Monday, January 25, 2016

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': i'll meet you there

I'll Meet You There
by Heather Demetrios



synopsis: If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

full review under the cut!

All I have to say about this book is WOW. It was a total gut-wrenching roller coaster of emotions, and I loved every single second of it. I picked this one up as a whim, after seeing a few good reviews from goodreads friends, just to have a nice contemporary to read after finishing Passenger. HOWEVER!!! This ended up being so much more than that, full of moments of sparkling beauty and, on the flip side of that, the ugliness of real life. I appreciate how Heather Demetrios tackled some real issues head-on, and I will definitely be checking out her other books as well.

This is your basic plot in this one: girl lives in run-down, going-nowhere town, needs to get out. Has a former alcoholic, depressed mother who makes her think that she might not ever be able to. Boy, fresh out of marines, minus one leg, dealing with anxiety depression guilt ptsd etc, who makes her feel like, for the first time, staying wouldn't be so bad. I LOVE THEM WITH ALL OF MY HEART, PRECIOUS SOULS. That's pretty much all you need to know going in, because all of the little moments with them just pop off the page, which makes it so easy to fall into the rhythm of the story.

So, on the one hand, we have this completely amazing romance that is growing between our two main characters, but on the other, there is a ton of shit that goes down in this book that seriously sucks. 1) Skylar's mom, she just seriously *sucks.* I found myself just hating her more and more as the book went on, and even though she had some redemption in the end, I still didn't like her at all. I understand that she's depressed and bored and some of her behavior, she can't help, but I just find myself getting so mad when someone has a kid and can't get their shit together to be a parent. Like, even when Skylar was doing absolutely everything for her, she was still being such a bitch and kicked her out. In what world does that make sense? I was glad when Skylar got out on her own though, because she does not need that kind of negativity in her life. 2) Obviously, Josh is dealing with tons of shit from his time in Afghanistan, some of which isn't even accessible to Skylar. The loss of his leg obviously plays a huge role in the way that he acts, but there's also the guilt of having his friend die in that same accident that seriously affects his mental state. For most of the book, he can't even let himself try to be with Skylar, because he's so unsettled in his own head. 3) Poverty is a major player in this one as well, which, I think, throws all of their decisions into sharp relief. Like, not only was I worried for their physical and emotional well being, I was also worried about where their next meal was going to come from, and that is something that I don't normally read about in books. All of this is to say that there is a lot going against these guys, and it is a testament to their strength that they can get through the day.

First of all, Skylar is a total badass and is such a strong lead.  I really enjoyed reading from her point of view, and admired her tenacity and dedication, which are both things that I could probably use more of in my life. She's obviously very smart, having gained a full ride to college in San Francisco, and she's also extremely creative and artistic, two things that her home (Creek View), does not foster. She's like a flower growing up from a crack in the sidewalk, a flash of beauty in an otherwise not to beautiful place. And I think she's even more of a badass for her breakdowns, which happen a few times in the novel, mostly just because I'm amazed she didn't have more. I was constantly amazed by her strength of character and how good she was, which made it all the sweeter when she had that a-ha moment that she was, in fact, getting to go away to school and make something of her life. She's just great. Her voice is distinct, and she is probably one of my favorite narrators that I've read in a long time.

Sky's friends are amazing. Dylan and Chris, though not without their own struggles, are (mostly) amazing for Dylan to lean on and to help her through her roller coaster summer.  Dylan is the one of this trio that is staying in her life in Creek View, on account of the fact that she has a boyfriend, Jesse, and a six month old baby with him, Sean. I thought it was so interesting that this whole drama, with her pregnancy, had occurred before the book started, which places us in the position of getting, secondhand, that it was hard, but not being right in the action. Dylan was a great character, the kind of effortless, bubbly girl that everyone needs in their life at some point, and fiercely loyal to her people. Chris is Mexican-American, and his dad works in the produce fields surrounding the town of Creek View, and he's on his way out as well, straight to Boston University and bigger and better things. I loved the dynamic between Chris and Sky, because, as she says, he is the one person who 100% gets her, and my only complaint is that we don't get more of it. I always love a book about ten times more when the character has a lovable, if a bit ragtag, group of friends behind them, and that was a big part of why I enjoyed this novel.

As for Josh Mitchell, I resisted the love for him for less than half the book, because I wasn't sure that he was the real deal, but once I allowed myself to fall, I fell HARD. This boy is broken and glued back together in a million ways, but he has the sort of toughness that can make you forget about it, until he spooks from fireworks and you remember that there's a hundred different ways that he's just coping. You feel horrible for him, but at the same time, you are in awe over the fact that he is doing as well as he is. He's a soldier, through and through, and whatever womanizing, hooligan past he may have, there is no denying that he has a solider's intensity and dedication, especially because he wants to go *back* to the Marines, even after losing his leg, his best friend, and his grip on a "normal" existence. I liked how, although it was Skylar that held back the nightmares for him, who allowed him to feel a semblance of his normal self, this book wasn't under any delusions that love would solve things for him. Sure, his growing love for Skylar eased his pain, but, under no circumstances did she take it away completely. And she was well aware of the fact that she couldn't "cure" him. I think this is an important thing to be aware of: love, as amazing as it is, isn't a magical cure-all. I enjoyed reading the short sections from Josh's POV, if only because it allowed us some brief glimpses into his struggle, his memories, and his feelings for Skylar.

Creek View, though a fictional place, is something very real to me. Growing up in suburban North Carolina, attending school in the absolute boonies of South Carolina, I've definitely spent time in and been close with people who are from places like this, and the suffocating nature of them cannot be downplayed. Unless you are okay with staying, and some people absolutely are, there is this hurry-up mentality, racing towards the day that you can leave. Places like Ray's, the Mitchell's body shop, and the Paradise Inn are mirrored a million times, in towns all over America, but at the same time, each one is unique, with its own story. I loved Marge, her motherly nature presiding over the kitschy oddness of the Inn, with its transient guests blowing in and out with the wind, leaving Sky looking longingly after them. I thought Demetrios did an amazing job of capturing both the hopelessness but also the surprising beauty you can find, living in a place like this.

 Though I know that it had to happen, Sky and Josh had to be pulled apart then come together, to make the story better, I was still angry when it happened. I did love following the ebb and flow of their relationship, how they couldn't help but get closer and closer until one of them pulled back, much to the devastation of the other. THE PART WHERE THEY ALMOST SLEPT TOGETHER AND THEN HE JUST LEFT??? I swear to the LORD I was SO mad at him... I understood why he did it, but like.... WOW I was so mad. Even though it made it sweeter when they did actually finally get together, that was a major speed bump that I did not see coming. Other than the ups and downs, the parts that they spent together, just being in each other's company, and the fact that both of them wanted to protect the other as much as possible... it was all very sweet, and I just got more and more sucked in until, to my surprise, the book was over, and I was sad. That's the kind of romance I love to read, the one that makes you forget that everything else exists. I think, specifically, I loved how the broken edges of these characters just fit together in a way that is inexplicable but undeniable.

All of this looonnngg review is to say that I absolutely loved this novel, and I wish I could read more about these characters, and if you like or want contemporary in your life, you should definitely give this one a try.


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