Contemporary Young Adult
Henry Holt BFYR
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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'll Meet You There, based on the premise and synopsis, seems at first glance as though it will be one of those reads that weighs heavily on us, the struggles of the characters seeping down into our bones so that we carry their burdens as if they're our own. While both Sky and Josh are certainly dealing with issues that could easily swallow them whole and send them spiraling downward, their story is one laced with a sense of hope, the strength of the two of them individually as well as together inspiring nothing but confidence that they'll find their way through the darkness and come out in tact on the other side.
Skylar is a young woman forced to grow up far too soon, having to be the adult from age twelve after her mother falls apart in the wake of her father's death. She's inordinately strong and patient, tending to her mother with kid gloves and giving her every opportunity to pull herself together when she falls off the wagon. Her capacity forgiveness is impressive with both her mother and Josh, but she could never be described as a pushover, acquiescing when she should otherwise stand her ground. Instead, she lets the two of them know when she's been hurt and gets angry when it's rightfully deserved, but she doesn't hold a grudge, allowing herself to move forward rather than get stuck in the quicksand that Creek View can sometimes be.
Josh is someone we get to know through very short one or two-page stream of consciousness chapters wherein he speaks to one of his deceased military brothers about his return to civilian life after the loss of his leg. In these chapters we can feel the depth of his survivor's guilt as well as the stress, confusion, and anger he feels now that his days are no longer strictly regimented. His relationship with Sky is beautifully painful and painfully beautiful, and while she eventually helps him feel more settled in his forever-altered skin, what's perhaps most striking about the two of them is the truth of their romance. She is not a singular cure for all that ails him, and while she brings him a certain amount of peace, it's clear by the end that he still has a long way to go and they both have a lot of work ahead of them to keep their relationship happy and healthy.
Overall, I'll Meet You There is a journey marked by steps forward as well as enormous steps backward when both Sky and Josh falter at times, but in the end they prove that family and circumstance will no longer take their choices from them, instead the ownership of their lives will belong to them and them alone.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.