Published by Macmillan on February 3rd 2015
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review, via Netgalley
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.
I kind of fell in love with this book. And I don’t even know how to properly express that, but I am going to try. First of all, I’ll Meet You There puts the “real” in realistic fiction. I don’t know if I have read a more authentic book than this one, with imperfect characters, and hellish experiences, and above all, the resilience to keep trying to live better.
I’ll begin with Creek View. Creek View is, for all intents and purposes, a complete abomination of a town. No one wants to live in this place, least of all Skylar (and pretty much anyone else who has the misfortune of being stuck in this dump). It is the kind of town where dreams go to die, and Skylar has basically vowed to get out before it consumes her too. Only since life happens, Skylar’s mom loses her job, and all bets are off.
Skylar works at a shady road motel to try to earn the money she’ll need to go to school. She’d worked with Josh in the past, so when he came home from the Marines, minus a leg and plus a lot of trauma, Skylar knew him. She had even “dated” his brother for about a week. Josh and Skylar never really had anything in common outside of the motel, but when he returns to work there, she realizes what a different person he has become in the wake of his experiences in Afghanistan.
The characters made this book completely. Skylar was so flawed, but so easy to love. Sky struggled so much, with the death of her father, to her mother’s lack of ambition (and extremely poor taste in male companionship), and through it all she stubbornly tried to tuck her emotions away, to be so strong. She hit some very low points over the course of the book, but she always clawed her way back to her true self. Josh was, as expected, so, so broken. He witnessed not only the loss of his leg, but the loss of so many friends and innocent citizens, and the trauma stayed with him. Upon his return to Creek View, he jumped right into the party scene because it was basically all he knew. But he knew that it simply wasn’t enough for him anymore. He hit some incredible lows as well, but it was clear that at his core, Josh was a good guy.
Sky’s friends also were very well developed. I adored Dylan. She was a teen mom, but her storyline was handled very well and I found Dylan to be a very strong female character in her own right. No, she wasn’t going to be going off to a big college, or having any grand adventures, but she was caring for her child and trying to be the best she could be. I kind of loved her. Chris was a bit different. I liked how loyal and protective of Sky Chris was, but he did seem haughty at times, like he was simply better than Creek View as a whole. And Marge. MARGE. I wish Marge was in my life, is basically the situation. There should just be a lot more Marges in the world.
The romance was beautiful. There was no insta-love, and there was heartwrenching messiness, and the loveliest of moments. Again, I just have to reiterate how completely authentic it felt. And I could have read about Sky and Josh for 400 more pages, if Heather Demetrios had written it. The thing about this book is, it isn’t just a romance. It is life. It is wonderful and awful, sometimes at the same time. There’s tons of hope, but there is also some insurmountable despair. It is quite literally how real life ebbs and flows.
Before I stop flailing, I just have to say a few things about Josh, the Marines, and Afghanistan. First, this needs to be in more books. It is the horrific reality of so many young men and women, and the feelings that Josh had have assuredly been felt by so, so many real veterans. Not only did Heather Demetrios tackle this incredibly difficult issue, she did it with class and grace, in a way that was a tribute to those men and women. She painted Josh as a whole person, she never placed him on a pedestal, and she never vilified him.
I could probably go on for days, but I will stop so you can read all about the adventures of Creek View for yourselves. Obviously, I recommend that you do, in case the gobs of gushing weren’t clear.
I figured I’d start my reviews of 2015 books off with a bang! Have you read any 2015 books so far? Any that you’d like to gush about?