Based on the jacket flap, I thought I knew what to expect from this novel. The story arc appeared to be straightforward, and for the first 99 pages it basically was. Beyond that, all of my predictions proved incorrect. This makes for a great reading experience, but (in order to avoid spoilers) a sparse review.
Let it suffice to say that the characters are entirely likable and their problems are entirely plausible. I commend the author for creating extraordinarily likable, friendly underdog characters, and then forcing them to endure trauma, trials, and tribulations. I struggled along with them, wanting only for them to be safe, happy, and confident.
There were a few areas where I felt the passage of time was unclear, and that Sage's character was described too overtly, but neither bothered me as much as the cover art (though it is nicely done). Males and females will enjoy this book, but the sensuous cover may deter some guys from carrying it around.
The bottom line is that Brian Katcher writes entertaining and realistic stories that adults can enjoy as much as teens. My students adore Playing with Matches and they are already raving about Almost Perfect.