Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: I'll Meet You There

by Heather Demetrios
Publication date: February 3, 2015
Published by: Henry Holt and Co.
Hardcover, 388 pages
My rating: 4/5 ★

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.

There were a lot of things that I liked about this book and only minor ones that kept me from giving I'll Meet You There five stars (I would say it's a 4.5 stars from me but I'm sticking to the goodreads rating system, as usual). I really, thoroughly enjoyed the story and once I started it, I couldn't put it down, so I ended up reading it all in one day. When I finished, right before midnight, I fully intended to give it five stars. But when I woke up the next morning, though, it just didn't feel quite like a five star book anymore. I'll try to explain that later.

But let's start with my very favorite aspect of the book: the romance. It was (almost) perfect and if I hadn't just reread Fangirl right before starting I'll Meet You There, I would've probably loved it even more. For me, everything pales in comparison to Cather and Levi's story, but let's not get into that here.

Skylar and Josh have kind of known each other for a long time before the story even starts. 'Kind of' because they've never really been friends but since they used to work together, they obviously did know each other. This means that we don't get to see how the characters meet for the first time, which worked out perfectly for me – no risk of instalove! Rather, it was exactly the opposite. Skylar and Josh start to hang out as friends after Josh comes back from war (minus one leg). They both have a number of personal problems to handle and deal with and start to open up to each other only very very very slowly. Their process of falling in love wasn't rushed at all, it wasn't coincidental and it just kind of made sense - exactly how it should be in my opinion. I absolutely loved that because honestly, we get way too little slowly (reasonably) developing love stories in the YA contemporary genre.

Both Skylar and Josh were extremely interesting characters and I really loved the insight we got into their lives. It made me realize just how lucky I am with my family, to be honest, because neither of them has it easy. My problem with the story, however, was that I couldn't quite connect to anyone or anything. It was the first time that I read a book where I could really feel that it doesn't take place where I live. Everything was very different from life here in Switzerland, which might seem weird at first, but let me explain:

The military aspect was very hard to grasp for me. In Switzerland, joining the army is mandatory for all men and they are released after a few years of usually serving for three weeks each year (don't ask me any specifics, this is about all I know). But of course, Switzerland isn't fighting in any wars. This is obviously very different from the United States, but then I've always been aware of that. Just not really aware of what it would actually mean. But now reading a book about a war veteran, and a nineteen year old at that, it was really hard to connect to the situation. And most of all, it was hard to understand those people who would call Josh a war hero and thank him for his service to the country. Don't get me wrong – I don't mean to criticize this, it just felt very alien to me and I'm trying to make an example of an aspect of the story that I had a hard time grasping. It was certainly interesting, informative and educating, because to be honest, I had never even really thought about what it would be like to be confronted with war so directly. I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well: all you need to know, really, is that this was difficult for me to read and understand on the one hand, but on the other hand I also learned a lot and got a feeling of how different the military situation actually is in other countries.

The same goes for aspects of Skylar's life as well as other parts of Josh's. It was all just so completely different from what I'm used to that I sometimes had a hard time of understanding why Sky and Josh were acting the way they were. And it was certainly painful to read about both Sky and Josh's life and I certainly don't envy them for what they had to go through. But I can't stress enough how that was also something I really liked about the book because, as I said, it's thought provoking and that's always a good thing in my opinion.

Overall, I think this was a great book and I love how different it is from your regular YA contemporary story. Heather Demetrios did a great job of portraying the life of two young adults who kind of struggle with life and what it means to grow up without real support from your family. She touched on some difficult topics and handled it perfectly. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, just don't expect to feel warm and cuddly while reading it.