“In the balance of love and loss, it was love that made me struggle to breathe”
My friend and I traded lists of must read books and this one was at the top of my list. When I finished, I was seriously reconsidering our friendship. Not because it was a terrible book, but because it was an amazing book that absolutely broke my heart. I was fairly certain that I was going to have an ulcer by the time I was done reading.
This starts out as a typical high school girl meets boy story. Emma is at the top of her class, and a sports superstar. Evan is the gorgeous new guy in class, and he has his eyes set on Emma. However, Emma’s life is not what it seems on the surface. She only has one real friend, Sara, that knows the real Emma. Her father passed at a young age and her mother is alcoholic who is incapable of taking care of her own daughter. Emma lives with her aunt and uncle. The things that go on in that house are almost to awful for words. Somehow Ms. Donovan finds the words to describe these horrors in a way that is not gratuitous. You feel every ounce of Emma’s pain. Her shame, her loneliness, her desperation are all conveyed so beautifully.
“It was better to try and fail, than to never have the experience”
Until Evan enters her life, Emma’s sole focus is making sure she has a way into college and a way out of her awful home. Evan gives her hope, but also complicates her situation so much more. She never wanted the things that she wants with Evan so it becomes very hard for her to decide what the best way to deal with it is. She cannot let him find out what she is hiding. The only person that knows her secrets is Sara. This is the only real problem that I had with this story. I just wanted to shake Sara and scream at her to tell someone. To get her friend the help that she so desperately needed. I had to take a step back and remember that these were teenagers and that they were dealing with some very adult things. It is easy as an adult to say ‘oh, well this is what I would do’. Not always so easy when you are so young.
Emma is a strong character. Her focus and determination is unparalleled. She is literally counting down the days until she can escape her hell and make a new life for herself. She is also a typical teenager who gives in to temptation, and becomes a little careless. Unfortunately for her, her carelessness has very serious consequences. Her relationships with Evan and Sara are really honest and beautiful. It is so hard to sit back and see someone that you love hurting and not be able to do anything about it.
This is a story about young adults, but this is not a YA book. There are very hard, real things that are covered in this book. I was emotionally wrecked for the last 30 pages of this book. I was literally white knuckling my nook, and found myself holding my breath. Just praying for some kind of good outcome for this girl. Little did I know that there is a sequel and that Emma’s story is not over.
4 stars! Enjoy!
Buy the Series: