A little while back, one had to look pretty hard to find stories that celebrated diversity and not in a taboo sort of way. Of recent years, this is not the case and authors are writing some lovely stories rich in many facets of diversity. This book, a standalone sequel to Boys Like You, is one of them. It hit several kinds of diversity. Acceptance was a big message in this one- acceptance of others and acceptance of self. It was an especially poignant read and not an easy or light one.
The hero, Trevor, was a secondary character in the first book. He was pretty much the best friend in a coma through much of the book, but now he’s awake, diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury and this is his story. Trevor wants a redo so badly. He wants it all to go back to normal. On the outside he looks much like he did before as one of the popular guys in school when life was easy and his future was assured. Now, he has changed, irrevocably. His parents watch him with fear and worry in their eyes. And he has to be patient with their coddling because he put that look there. His friends don’t know how to handle the guy who reverses his words, forgets things, has to take his time because of the messed up connection between his brain and his mouth. His girlfriend couldn’t handle it and bailed. He just wants to wrap things up and move on. For that to happen, he has to pass the test for government class and his tutor is none other than good girl and not a big fan of Trevor, Everly Jenkins. Everly is nothing like he imagined and suddenly he is very interested in getting past her ‘I’m fine’ walls.
Everly has been living with a lie for over a year. Not her lie. Her dad’s. She waits for him to come clean, but he never does and it is infecting their whole family. They put on a good face for everyone as the Pastor and his family, but it’s all hollow. Everly is so done with the act- with pretending that everything is normal. Into this situation comes Trevor Lewis who sees past the act and genuinely seems to care. She doesn’t quite believe that she caught the eye of a guy like Trevor. He is still Trevor and girls still want him even though he sees himself as different. Dare she trust him with her secret? Of anyone, Trevor understands feeling isolated, angry and anything, but normal.
The story is a character-driven plot set in a small town over the course of a summer. It’s told first person alternating points of view. The pace is gentle and the writing pulls in the reader’s empathy for these two hurting teens. The thematic elements are real and hit the reader viscerally.
The characters are well-drawn. Trevor and his adjustment to living with a traumatic brain injury and how it affects not just him and others around him felt authentic. His anger, frustration, fear, and struggle to accept while going through things was intense.
Everly too, had her challenges with a tragic secret pulling her family apart. She sees the break-up of a marriage through a teenage child’s eye view and it’s a rough go. My heart broke for her.
I would recommend this for a mid to older YA audience due to language and mild sexual content.
To sum up, it was a story that grabs the emotions and I would recommend it to those who enjoy a strong character-driven YA Contemporary Romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.