Sunshine Mackenzie has it going on: she’s a top internet cooking sensation, but then she gets hacked, and her castle comes crumbling down around her. She’s exposed for the fraud she is, and now she’s lost everything. She’s off to her hometown to escape the scandal, reconnect with her family, and climb her way back to the top.
I don’t even remember what inspired me to put Hello, Sunshine on my reading list, but it’s very different than what I thought it would be. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. It’s a quick read, just around 240 pages, and the chapters are short, which I love. It’s divided into three months of Sunshine’s life, starting with her birthday when everything goes bananas.
The real “mystery” of the book is who hacked Sunshine and exposed her secrets to the world, but the book doesn’t really let you think it’s a mystery because Sunshine is so certain that she knows who did it. The authorial voice never hints about the truth, but I figured out who did it within the first thirty pages of the book. That didn’t make reading it any less enjoyable though, because it became about Sunshine’s journey after the fact, and her realization of the culprit was almost delicious. I hated their reasoning though, but it sounded like something someone in their shoes would say, so I can’t fault Laura Dave for that.
I really enjoyed the characters in this book, which is saying something since it was so Sunshine focused and so short. I liked the character of Ethan, the fisherman, a lot, and loved that Laura Dave didn’t fall into the Nicholas Sparks-esque trap at the end. I also LOVED Sammy, Sunshine’s precocious six-year old niece who loves reading and science and is gifted but sassy and so honest with her words. She reminded me a lot of myself, yes I’m being cocky, but I loved it. Sammy was a nice antidote to Sunshine’s woe-is-me attitude and attempts to fix her problems without really confronting them. Think of her as the Dakota Fanning character in Uptown Girls but less rich and smarter.
One thing I think Laura Dave struggled with in this book was the use of the dead father’s mental illness as a bond between the sisters and something they can relate to at the end. I think it’s a fascinating backstory, but it wasn’t the story this book was trying to tell. I don’t feel like Sunshine was exhibiting the “rule” behaviors that her father was, and while Rain may have been a little bit, I attributed her decisions far more to a craving for familiarity and fear of the unknown than a recreation of her father’s habits. I don’t think the inclusion of the father’s backstory hurt the novel, but it didn’t help it out as much as it could have if this was a different story.
Overall, I have no idea how this book landed in my lap, but I’m glad it did. It was something new, I’ve never read anything by Laura Dave before, it was quick, and it had a fun premise that wasn’t too lighthearted but also didn’t take itself too seriously. Yeah, Sunshine’s life is ruined, but she’s not going to go off herself over it. She’s going to take things into her own hands.