Father Knows Best – Lynda Sandoval (Bold Strokes Books)

Buy it now from our Amazon.com store, Father Knows Best
Although I did really enjoy this novel, I must begin by mentioning that I spent the first five chapters wanting to strangle the narrator.   My unprofessional diagnosis of Sandoval’s character, Lila Moreno, is that she’s an ADD and OCD-afflicted unipolar manic-aggressive who must be kept away from caffeine and other stimulants at all costs. You’ve probably known someone like her.  She cannot stop talking.  Every day something happens that’s an epic disaster. (Lila thinks it’s the apocalypse because her dad is dating her boyfriend’s mother.) Lila’s life, when read on the page, is seen through a forest of exclamation points.  Luckily (very luckily), Lila is surrounded by mature best friends, understanding and thoughtful adults, and a patient, loving boyfriend.
Sandoval is clear when it comes to showing her character’s arc.  At one point, Lila even says “I guess that was my journey – abdicating the pettiness from my heart and mind.”  As a writer, I felt that journey was made too easy by all the compassion and love, but let’s banish the writer for a moment because as a reader, I enjoyed the trip, particularly when, several chapters in, the narration occasionally switches to other characters—Lila’s friends, Caressa and Meryl.   While Lila’s voice is filled with youth slang, to me it didn’t feel new or clever.  However, when Meryl took over, the dialog was sharper, and my thought was, “this girl is fun.”  
Here are a few odd things:  The stakes are never high in this book for anyone except a secondary character, Jennifer, who is Lila’s archenemy because she’s part of the evil in-crowd and she used to date Lila’s boyfriend.  Jennifer is now pregnant and has been ostracized by everyone she knows.  Secondly, it’s interesting that this book is published by Bold Strokes as the LGBT content is also somewhat peripheral. Meryl’s bosses are lesbians.  They have little screen time although they do figure into one important plot point. A third off-kilter thing is the title.  Sure, the dad is super-great, but I don’t think his input is central enough to earn the title of the book.    
Sometimes the book is repetitive (you hear “boy, Jennifer’s parents are jackasses” a number of times) and everything is a bit heavy-handed and slightly preachy, but, actually I appreciated a lot of the book’s upbeat messages.  I found it comforting to fall into a world where the messy character has practically a squadron of wonderful people to keep her steady. 
So it’s not perfect, but it was an engrossing, lightning-quick read.  Do I recommend this book?  Mostly, yes.  As this is a site for LGBT readers, I should say I’m not sure there’s enough lesbian content to satisfy a lesbian teen looking for a YA book that speaks to her experience, but there is transformation, enlightenment, and acceptance.  That should have universal appeal.       
Reviewed by Gavin Atlas

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