author: Heather Demetrios
buy it: Amazon | B&N
rating: 3.75/5 (in the genre) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
will i read this author again? I think so, definitely if it's another contemporary
will i continue the series? N/A
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.
I'm glad I gave this book a chance, even though Exquisite Captive wasn't an insta-favorite. I'll Meet You There has some of the trappings of an ABC Family show, but there's enough heart and power to make up for the drama. The story follows Skylar, small town good girl with a ticket to the real world--if she can just last the summer. Then there's Josh, former high school god, back from Afghanistan with a new prosthetic leg and nightmares lurking behind his smirk. What follows is an atmospheric, emotional story that's often frustrating and never simple. Sky and Josh are each deeply flawed, and don't quite know how to fit their frayed edges together. Despite a few missteps in prose, it's a story that satisfies without offering neat solutions--a story that's so important in a time when there are many Joshes coming home. Demetrios seems completely at home in the realm of the bittersweet contemporary.
Plot - 3.5/5
The plot has the lazy feel of summer, the kind that's slow building rather than boring. There's no villain or battle. We follow a snippet of Sky's and Josh's lives, at the moment when Sky's should be starting and Josh's may be ending. Much of it focuses on their growing relationship and all its missteps. Sky is afraid of putting down roots and Josh doesn't know how to be with someone, so there's a lot of stumbling. There's one big event that had me second-guessing everything. But it feels so realistic and always taut with underlying conflict, whether between or within the characters. Besides their love story, there's the thread of their lives. Sky's relationship with her mother climbs and crashes; she pulls back from her friends and into her own darkest corners. There's something a bit soap opera like about it, but Demetrios is careful to curb the melodrama. She also delivers an ending that fits, even if it's not your standard happily ever after. I only wish there was more of Sky's friends. You know how I hate when girls give up their besties for boys.
Concept - 4/5
Skylar is one summer away from art school, her dream and her escape. An escape that's defined her life for years. But while everything she's ever wanted looms closer, the world seems to be conspiring to trap her in the life she's always dreaded. Her mother loses her job and starts drinking. They're living on their last cans of spaghetti. And then she meets Josh. He's the anchor to Creek View she never wanted. As Sky and Josh shift from coworkers to friends to a tenous something-more, Sky feels her future crumbling and Josh wavers between the promise of something good and the grief of losing the only place he belonged. There are worn out parts, parts that scream with PTSD and small town cliches, but they're overshadowed by the broader story, one of two messed up people finding their way together. Demetrios finds success in that she doesn't sugarcoat or sensationalize it. She gives us two admittedly complicated people in a complicated love affair, and makes no promises.
Characters - 4/5
Even with shades of cliche, the characters feel solid. Sky is your typical small town good girl looking for escape, but Demetrios allows her to be more than that, too. She thinks in collage. She can be selfish, callous. She's also stubbornly self-sufficient, even when it could break her. I could fit easily into her head, and always wanted to know more. Josh is a little more troublesome. In some ways, he feels like an exaggeration of a post-war soldier, even calling himself Jarhead in a way that felt heavy-handed. Demetrios saves him, ironically, by messing him up. He's such a cocky screw-up that sometimes you struggle to pity him, so he never becomes only the faceless figure of tragedy. Demetrios follows through with these endearing flaws in her minor characters, too, from sweet but often clueless Chris to Sky's mother, who's easily hated but revealed to be more complex than Sky gives her credit for.I liked the writing here better than in Exquisite Captive. It's not as forcedly lyrical. Instead, it reads like a polished inner monologue. These are thoughts that seem to mirror something you'd find in your own head. There are times when the language feels a little stilted or like Demetrios is trying too hard to make a point, particularly during Josh's scenes. Her grasp of Sky's voice feels much stronger throughout than her grasp of Josh's. But, on the whole, she's a solid writer. She knows how to wring wistfulness from her words, and how to piece together an atmosphere that gives you chills.
Style - 3.5/5
Mechanics - 3.5/5
I don't often love split perspectives, since they often feel like an excuse for the lovebirds to gush over one another. Demetrios doesn't fall into this trap. Yes, there's some gushing, but moreso the alternate perspectives of Sky and Josh allow you a better window into the story than either alone. It wouldn't be nearly as powerful to read about the drama and conflict without knowing how it plays out for each person. Sky's rage at Josh over the incident, for example, would seem thin and typical without Josh's perspective to complicate the story. It prevents it from getting black and white. My big problem was the lopsidedness of the perspectives. Sky is clearly the favored character her. Her passages are longer and more frequent. Josh just didn't feel as fully realized as Sky did, so his short passages often came off as a little cliche, something anyone would dream up about a soldier back from the war.
Take Home Message
I'll Meet You There is an atmospheric, emotional story of two young adults navigating the treacheries of growing up in the most dire circumstances, and the ability of love and friendship to weather the darkness.
Fans of I Was Here by Gayle Forman, My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga, and Saint Anything or anything else by Sarah Dessen
Note: I purchased this copy. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.