Cole and Erin are trying to rebuild their broken relationship when their 16-year-old daughter Brenna goes missing. Losing precious time because the local police think she’s a runaway at first, their daughter slips further from their grasp. Meanwhile, their son Sam is having a really rough time without his sister, his only supporter in his dark secret that he’s keeping from everyone. Because Sam is a girl, and she has to hide who she really is. We follow this family through a mountain of troubles, in their path to be reunited and made whole.
I hadn’t read Sheehan-Miles before, this is my first book of his, and with it, he’s made a new fan. First, let’s talk about how inclusive this book is. It’s got a broken relationship and two broken daughters, each in their own ways. The subject material is heavy because we learn that Brenna isn’t just kidnapped, but she’s been trafficked. We also have Sam’s struggle in school with bullying, in accepting who she is and feeling like she needs to keep this secret to herself. She had good reason because her parents never gave off the “you can be who you want to be” vibe. Sadly, that’s pretty typical with teens who are struggling with living the wrong identity.
The author doesn’t hold back in his writing, and he doesn’t make it easy. There is no perfect little bow because that wouldn’t be realistic, and I greatly appreciated that. The characters and storyline got intense, and it made them that much more real. While I couldn’t relate to the characters, it didn’t mean they didn’t stand out, because they had big personalities. Their struggles are very real, and I know I keep mentioning this, but it needs to be said, the author, in telling this story, is giving voice to multiple issues that often don’t get talked about enough.
Winter Flower is a compelling read, the truth of it hits you hard and stays with you. It’s over 400 pages, so it’s substantial in length and subject material. You find yourself feeling the emotions of the characters, drawn in by their hardships. Well-written and inclusive, it ticks the boxes for a wide variety of readers, a must-read.