Here by Denise Grover Swank

Publication Date: November 11th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 344 pages
RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars


Sixteen year old Julia Phillips buries herself in guilt after killing her best friend Monica in a car accident. Julia awoke in the hospital with a broken leg, a new talent for drawing and false memories of the accident, in which she dies and Monica lives. The doctors attribute this to her head injury, but no one can explain how a bracelet engraved with her name ended up at the scene of the accident. A bracelet no one has ever seen before.

Classmate Evan Whittaker paid Julia no attention before the accident, let alone after. Now suddenly he’s volunteering to tutor her and offering to drive her home. She can’t ignore that his new obsession started after his two-day disappearance last week and that he wears a pendant she’s been drawing for months. When the police show up one night looking for Evan, he begs Julia to run with him, convincing her that Monica is still alive. Julia agrees to go, never guessing where he’s really from.

At first glance, Here’s cover bespeaks loudly of your run-of-the mill paranormal read; wolves? Shifters? Maybe even vampires or ghosts. But never would I have expected a parallel universe. I was getting ready to go to bed when this book caught my eye. It was just sitting on my desk along with my pile of Self-Pub Challenge books. Once I started reading, I was half worried, half excited that it was going to keep me up all night. But alas, I succumbed to tiredness and got through about half of it. In all honesty, I loved about three-quarters of this book and felt so-so about the rest of it. I’ll explain further…or I’ll cite the circumstances why this book didn’t sustain its lovability. 
Quick Synopsis: Reeling from the death of her best friend, Julia has all but given up. She was debilitated by guilt and blamed herself for being alive. Her school work has suffered tremendously and her family was on the verge of collapse. At school, she’s the proverbial social pariah. That is, until Evan Whittaker, the it boy of James Monroe High started paying her unwanted attention and volunteered to be her tutor. It doesn’t take long until Evan showed signs that he knew more than he was letting on, dropping hints about the past that Julia knew nothing of. After a fight over a bracelet she woke up wearing after the accident, Evan disappeared and a police manhunt ensued. That same night, Evan came calling on Julia and begged her to come away with him. The rest of the story flipped on the side of crazy, as Evan takes Julia to a world where United States was reduced to 10 regions, plants don’t grow, and the world as they knew it, was still suffering from a nuclear fall-out that happened decades in the past.
Whew. That was a mouthful…and hardly quick.
DGS bisected the past and the present, combining them into a reality unheard of. The prologue was set in the 60s at a time when there was a considerable fear of a nuclear attack from the Russians.  Though it took a while for Denise to reveal how this would all be melded in the story, it’s what sucked me in to the entire novel as a whole. I couldn’t really tell what this book was about from the summary alone so to eventually find its relation to Julia and Evan’s story was definitely a nice surprise. 
As for the characters, Evan gave me quite a worry there for a second. His fascination with Julia seemed a little sudden and unfounded from the start and for a moment, it bordered on instant-love. And when I found out the reason why, my opinion of Evan’s behavior changed from reasonably acceptable to…NOT. I mean, I don’t think he pined for her enough. Knowing what he knew then and knowing how much he loved her, I think Evan’s reaction to Julia was a little subdued, in my opinion, considering how much he mourned for her ‘loss’. I may sound a bit confusing and vague now but there are spoilers to consider.

Julia Phillips was a likable character. Though she spent some time moaning about her loss, the author worked very hard at making her a strong character regardless, especially during the times when she had to be the strong one in the family. 

This is where it gets tricky. I did say I loved this book but upon Reece’s introduction, I started to break out in hives. LOVE TRIANGLE allergies. I hate when that happens. I was sold on the Evan/Julia pairing and though Here has a different spin on this tired not so romantic arc, I just…I just don’t really like it. It’s the heroine waffling between two heroes that irritates me. In the end, the wonderful start and the gripping middle just kind of ended on a flat note. Which is unfortunate because that’s when things got intense.

VERDICT: Despite the dud ending, I’m glad I got to discover Here for the first time. Denise Grover Swank’s ability to create a well-evolved story truly shows in this book. The over-all ambiguity of the story made for a page-turner that will take you into an alternate universe that stands above some of the  dystopian novels you’ve ever read – and really, this is the best thing about this book: the unexpectedness of where Ms. Swank will take you is simply remarkable. I’m just sorry that my enthusiasm over the book was marred by that dreadful you-know-what.

You may also like