had to deal with a moody, distant, firstborn child. But Katherine Hamilton didn't. (14.128)
Mclean always took for granted that her mom would want her around, but she realizes that might not be the case. What if her mom doesn't want her around at all? Where does that leave Mclean?