“Looking back at that moment, I think I’d been waiting for death to take me too, not for someone to rescue me. I think I’d been shaking in that sear, praying for some internal injury to make itself known. Waiting for some part of me to bleed out, so I could close my eyes and join my girlfriend, wherever she’d gone.”
Three months after a fateful car crash (where he was driving in a freak storm) that claimed the lives of his beloved girlfriend, best friend and his girlfriend, Lucas is still unable to even consider moving on. Haunted by the memories of his loved ones, the what-ifs, and the constant judgment by everyone in his school, Lucas struggles through the aftermath of a tragedy everyone is blaming on him. On his first day back at school, meets a new girl, Sawyer, hiding out in the boy’s bathroom. Something about her seems different than everyone else, and in a completely non-judgmental and understanding way, she can see his pain and reaches out to help him. She’s the only one who truely believes him when he says he wasn’t drunk during the accident and he feels this strong connection to her even though he doesn’t really know anything about her – as if on some level, she can really understand his pain.
Both of them know there is deep pain in each other’s pasts but they don’t push each other about it, instead are just always there for each other and fall into a close friendship. But Lucas is still grieving and is unable to move on from his girlfriend. He loved her, really did, and he gets lost in his memories of her.
“I remembered her breath, her smell, her laugh, her eyes, her love… A love never spoken out loud, but evident in every move she made around me.“
Throughout a lot of the book, Lucas dreams vividly her, and his other friends that he lost – continuing his connection, conversations, relationships with them, unwilling and unable to let go when to him, they still feels so real despite him rationally accepting that they have died.
“Who’s to say what’s more real, if life and dreams feel the same?”
The book follows Lucas’ journey as he struggles to face the reality of having been ‘the one who lived’, and as this beautiful, yet also damaged girl he meets, Sawyer, helps pull him out of the clutches of misery and back into life.
“Why do you always have to get after me?”…
“Because I’m your best friend. And sometimes that means I have to tell you things you don’t want to hear… You lived, Luc,” he clutched my shoulders, a tear dropping to his cheek. “…so live.”
SC Stephens is a very gifted author able to get you right insider her character’s mind – feeling, thinking and going through exactly what they are going through with them. You feel their point of view as though it were your own.
Its also quite refreshing that this whole book is told from the guy’s POV. Its something we don’t get to see a lot of and the book reads literally like you are right in his head – you know every thought he has.
This book deals with a lot of heavy themes – it brings to light the damage of bullying and the ease with which gossip can twist facts into nearly complete fabrications barely resembling the original event and it focuses on how someone would deal with grief after a tragedy and how to move on with life while still honoring the memories of those who died.
It also asks a lot of questions: Why did this happen? Was he meant to die? Was he meant to live? Is life worth living now that they are gone?
Despite the fact that Lucas’ story was really sad, I did’t quite feel “that feeling” of having my heart ripped out that I was expecting until the end (when I did end up crying). I think the whole “car accident” senarios in books might be the reason why I didn’t feel as strong a connection to the characters in the beginning (another example of this would by If I Stay) because despite knowing in my heart that its a horrible tragic story, the result of having come into the story at the point of or right after the accident, I don’t feel quite as strong a connection to the characters who died, and as a result, as a reader I feel sympathetically sad, rather than feeling personally sad as though I knew the characters in the crash… I don’t know if that makes sense though… but still, its kinda how I felt.
And then, I guess because by the end of the book, I felt like through Lucas’ dreams I had really ‘met’ and gotten to know the characters that had died, I felt a lot more emotionally connected to the last third of the book than I did to the beginning and did in fact end up in tears a few times.
If you are looking for a straight up romance, this probably isn’t it. Its YA (Characters are 17 years old) but with steam. Its different than your usual romance because at first, despite their connection and the fact that they do really like each other, Lucas pulls back from entering a romantic relationship with Sawyer because he still feels like he’s ‘with’ his girlfriend who died. It is a romance in a way, but I’d say its equally focused on his healing process as it is on their romantic story.
Its basically how Lucas deals with what happened, how he grieves, how he learns to let go and how he heals… and a lot of that is through/with the help of this new girl he meets – and in that way, its a slow building romance. And yes, the ending is a HEA 🙂
Rating: 4 stars. Standalone.