Flashback of the Month V: The Pursuit of Happiness

For a short explanation and the first Flashback of the Month post, go here. And, yes, I'm getting this in just in time - August is just about over.

After long battle with cancer, Betsy loses her mother and is left feeling lost in Tara Altebrando’s The Pursuit of Happiness. After the funeral, Betsy’s boyfriend dumps her and her best friend disappears from her life. As if things aren’t miserable enough, her summer plans include dressing like an early American to work at a colonial village (all her father’s fault, of course) along with the class freak, Liza. What begins as work soon turns into an escape for Betsy – from her judgmental classmates, from her breakup, from her mother’s death, and from her uncomfortably quiet home. With the help of her co-workers Liza and James, Betsy learns to work her way through the stages of grief and discover hope for normalcy in the future. While she is taught many colonial crafts and means of cooking, it seems that cutting silhouettes out of paper combined with a certain surfer’s woodcarvings are the perfect recipe for beginning to mend a broken heart.

Though sometimes it’s hard to look past the MTV logo, The Pursuit of Happiness is hardly a fluff novel. So, looking past the cover (and the corny “Declare your independence.”), Tara Altebrando’s novel will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Susane Colasanti. This is certainly one of the best young adult novels I’ve read that deals with overcoming grief. Betsy is easy to connect to as a reader (and respect, as she turns into a more proactive character), and Tara Altebrando truly succeeds in writing dialogue that sounds like it actually came out of a few teenagers’ mouths. I also love the setting, having always been fascinated by historical villages, and enjoyed this peak into what it could be like working at one. 9 out of 10.


  1. I really like the idea behind Flashback of the Month. Kudos. :)

  2. Thanks for this, Kristen! My next books are being published by Dutton so no more MTV logo for you to ingore. :)