If you’re looking for easy, light and fluffy, this is definitely not it, but if you’re looking for something that will move you and challenge you then proceed. It is a painful, touching and sweet story of how these two kids manage to find their way back after going through separate tragedies in their lives and, in a sense, it is the stories of all those others who were touched by the circumstances.
Monroe Blackwell has arrived in Louisiana to spend the summer with her Gram. It is a relief to her in ways but for the most part it is just a change of scenery and a new place to ‘not care’ and ‘not feel’. From her perspective, nobody understands what she is going through and she is alone. Her parents react to what happened in different ways, but both leave Monroe angry and irritated. Not even her best friend can touch her. Then she encounters the hired guy who is there to fix things up around her Gram’s family plantation property. Monroe bristles and gets snarky. She is a rude Princess B because she knows just what kind of guy this is and she won’t be the next victim of his devastating looks and charm.
Nate Everets feels the need to stay isolated from everyone. The whole town knows what he did and they all believe that he should be rotting in juvie for it. They can’t blame him more than he blames himself for what happened to his best friend that night he got behind the wheel drunk. His girlfriend just wants to party and get wasted, but that’s the last thing that Nate wants. It’s pretty much over between him and Rachel and has been for some time. It has little to do with what sparks between him and that rude girl from NYC that has the same expression or lack of expression in her eyes that he knows is in his own.
Over time, Nate and Monroe slowly reach out and discover that shared pain and understanding allow them to open up a little when nothing else has worked. It’s one painful baby step at a time. Monroe swears she’ll never talk about her pain, but fears when Nate starts talking about his that it will force open her own floodgate. And when that happens? She doesn’t know. Just like Nate doesn’t know what will happen if Trevor slips out of his coma into death.
The story is a character-driven process of two teens through their trauma and grief. It is told first person from alternate perspectives. It’s a story in which the reader has to be patient. Neither of these two are very likeable in the beginning particularly Monroe. The walls and bristling defense mechanisms are up and in full force. Even when the tide starts to turn, it’s not a quick fix. So yes, it needs the time to spin out slowly and authentically. It’s a cautionary tale of the consequences of behavior and because a death is involved and the prospect of death both teens end up doing some philosophical thinking.
I really liked the supporting characters in this one particularly Monroe’s Gram who was a wealth of wisdom. I also like the presence of the parents. Both teens have that skewed perspective going in of the ‘nobody understands what I’m going through’ attitude and its true a little, but in this case, the parents of all the teens involved suffer right along with them. I’m glad that dynamic was included.
As to my cautions, this would be for mid-to older teens and adults due to the heavier theme of death, guilt and partying scenes, the presence of language and some sexual situations that were behind the closed bedroom door.
In the end, my heart was warmed and I was left satisfied with how the long dark tunnel ended and there was some sunshine to the story. It was engaging from cover to cover and I was extremely impressed with the author’s first attempt at YA storytelling.
My thanks to Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for my honest review thoughts.