I would say that Jamie tackled very difficult topics with an absolute mastery in the storytelling.
I’ve been given an advanced reading copy of this book by Montlake Romance via Netgalley but it had no influence on my willing and always honest review.
5 “I’ve been tricked” stars!
When I learned that Jamie McGuire would publish a new book I requested this one immediately and …crossed my fingers. I was really overjoyed when I learned I could read it because:
- The cover is so pretty 😀 ;
- I had a good feeling and so far my intuition never misled me.
Now that it’s all read and done I can honestly say that it was totally different from what I expected and from what I had read from Jamie so far.
First of all there is one major ingredient in this book: the atmosphere.
I got a gothic vibe from the story and it was a constant companion. Always present, weighting on my thoughts. Surprisingly right from a book happening in Oklahoma and not in a Scottish castle! The reason for this feeling is an additional unanimated character: Catherine’s big, old and spooky house. This house is filled with whispers and creaking noises. The Juniper is looming ominously throughout the book filling the pages with a constant tension. What secrets are hidden within these walls?
Second important element: the secret.
When I was reading Catherine and Elliott’s story I found it sweet, cute and somewhat angsty but I was headed toward 4 stars. The “I liked it very very much but I did not get my wow factor”. Then I learned Catherine’s secret and I was BLOWN AWAY! I nearly feel off my chair!
I had been tricked all along. Blinded. Totally and utterly blinded!!!
So now I want to bow to Jamie McGuire because she wrote a really unique and grave story.
But the worst is …. I CAN’T TELL YOU!
Of course if I explain the secret all your fun will go away and that’s a big no no!
So let’s get back to a mini plot summary (think Mini Moy summary) and develop the main characters.
Catherine’s family has been wealthy decades ago but their business had poisoned the town and now she and her mom are considered like pariah. They are responsible for every illness striking the town’s people.
Catherine will be constantly bullied and lonely.
Elliott Youngblood is part native American and met Catherine while he was young, up in a tree to catch great pictures. He saw her at a very sad time when little Catherine had to bury her dog in her backyard.
From that first glimpse Elliott fell for Catherine. He really fell hard for her but she didn’t saw him before years as he visited his aunt and uncle every summer, needing a breath from the constant fighting between his parents.
When they properly met Elliott had braces, glasses and was all gangly.
“ “I know. I’m Elliott. Want to walk down to Braum’s with me for an ice-cream cone?” He was half a head taller than me, but by the looks of it, we weighed the same. His arms and legs were too long and skinny, and he hadn’t quite grown into his ears. His high cheekbones protruded enough to make his cheeks appear sunken, and his long, stringy hair didn’t help the appearance of his oval face.”
They soon became friends. Catherine was not alone anymore. They spent a wonderful summer together that ended dramatically.
When Catherine lived the worst day of her young live Elliott had to leave suddenly without saying goodbye.
Can you imagine what Catherine felt?
Betrayed and lonely. Rejected once more. These were her feelings.
When Elliott came back years later ….let’s just say that he had much groveling to do.
This story about loyalty and love.
Elliott’s loyalty to Catherine. His utter devotion to her. He was protective. He would have given his life before letting her be hurt.
Catherine’s loyalty to her mom. I have never read about a more dedicated daughter to her mother. Her mother was fragile and Catherine had to protect and care for her constantly. She had no happy childhood or carefree teenage years.
Catherine’s mom loyalty to the family house. She could not bear to be parted with this family inheritance even if it was in dire need of repairs and they had no money to care for it. This huge and menacing house dragged them down.
This was a story about abuse, be it from bullies, from neglect by parents or by physical blows.
This was a story about saving you and helping others.
You can’t help others if you are trapped. You can’t get someone out of quicksand if you’re stuck in it, too,”
This is a story about difference and racial issues.
In this small town many people would treat Elliott badly because he was part First Nation or native kid. Elliott had to grow a thick skin and to let it go. But of course once he became the football star all was forgiven and people did not see his skin color anymore! I’m always angry when I read such hypocrisy! I consider someone’s worth not based on his skin color, religion or gender but I will rank him based on his actions. There are good and bad people in every culture. The same you have smart and idiots in every religion. To say witnessing such hypocrisy made my blood boil is an understatement!
And on that topic I so loved that quote!
“My uncle John says people can only make us angry if we let them, and if we let them, we give them power.” “That you either get good at rising above and meeting ignorance with education, or you get really good at being bitter.”
I loved both main characters but Catherine was harder to really connect to. As he holds her secret close she held the reader at arm’s length. Hard to connect with someone who wants to be left alone for fear of having her secret unraveled! Yet I had so much compassion for that poor girl who shouldered so many responsibilities alone! When I discovered the truth I was horrified!
Elliott Youngblood on the other hand was very easy to fall for. He was a handsome giant who preferred hitting trees when he was angry than risk hurting someone.
Elliott is dedicated, protective, smart, artsy, handsome, courageous and loyal. The perfect her for this young adult novel.
To conclude I would say that Jamie tackled very difficult topics with an absolute mastery in the storytelling. When you’ll reach the end of the book you’ll realize that Jamie spoke about a very sensitive and not so well-known topic in a realistic and skilled fashion.
Recommend it? Without a doubt and please go on with the book, don’t DNF because you’ll miss the whole purpose of the story.
Another favorite quote because it happened when Presley bullied Catherine constantly and Elliott defended her (it was sooo good)
“You know why you’ll never outgrow the need to make others feel like shit so you can feel better, Presley?” She narrowed her eyes at him, watching him like a snake ready to strike. Elliott continued, “Because it’s a temporary high. It never lasts, and you’ll never stop because it’s the only happiness you’ll ever have in your sad, pathetic life that revolves around manicures and highlighting your hair. Your friends? They don’t like you. No one ever will because you don’t like yourself. So every time you give Catherine a hard time, she’ll know. She’ll know why you’re doing it, just like your friends will know. Just like you’ll know that you’re overcompensating. Every time you throw insults Catherine’s way, it’s that much less of a secret.” He made eye contact with each clone and then Presley. “Have the day you deserve.”
Once again a huge thank you to Montlake Romance for its trust.
Let’s chat: do you love surprises in books? Have you read Jamie McGuire’s books before?
Thanks for reading!