It wasn't quite what I expected, in some ways it was better. It took me a few chapters to adjust to the voice, there's a lot of repetition of particular phrases ("that tears me up," "I'm wigging out" and lots of talk about God writing words on people's hearts) and it drove me a little nuts in the beginning, seeming like an attempt to mimic/update Holden Caulfield's voice from The Catcher in the Rye. It's not. Saenz makes his purpose clear as Zach begins working on owning his feelings instead of using catch phrases to distance himself from them.
I also didn't expect Zach to be the only teen character. His high school friends are all in the past and only mentioned briefly. His cohorts at the rehab center are all older. These characters are so richly drawn, providing a deep background for Zach's journey from numb denial to a young man ready to remember his past so he can move forward into his future. Even the tree has personality. I'll let that tree, and Zach's 53-year-old roommate, Rafael, have the last word:
"See that tree?" It was a stubby cypress tree, all bent and twisted.
"Yeah, I see it."
"It's my favorite tree."
"It's not that great a tree," I said.
"That's it. That's exactly it. It's like me. The wind beat the holy crap out of it when it was just a sapling. Never could straighten itself out again." He sort of smiled at me. "But, Zach, it didn't die." He looked like maybe he wanted to cry. But he didn't. "It's alive."
"Maybe it should have just given up."
"That tree didn't know how to do that. It only knew how to live. Crooked. Bent. Taller trees dwarfing it even more. It just wanted to live. I named it, you know?"
He was waiting for me to ask what he'd named it--but I decided I didn't want to ask.
"Zach," he whispered. "The tree's name is Zach."[p. 135]