“Tell me a secret.”
“I love you.”
Woah. What a crazzzzzy ride!!
This was a complete “rule-breaker” book for me in nearly every way and yet I found myself addicted and unable to put it down. I read it in one sitting and finished it at 4AM and with my mind spinning and my heart hurting so I’m going to try and write all my thoughts out here and process everything.
This is a story of first love. A desperate, all-consuming love kept secret by necessity, and complicated by unhealthy addictions and heart-breaking betrayals. It’s not your typical romance by any stretch.
Please note: this book has cheating, drug addictions, and an unresolved ending. I know each of those are trigger points for a lot of you (the cheating especially was for me, in a big way) but this book has a massive fan base and a lot of readers love it so I was too curious. I just had to give it a try…
“She’s the only thing worth anything in my life.”
Bliss and Dusty met in grade school — she was the new girl starting Grade 5, he was the older, cooler sixth grader. The innocent girl met the delinquent trouble maker and so began their tumultuous relationship. The story takes place over approximately 4 years. She becomes best friends with Dusty’s little sister Becka and spends a lot of time at their house — each weekend, and every summer. We see her fall for him from afar. We see him fall for her. But everything between them remains a secret and no one ever knows.
I’ve read a lot of dysfunctional relationship stories because I just kind of love them but this one I think is the ultimate winner. Their situation was all kinds of fucked up…. and yet I was strangely addicted.
“This is our thing. Our secret… I’ve managed to bury better judgement and put aside warnings about boys, alcohol, drugs, and bad choices.”
See in his own messed up way, Dusty loved her but he knew he shouldn’t. She was his little sister’s best friend. So he stayed away. He smoked, drank, fooled around with girls. The only things between them were these secret, stolen, unlabelled moment where she was Bliss and he was Dusty and they just were.
“I can’t stop thinking about what’s going on between [us]. We haven’t talked about why we keep what we do a secret, but the reasons don’t need to be spoken out loud.”
I’m being asked a lot about the cheating issue so I’m going to just lay the situation out here. Yes, there is cheating. A whole helluva lot of it. But if you want to argue technicalities, Dusty and Bliss were never (ever) an official couple, so “technically” it was never “official” cheating. But it is. OMG. It totally is. They had their secret love and no one knew about them but them, but they really both loved each other. Like really loved each other. But the one thing that Dusty was more addicted to than Bliss was drugs. He was high 90% of the time and slept around openly — especially with one girl in particular (even though he wasn’t dating her or anything). He did drugs all the time (he started with weed but graduated to hard drugs over the years), had sex with half the high school, and partied non-stop. In public, he and Bliss acted like they didn’t mean anything to each other. But he totally loved her. And she totally loved him. She knew what he was doing and he knew that she knew but he still did it and she never stopped him. She just loved him — for exactly who he was, as he was. It was fucking heart breaking and so totally messed up.
“Because I love you, nobody else will ever touch me. Even though you are constantly touched.
Gah. Tell me that line doesn’t just hurt???
“We’re attached in ways I can’t comprehend. While everyone else expects me to fuck up … she just loves me. And I’m reckless enough to let her.
She’s my softer side, and I’m her motherfucking monster.”
Complicated relationships, damaged characters, and hopeless situations are some of the ones I love most to read about but I’m not going to lie that this one really pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone. I was, and still am, really torn about how I feel about the whole situation. I’ve gone back and forth between loving and hating this story. I loved their love for each other but I also hated what he kept doing to them.
“I’ve been taught that relationships are supposed to be built from trust, but we’re a walking untruth — solely made from love.”
My heart hurt so much for Bliss hearing all the time about him being with other girls, seeing him be with other girls right in front of her but knowing she was the one who had his heart. I couldn’t tell if I was mad at her for letting him do that or if I admired that she was strong enough to love him through his addiction. He was hypocritical, unstable, unfair, destructive, violent at times (though never towards her), and he made it nearly impossible to like him. He was a drug addict, a bit of an asshole, a total manwhore — he was every father’s nightmare — but he had such a good heart. He loved her so strongly and I was torn between wanting to junk punch him and wishing I could just help him somehow. I wanted to hate him for what he was doing to her but that was impossible. I just couldn’t hate him.
