cover image Back When You Were Easier to Love

Back When You Were Easier to Love

Emily Wing Smith. Dutton, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-42199-3

Joy can't accept that her boyfriend, Zan, has gone to California (where she is from originally) and left her to fend for herself in boring Haven, Utah. She blames her goody-two-shoes Mormon peers for driving him away, even though both she and Zan are Mormon, too. Lurking beneath Joy's sadness and anger at everyone around her (especially Noah, Zan's "Golden Boy" best friend who won't leave her alone) Joy suspects that maybe it wasn't everybody else that drove Zan away%E2%80%94maybe it was her. Joy's story unfolds in short, essaylike vignettes that fill in her personal history, while leaving certain aspects of her life (like her relationship with her parents and the circumstances of their move to Haven) largely unexamined. But Smith (The Way He Lived) effectively reconstructs Zan and Joy's relationship, building tension toward the moment when Joy ultimately faces him again. Despite her vulnerability, Joy's voice is sturdy, and her articulations about loss and belief are thoughtful and often moving. Self-acceptance and both the comforts and restrictions of the Mormon religion and identity are central themes in this sweet story. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Apr.)