Title: I’ll Meet You There
Author: Heather Demetrios
YA – Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: February 3, 2015
So this title wasn’t even on my radar until a couple of months ago when the book blogosphere kind of exploded with positive reviews….suddenly it was the hottest title that everyone was raving about. And it sounded exactly like my kind of book, so I clicked on over to NetGalley and requested a copy. I didn’t know then what I was in store for.
The story centers on Skylar, who has just graduated high school and has three months of summer to survive before she can head off to art school and get out of Creek View. Creek View is the sort of town that fosters poverty – minimum wage jobs, teenage pregnancy, trailer parks, and drinking all mark the town, and Skylar knows her future is brighter than that. But when her mom is fired from her job and it falls on Skylar to pay bills and hold everything together, suddenly that future is jeopardized.
But this isn’t only Skylar’s story. It’s also about Josh. Josh used to be Creek View’s golden boy. Good at sports, popular with the guys, girls at his beck and call. But he also wanted to escape Creek View, and the Marines offered him an out. His tour of duty landed him in Afghanistan, where he saw his friends die and he lost his own leg. Now he’s back, contemplating his own future, trying to shake the horrors of his past, and working out his complicated feelings for Skylar.
Oh my gosh, you guys! I wasn’t expecting this book to hit me quite as hard as it did. I was reading it in bits and spurts, alongside other things, but last night I just got hooked and ended up staying up until 1:30 to finish the last half of the book! I share a room dorm-style with one of my two roomies, so I was trying to be all quiet and not let the sounds of my tears and sniffles carry across to her bed and wake her up. The waterworks started about 3/4 of the way through and I’m still trying not to cry just thinking about the book.
It wasn’t only that good, though. It was also really important. Demetrios didn’t pull punches when talking about hard topics, like Skylar’s poverty and dependence on scholarships to be able to go to school. She didn’t flinch away from sharing Josh’s memories and the way his PTSD is affecting his everyday life as he tries to adjust. On both sides, I felt a sort of bleak desperation and yearning throughout the book that I remember so distinctly marking my own life. Because I lived that life of being the first in my family to go to college, being the first to get out of my own tiny little town where I wouldn’t have had a future. I remember thinking it was too good to be true, that something would happen and it would all collapse and I would be stuck. Which is exactly how Skylar feels as she fights to hold everything together and still figure out a way to leave.
The glimpses inside Josh’s head were equally heartbreaking. He saw his best friend from the Marines die on patrol duty, and he’s carrying survivor’s guilt. And because of his PTSD, even the normal sounds of fireworks or a car backfiring transport him back to Afghanistan. He is moody, scared, and sometimes a little bit reckless. He is shuttered, and it’s sometimes hard for him to connect to reality. But he’s fighting to adjust and regain a sense of normalcy, and that just made me weep for him.
Like I said, I wasn’t expecting this. I wasn’t expecting to stay up all night, sobbing into my Nook. I wasn’t expecting to see parts of my life mirrored quite so well. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with both imperfect, lovely, flawed characters in such a way that I felt desperate for them. But I did. And reader, chances are you will too. I know it’s only January, but this is one of my favorite books of the year so far, simply because ALL. THE. EMOTIONS. Now if you’ll excuse me, I should probably go wash my face and try to hide the red around my eyes before I go to work.