Review: For Keeps by Natasha Friend

Title: For Keeps
Author: Natasha Friend
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: 4/6/10
Genre: YA
Main Themes: Love, Friendship, Family, Single Parents, Sex, Teen Pregnancy
Pages: 272
Plot (from GoodReads):
Having been deserted by her father before she was born, Josie fears abandonment and heartbreak. Her mother fuels this fear with her own reluctance to pursue relationships.

Luckily Josie’s best friend, Liv, encourages her to make connections with her family and with the very cute and enigmatic Matt. When the parents of Josie’s estranged father move back to the area, Josie forges a friendship with her grandfather that gives her some insight into her roots. A tragedy brings the truth about Josie’s family to light and provides an unexpected opportunity to forge new relationships. Believable characters and smart dialogue make this story both memorable and entertaining.
Fast-paced and full of little twists, Josie’s story is a sweet and savvy coming-of-age tale. The story is only slightly marred by its unfortunately saccharine ending, in which everything conveniently works out for the best. Readers will root for Josie and Matt’s budding romance, sympathize with the difficulties surrounding unconventional families and be inspired by Liv’s honesty and quirkiness. Hopeful and endearing.

Natasha Friend has written four YA novels, but, for some unknown reason, this was the first one that I’ve read. I must admit, it looks as though I’ve been missing out!

FOR KEEPS is one of those novels that, for the most part, is predictable. Josie has been raised by a single mother, who became pregnant in high school, and has never met her father, the seemingly uncaring Paul Tucci. Josie doesn’t mind though, she’s got her mom and her best friend Liv – she doesn’t need any boys in her life. Then, unexpectedly, Paul Tucci returns to town and the life Josie knows is turned inside out. Perhaps Paul Tucci isn’t who she thought he was. And, perhaps, Matt, the boy she desperately doesn’t want to like, has a place in her life after all. 
It isn’t often that I truly like the character that is cast as the best friend, but I really enjoyed Liv. She was the perfect foil to Josie’s anti-boy stance and she opened Josie’s eyes to so many possibilities and ideas that she never would have considered on her own. Josie is such a stubborn character; she needed someone like Liv to pester her into opening her eyes.
I very much enjoyed Josie and Matt’s relationship. Josie’s reluctance to enter into a relationship with any boy – let alone Matt, with whom she has a complicated history – added the perfect amount of tension to the plot. It often seems that after the two main characters finally admit their feelings for one another, the book is all but over, but that wasnt’ so with FOR KEEPS. Friend touched on some other true to life issues that often occur in relationships, keeping Matt and Josie’s relationship interesting. I found this satisfying and much more realistic, which I think is important in YA literature.
I also feel that I must briefly mention the letters. Now, I can’t really say what letters. Or who they were from. Or what they were about. All of this information is better uncovered as you read the novel, but for those of you who have already had the pleasure of reading FOR KEEPS: I loved the letters! They were absolutely perfect and allowed me to forge a connection to the character that had written them, a connection that I fear would not have been nearly as strong without said letters.
It has been mentioned that the ending of FOR KEEPS was too perfect, but I don’t believe this was the case. I like that all the loose ends were wrapped up and the reader is left with a happy image in mind. It might not necessarily be real life, but it isn’t supposed to be. Friend wrote a compelling novel that tackled many issues – let Josie have her happy ending.
Grade: A
Cover Comments:
I’ll admit that I preferred the first cover that was chosen for FOR KEEPS, but this one is alright. I like the postage detail along the top of the cover though! I think it ties in that part of the novel perfectly!
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