Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (ARC)

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co (BYR)
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
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.
"This is heartbreaking, inspiring, and poignant, and it delves deeply in many issues, many ones that most other books don't address."

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley. This doesn't affect my review in any way, nor am I being compensated for this post.

Speaking bluntly, I absolutely loved I'll Meet You There. I don't doubt it'll be one of my favorite reads of 2015. This book has stuck with me long after I've finished reading it. This is heartbreaking, inspiring, and poignant, and it delves deeply in many issues, many ones that most other books don't address.

The plot is engaging, and it draws the reader right into the lives of the characters. It's hard not to get attached to the characters and the conflicts in their lives. I enjoyed the slow reveal of Josh's story. I wish we could have heard more from his perspective, but at the same time, what we got was perfect. It was just enough to provide pertinent information without being more than necessary. It gives readers a scary look into what it's like to deal with grief and PTSD. We see his struggle to re-find himself and to fit back into his old life after being in the military. We see his struggle to come to terms with the tragedy he had to deal with, and we get glimpses into how much Skylar has helped him. It also provides for situational irony as the reader learns about reasons why Josh won't do X or why he does X, which directly impacts Sky's story and her portions. We see both sides of the story, and at times, that's a really powerful device.

Skylar also goes through immense changes throughout the book, as she struggles with her own plethora of issues. I particularly liked how Demetrios used art and Sky's hobby of creating collages to effectively show how Sky's perception of Creek View changes as she changes. She's dealing with this dilemma of choosing between going to college and staying in Creek View to help her mother. She can't wait to get out of Creek View, and all she wants is to ensure that she doesn't get "stuck" and "trapped" in Creek View forever. But at the same time, her mother (as well as Sky but not to the extreme extent) is still grieving Sky's father's death. Her mother makes bad decisions and turns to alcohol, refusing to get help. Sky is the only person holding up the two of them. She's the one making a meager wage in the hopes of it being enough to support both herself and her mother. We see her struggle with poverty, and while it's resolved a little too simply for my taste, it's not something often seen and addressed in books. So many people live in poverty, yet rarely do we get such a deep look into the reality of their lives. It made me cry, and it broke my heart.

The other characters are similarly complex. Dylan, Sky's best friend, is a teen mom who's in love and who wants to stay in Creek View. It's interesting to see their relationship change and grow as the book progresses, especially after their big fight. It reminds me of the point many feminists make--that feminism isn't about making women go out and enter the work force or be in leadership positions; it's about allowing women to do what they want, just as men can choose to do what they want. If a woman wants to be a housewife or stay-at-home mom, so be it as long as it's her choice. Dylan reminds me of this. On the other side, Chris, Sky and Dylan's other best friend, can't wait to get out of Creek View and go far away. His family life greatly contrasts Sky's, and Sky is often jealous of his home situation. There's Sky's mom, whom we watch go through a great many trials and tribulations. While we're seeing it from Sky's point of view, there are also really humanizing moments that give us a glimpse into why she does what she does and acts in the way that she does. There's Marge, whose son was a war vet and committed suicide; her narrative plays alongside Sky and Josh's, partially because they work at her motel but largely because of how their stories and experiences are intertwined. Marge and Sky are pretty close, and Marge takes over as Sky's mother figure later in the book, while Marge's revelation about her son really connects with Josh's struggle. The characters are so human, and they deal with issues that we don't often see in books. They give readers a look into the hard lives many people live invisibly. It give the book a gritty quality but in a good way.

But that doesn't mean there aren't happy, light moments. They're sprinkled around in just the right places, leaving hope in the face of great despair. Demetrios does a great job at weaving the stories together. The book is a bit slow at the very beginning, but it picks up quickly. Before I knew it, I was flying through the book, unable to put it down and go to sleep until I had finished. There were lots of tears, but the ending was just so perfectly done. This is honestly one of the best books and one of the most well-written books I've read. I'll Meet You There is definitely a book I'll be recommending to people until the end of time.

You can also check out my review/analysis on Feminists Talk Books, which focuses less on plot and more on representation. Much of it I rephrased for this review, but I go a bit more in depth in the other post.
I'll Meet You There: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
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