“You’re my safe spot. You have my heart. There’s nothing else.”
But then this from Bliss… *sniff*
“Why them and not me?”
I questioned his love for her over and over again. If he really loved her, wouldn’t he do anything to be with her? Why would he continue to keep breaking her heart? Why would he continue to sleep around? In case you’re wondering though, we do get a bit of an explanation into why he is the way he is. He’s a product of his childhood and his experiences. Did it excuse the way he way? Hmm, well, that’s for you to decide… but it did explain it. I just wished with all my heart that he could find a way to overcome his issues.
“Our love is not perfect. We are fucked-up and bleeding, but neither one of us is powerful enough to walk away from it like we should.”
Please note that this is the first of a 2-part series and this book actually ends at a bit of a low point for them. I’d highly recommend re-reading the prologue after the ending though (technically, it takes place after the ending) because it’ll give you just the tiniest bit more closure than you get from the last page.
I’m a little frustrated by the ending though because I feel like there really wasn’t any significant change in Dusty’s character. I’m a little nervous because I don’t know how the next book is going to end so I’m feeling torn. See, I’m the kind of reader who is willing to go through pretty much any amount of emotional pain with the characters if the ending makes it worth it. But I feel like I needed a reason to have suffered through his endless screw ups. I loved Dusty but I hated his actions and I need a reason to believe that it was worth emotionally standing by him through it all in order for me to fully commit to loving this story. ‘Cuz otherwise, it’s just a story about someone who screws up their life until they lose it all. I need there to be a reason for the suffering and a light at the end of their tunnel.
I want to root for Dusty and Bliss. I want to believe that even a couple as messed up and dysfunctional as them can make it. I do believe that despite all the mistakes and addictions that they can make it work. And I’d like to believe (even just in my head) that they do beat the odds and genuinely make it work. But I honestly think I’m going to hold off on reading the second one until someone who has read it tells me exactly how it ends. Having gone through this much pain along their journey, I’m going to need to see a lot of healing and work done both alone and together by Dusty and Bliss to fix mistakes if I’m going to read it. Do I think Dusty actually deserves a second chance? Hell no. But I’m still totally willing to give it to him because I really, truly, strongly believe that the love they have for each other is real. And I want to see that love become the most important thing in Dusty’s life. I need to see that. I absolutely need it.
“Don’t you get it, baby?”
“What’s there to get?” she asks.
“That I love you.”
“Well, you have a shitty way of showing it.
I smirk. “That doesn’t make it any less true.”
A couple things… I liked the writing but felt like the book needed more editing. I also found the names a little confusing at times. Dusty’s real name was Thomas but his mom’s name was Tommy so every time I saw her name I thought of him. There were so many nicknames for each character that it took me a while to figure out who was who and to keep track of who was being talked about. The story also sporadically switched back and forth between Dusty and Bliss’ POV without any labelling. I found this confusing because the first time was quite late in the book (I believe Chapter 11-ish), so I wasn’t expecting it and I had to flip back and forth until I figured it out and then after that, I’d have to check each chapter because it would randomly switch. And, finally… I’ll admit that it felt a little weird reading the first part of the book with them being so young. Like, she was 13 and he’s 15 so even though there was nothing blatantly sexual that happened then, there were still times when I just felt a little awkward reading it.
This book will not be for everyone. There’s no doubt that I was addicted to the story but I think that whether or not I love it will ultimately depend on the content and ending of the next book. I feel like I can’t judge this alone because it’s only half a story and I don’t have a clear sense of what direction it’s headed in.
I can totally understand why some readers are madly in love with this, and I can also understand why some readers dislike it. I’ve seen every reaction from readers who can’t even finish it to readers who call this their most favorite book ever written. This story breaks all kinds of romance rules but if you can look past that, there’s a very raw and beautiful, but tragically dysfunctional love story at the heart of it. I want to believe that Dusty and Bliss can make it work. I want to believe they can beat the odds. I hope they can.
“Tell me a secret.”
“I love you.”