The premise is interesting enough: the Sullivan family relies on their trust funds, set up by the domineering matriarch of the family, called Almighty. On Christmas, Almighty reveals that one of the family has so offended her that she will immediately disinherit the family and cut off their trust funds, unless the one who offended her confesses and apologizes. Which one? It wouldn't be nearly as fun for Almighty if she told, would it?
Which leads to the gimmick of the book: each of the three Sullivan sisters has a sin to confess, and does so one by one, in what are supposedly letters of apology to their grandmother. I try to be forgiving of literary conceits, but it does strain my suspension of disbelief to buy that each girl would write a roughly 100 page letter, complete with full dialog, when they could just summarize what happened. But I'll let that slide, when I have much bigger issues.
First, the characters. I'm sorry, but the author really needed to work a lot harder for me to feel sorry for this bunch of trust fund babies. I never felt like they'd actually be ruined if they were disinherited (just, you know, made upper middle class. Horrors
!) and I never actually felt like somebody as focused on appearances as Almighty would actually disinherit the entire familiy. And none of the girls were that appealing in their individual storylines. Norrie was a blandly typical YA romance heroine. Jane was the only partway bearable one, and she was simply too sour for my taste. Sassy, the youngest of the three, was 15. I say that because throughout the entire book, she never acted as though she were 12, much less 15. Bizarrely, almost uncomfortably immature. She becomes convinced that she's invulnerable, because Reasons, and decides she's a murderer when her step-grandfather hits her with a car and is startled into a heart attack. A believable storyline in a middle grade book, but she's 15? No.
I also took issue with Norrie's starcrossed romance. Not the romance itself, which was, in isolation, inoffensive. My problem was with her boyfriend. Norrie is seventeen, and in high school. Her boyfriend is 25 and a graduate student. We are not supposed to have a problem with this. Nobody in the book seems to, after all, except in the most shallow ways. (Her older brothers' protest that he must be a dog, because all guys are, and only in passing.) And when Norrie and her boyfriend run off to spend three days in NYC together? Not supposed to have a problem with it. But I do, and when Sassy refers to her newly returned sister as a bride back from her honeymoon, I cringe. A lot.
So, an interesting premise, with unlikeable characters and a problematic romance. Great.