Once in a while, an unassuming book comes my way which simply makes me catch my breath. Its characters told the perfect stories, said all the right things, looked exactly how I liked them to look, did the things I expected them to do…in short, it hit all the right spots in an almost too perfect way. Almost is that book.
This is a story about a girl who’s been living in a nightmare for the last three years. She has a perfect family who supports her, understands her, cares for her. But no amount of loving could stop the nightmares she endures every night. Reliving the rape that almost happened to her when she was a freshman makes her avoid sleeping at night every chance she gets. Her parents are convinced that the only way she could move on to college is that if she can prove to them that she’s now somehow healed and back to being ‘normal’. And what is normal anyway? Having friends? summer job? a boyfriend? An opportunity presents itself when Gray Porter, jock extraordinaire, serial heartbreaker, agreed to be her fake boyfriend for the summer. How far will this farce go? Well…perhaps not too far. Maybe only as far as Gray’s secrets could take him.
Anne Eliot managed to tell this painful story in the most light-hearted way possible. The characters’ funny and more often awkward encounters perfectly camouflaged their murky and shady connection that only one of them has a full awareness of. I love, love, love these two characters. Their dynamics worked so well while they hid their true feelings behind their sarcasm and humour. Gray is the ultimate heartthrob who won me over with his dimpled smile, kindness and social ineptness around Jess. Aside from Melina Marchetta’s characters, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen so hard for a cast as I have with everyone here. There have been so many YA books written where the absence of any kind of family relationships was noticeable but not here. I love Jess’ supporting and ever-present parents and her younger sister who molly-coddled her at every turn. Gray’s Gran and his two best friends is an unbreakable circle and pillar of support for this tormented, guilty boy who only ever wanted to do the right thing to begin with.
I can never pretend to understand what people like Jess has gone through in one way or another. I like that Anne Eliot skims the surface of Jess’ suffering just so. It wasn’t overwrought but it was touching just the same. The key to Jess’ recovery was through remembering – facing the demons that her subconscious’ defence mechanism hid from her. To some, it may seem like a convenient resolution but I disagree. Sometimes, no amount of therapy or drugs can help a person. Sometimes, it’s only as simple as remembering.
This book is one of those rare ones that clicked in every possible way. The characters, dialogues, their banters. It’s one of those books that though not written perfectly, the story is just too good to distract you from some minute mistakes.
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