Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Heather's first book Something Real was one of my favorite books of 2014. I was super excited to see another contemporary novel from her. I didn't love I'll Meet You There as much as Something Real, but that's more of what substance speaks most to me. From an objective standpoint, I think this book is better written and more emotionally powerful.
The book centers on two people who are stuck in a tiny California desert town. Skylar just graduated from high school and is ready to move on to bigger and better things when she leaves for college in the fall. Josh is newly returned from the Marines after having his leg blown off in Afghanistan.
Skylar has always held herself back from her peers, with the exception of her two best friends. She's had to grow up fast, with a troubled mother who depends on Sky's stability. She also keeps an emotional separation from people, because she wants to escape her nothing town before she sets down roots. I also think it's because she subconsciously thinks she's better than other people because she has ambitions.
Josh has come back from Afghanistan a different person inside and out. When he joined the military, he was an insensitive, immature jerk. Basically a blowhard who crows about, because he's too stupid to understand his own insignificance. He came back from Afghanistan with many scars. His PTSD is more severe than even his leg. That's made him a dark and explosive person. But he's also become more contemplative, more thoughtful. He had the good influence of a best friend in the military who helped him to grow up and be a decent person.
Skylar and Josh together are wonderful. They have time apart from their peers as they work at the same motel. They bond with sarcastic banter that's fun to read and shows their intelligence. This friendship grows into something more. Yes, a romance, but before that into an honest discussion of their emotions and problems that neither are able to talk about with other people. This is definitely the opposite of an insta-romance. You want them to be together, because they have such a strong bond that you can't imagine them being able to stay apart.
What I really loved about this book is how well all the characters are written. Skylar and Josh are fully formed people, with flaws that make you a bit uncomfortable, but also make them much more real. The side characters - Skylar's mom, their boss Madge, and Skylar's best friends are also very well written. By the end of the book, I felt like I could describe the merits and flaws of each person, as well as why their relationship with Skylar was important. It felt complete.
The book is told from both Josh and Skylar's points of view. Josh's chapters are short, raw, and honest. It very much feels like something he would have written. Skylar is where most of the narrative comes in. The prose flows very well. I wouldn't call it a page turner, but that's because there's so much richness to the text and the characters that you want to enjoy the process of reading.
Heather Demetrios is definitely a YA author to watch. I still haven't read her second book... But with a wonderful first and third book in barely two years, she is one of YA fiction's biggest talents.
Recommendation: Buy if you love hard-hitting YA fiction
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