Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review: Come See About Me by C. K. Kelly Martin

Title: Come See About Me

Author: C. K. Kelly Martin

Rating: 4.5 Stars

I've taken to fleeing inside a closet whenever I hear the term "New Adult." It's a shame as I believe the genre has a great deal of potential, particularly because of the age group it's confined to. Thanks to hordes of mis-marketing when the term was first coined, however, New Adult will forever be associated with vapid heroines, hunky heroes, and dramatic situations. Not only does the genre manage to completely gloss over the complexity of the first adult years, but it also becomes increasingly predictable, the final pages of a book more cloying than satisfying.

Come See About Me, on the other hand, is a far cry from the dozens of novels hitting shelves these days. From beginning to end, this book drowns you in a sea of complex emotions, its prose evocative and strangely compelling, despite its subject matter. Moreover, while Martin's stark realism can be difficult to swallow at times, it is a much appreciated slap into reality. 
Come See About Me won't be a book for everyone, but as a reader who actively seeks gritty novels that are deserving of their "realistic" tag line, this novel was a godsend.

Martin's first foray into adult literature is not a simple piece to get into. Within the first few chapters of this novel, we are introduced to our narrator, Leah, and the heart-wrenching realities she must face every day. Bastian, Leah's long-time boyfriend, has only recently been killed and, unable to cope with his sudden death, Leah has moved to a small town on the outskirts of Toronto known as Oakville. I wouldn't be surprised if many readers were turned off by a sample of this novel, merely because these first pages are hard to read. Martin's writing pulls you into Leah's head, which is a dark and depressing place. And while Leah is drowning in emotion, caught up in her grief and pushing the rest of the world aside, her feelings seep into your skin.

For me, this is a testament of Martin's writing skills. Although I can't say I enjoyed the beginning of this novel, it was powerful, ensuring I was wholly invested in Leah's tale. And, don't you doubt it, 
Come See About Me is Leah's story, through-and-through. While the synopsis for this novel relies heavily on the romantic components, in reality, the romance is an after-thought. Martin's novel instead explores Leah's gradual healing process as she learns to cope with her grief and move on into the future - on her own.

I feel as if I cannot emphasize this point enough. I'm so used to seeing couples in books heal one another that it was such a pleasant surprise to see good-old time and thought heal Leah. Following Bastian's death, Leah is unable to move forward and the worry of her close family and friends - their expectations, really, that she get on with life and not allow this event to derail her future - is suffocating. Instead of complying with their wishes, Leah moves away to be alone and though her apathy to the world still exists, it slowly begins to wear away. Martin paces Leah's growth impeccably and, moreover, I particularly love the small decisions Leah begins to consciously make, whether it be reviving a friendship she has neglected or just forcing herself to eat dinner with her neighbors. Though Leah doesn't want to let go of Bastian or his memory, she does - however subconsciously - want to live again and the slow manner in which she re-discovers pieces of herself is beautiful.

Come See About Me also offers a surprisingly diverse cast: old lesbian neighbors, a Korean best friend whose younger sister breaks under the expectations of an immigrant household, an African American family who is wealthy and educated unlike the typical stereotype. Best of all, though, these inclusions never feel forced. Whether it be a traumatic plot thread or these atypical characters, their presence throughout the novel never jolts the arc of the story and only enriches it. Moreover, they contribute greatly to Leah's own growth and acceptance of her life after Bastian's death and the friendships that Leah sustains are real; messy, often difficult to maintain, but true in their affection.

Nevertheless, what I love most about this novel is that there are no heroes in it; just normal people doing their best to live with what's been given to them. Leah never romanticizes Bastian and though the two had a healthy and sustainable relationship, she acknowledges his flaws and the fact that her grief is, in large part, for the future they would never have the opportunity to share. Moreover, the relationship she strikes up with Liam, an Irish TV actor hiding away in tiny Oakville to escape problems of his own back in Dublin, is shockingly unromantic. Both Leah and Liam are at difficult stages of their life, but the purely physical companionship they find in one another quickly spirals out of control. Although neither of them want another relationship - and reiterate that their interactions are strictly temporary - they nevertheless feel very real, especially as what was meant to be un-complicated becomes increasingly complex over time.

Martin, however, never compromises Leah or Liam's troubles for the sake of the other. Neither is able to provide the comfort or support the other needs, emotionally or mentally, which makes what they share so much rawer and difficult to place a label upon. It isn't a classic tale of a broken hero and heroine who find it in themselves to reach out and heal one another. Instead, the relationship between Liam and Leah remains one of friendship and intimacy, but of a distant kind as neither is ready for something more "real". While the novel is narrated from Leah's perspective, though, it is impossible not to feel strangely close to Liam. Granted, these two lack the familiarity of sharing a bathroom cabinet or knowing how the other feels from their tone of voice, but the glimpses of hurt and pain they release to one another are all the more revealing. And despite the fact that Liam is upfront about his personality, honest that he isn't the nicest of guys, his charm and troubles never fail to work in his favor (which really just means that yes, his accent is alluring, and yes, his looks are even more killer).

