This is an important YA piece of fiction. I was wondering what to write about this but then realized, I’d already written a review so why not just share it?
Full disclosure, Christina Hoag and I have the same publisher.
All the feels. I read this over the course of one day while battling a cold. I was stuck on the couch and I thought, “I’ll knock out a few chapters.” That turned into a six hour reading marathon.
I love how this story starts. Chloe is doing a journalism internship. We get to learn the process with her, the good and the tedious. We don’t get mired down in the minutia but we do get to see Chloe learn the very basics of what might become her future career. I could see revisiting this character in her late twenties as a veteran reporter in a new adventure. Chloe is capable, willing, a fast learner and aware that she’s lucky to be able to afford to do an internship as well as lucky to land it. There is nothing about this position that is glamorous–it felt very real and I loved that.
The relationship with Kieran. UGH. There are so many YA stories that are about abusive relationships where neither character seems to know the relationship is abusive and it’s passed on as “normal” to the readers. I hate that. But that’s not what this story is about. We watch as Chloe falls for a charming, if corny, young man who is just thrilled to date her. She’s never had a serious relationship, her home life is a mess and she’s ripe to be taken advantage of because she gives a damn about people. We watch as Kieran has a fit and Chloe explains it away, as Kieran has a violent fit and Chloe is upset but explains it away. Kieran keeps her from her friends, insists on meeting her family, gaslights her frequently and insists that their problems are her fault. The relationship is built wonderfully because it all happens in increments. There are moments where you will want to scream at the book, scream for Chloe to stay away from him, to get help. But she continues and we watch in horror.
What I think Hoag does extremely well is to show us how this type of relationship can happen and then let us continue the journey with Chloe as she breaks up with Kieran and stays strong. I was so afraid this book would end in one huge scene where there’s a violent outburst and Chloe has to kill Kieran to survive. That type of story would have been emotionally gratifying but it was so much more engaging to watch the true aftermath of that situation. Chloe heals slowly. She repairs her friendships and goes to therapy and meets other women who have struggled or are struggling with abusive relationships. This is SUCH an important book for teens to read. One of the characters in the support meeting makes a great point about how were they supposed to know their relationship was going to be bad, no one had ever taught them to look for red flags or had even discussed red flags. Hoag also has Chloe’s friends make excuses for Kieran’s poor behavior early in the novel because people who are compassionate tend to empathize and it’s such a true moment.
The journey was my favorite part and this story is all about journeys. Chloe’s mother has one of her own as she heals from heartbreak. I like this character for two reasons. Often times in YA we forget that the parents are real people and that their emotional states can vary just like the main character’s can. I loved that the mother was devastated, heart broken, but managed to pull herself together and be there for her daughter.
Overall, great read. Upsetting, but great.