Come See About Me has, surprisingly, filled the long-time hole inside of me that has been craving for something more. I've been feeling unfulfilled as a reader off-late, but this novel depicts life, friendships, relationships, and growth in a light that isn't always neat or clean or easy, but rather one that is far less pretentious and rewarding. Moreover, I adore its ending; open, but with just enough temporary closure to satisfy readers who shy away from non-endings. Although this is only my first Martin novel, her richly depicted characterizations and beautiful prose will keep me coming back for more. For anyone who doesn't love a book placed in a tidy box and tied up with a fancy ribbon, this one is for you.


  1. Gritty reads are on and off for me lately. Either I've been loving them or hating them--though I think it really just depends on the MC. Glad you could connect with all the characters, Keertana!

    Lovely review! <33

  2. I can't imagine the pain Leah would be going through with her boyfriend committing suicide! It's nice that this doesn't follow the standard NA recipe. This sounds like an emotionally difficult read, but I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, Keertana. Wonderful review! :)

    1. Rachel, just to clarify, Leah's boyfriend is killed by a car while crossing the street. It's the sudden death aspect of the situation that causes Leah to be unable to cope. I think you'll enjoy this one, though, so I'm curious to see your tale on it should you decide to read it. :)

  3. wow. thanks for this recommendation. sounds good!

  4. The pull of this book, especially the colorful secondary cast is extremely strong. However, you know me - an escapist through and throuhg. I went through losing someone extremely important several years back and I'm not sure I'm quite ready to be taken back there.
    It does sound amazing, though.

  5. I like the sound of this diverse cast, and more importantly, that it isn't presented as anything that isn't simply natural. Often, I'll find these things are incorporated as a side thought, or just for inclusion's sake. I also really like the sound of Leah taking charge of her own growth. This sounds wonderful! I haven't ever come across it before, so thanks for putting it on my radar. Lovely review, Keertana. :)

    P.S. I hope you're enjoying World After!

  6. Fantastic review. I love the idea of this book, and it seems to have been executed so well. What I like is that it genuinely does seem real just from hearing about Leah's struggles and the real characters. What also draws me in is that it takes place in Ontario, which is really hard to find in books.:p

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  7. This sounds similar to He's Gone by Deb Caletti in the prospect of getting over one's partner. I'm always up for a good gritty, depressing book and I wouldn't mind giving this one a shot. The romance in the book sounds very real and interesting, I'm curious. Beautiful review, Keertana!

  8. Girl hands down for the first paragraph! I feel the same, which is the shame as I'm creating prejudice so easily and I miss some great reads. This one sounds like something I cannot miss. I love the sound of the characters and the whole plot. Amazing review, Keertana! :)

  9. This sounds exceptional, Keertana, and that's coming from someone who avoids NA like the plague. It's refreshing to see an author give us something more than just hot sex and steamy characters for the upper YA crowd. I'm definitely adding this to my radar. Wonderful review!

  10. I've been reluctant about picking up this book, but now I see that i missed something really good.
    Great review, girl!

    Glass @ Way Too Hot Books

  11. Beautiful review Keertana! I'm glad this book transcends some of the more frustrating aspects of the NA genre and is so very successful as a result. I'm thinking this might be a bit heavy of a read for me at this time of year (the holidays have me wanting to read cute, light romances, I can't help it!), but I'm keeping this on my list for when I'm in a mood for dark and emotional:)

  12. I was literally just looking at this book on Goodreads and Amazon (and wishing it was a bit cheaper...) because I read THIS TTT post: (

    I included the link because I think you would appreciate it, K because I feel the same way as you about the over the top NA plot lines as well as the bad boy w/ back history hooking up with the good girl with even more past history trope that has overrun that genre thus far (which is what that TTT post addresses.)

    But I am excited to hear that this book--which seems to be a hit with nearly everyone-- was also one with you!

  13. I don't mind some openness to an ending, but yes, I'm one of those that do need some closure. Hm... I shy away from these kind of books, but I don't know why. I usually end up enjoying myself. This does sound like a good contemp. I do think you just added it to my wishlist. :)

  14. I'm not sure this book would be for me! I've started to shy away from heavy grief books. They're jus too much! BUT I'm glad this book eschews the normal NA genre. I really like the way you describe these people as being regular and not heroes, and the story as having beautiful prose.


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