Monday, February 3, 2014
ARC Review: Me Since You by Laura Wiess
Title: Me Since You
Author: Laura Wiess
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: February 18th, 2014
I'll admit it: I picked up this book for its cover alone. In fact, I've been itching to try a Wiess novel precisely because of her covers. Either they are breath-taking in their beauty or eye-catching in their simplicity. Wiess's latest novel, though not perfect, has certainly ignited a thirst for more of her work. With an effortless writing style, Wiess captures dark, gritty emotions in their rawest form. Granted, her novels are not easy to read - not by a long shot - but they are worth it.
Me Since You is a difficult novel to describe, merely because it a two-fold story. Our novel begins with Rowan Areno cutting class. Rowan's father is a police man and after witnessing horrible crimes day after day, he's more than just a little over protective of his only daughter. After finding her sitting alone in a booth at McDonald's (after her best friend and two cute senior boys ditched her to go to the beach), Officer Areno takes his daughter home and is about to sit her down for a scolding when he receives an urgent call. As the closest one to the scene, Rowan's father cruises out to a bridge where a man is planning to commit suicide with his three-month-year-old baby boy in his hands. Eli, whose father was killed in the army, is also on that bridge, walking his dog. And despite the efforts of Rowan's father, the man jumps and kills himself.
After the incident, Rowan's life is turned upside down. For one, the neighborhood she lives in ostracizes her father for not saving the life of a depressed man. When the video of what transpired leaks online, her father gives in to his inner demons. While life with her father is no longer easy, it is still easier than what comes afterward: suicide. Rowan knows her father loved her and her mother but she cannot understand why he would kill himself. Me Since You explores grief in a deep, visceral manner, both as a recipient and as an outsider. After the incident on the bridge, Rowan struggles to maintain her friendships and push through with school, striking up an easy relationship with Eli who, shockingly, seems to understand her. Just as her life seems to be returning to a state of normalcy, however, her father commits suicide and Rowan shuts herself off from the world. Completely.
Me Since You touches upon the deep-rooted sickness of depression in an engaging manner. We first witness the extent of depression through the eyes of Rowan's father as he struggles to convince a man to live, to let his new-born child live. We see it again through the eyes of Rowan as her father begins to take medication, sees a therapist, and attempts to survive through each day. It isn't easy to see a parent, especially one you believed was constantly strong and a source of support, succumb to weakness. But Rowan's father does his best to get his life back on track. As requested, he takes time off from work. As advised, he goes to talk over his issues with a psychiatrist. As told, he takes anti-depressant pills. And yet, he still commits suicide. After all his efforts and despite the love his family bears for him, he loses his will to live on.
After this horrific action, Rowan needs time for herself. While her romance with Eli - understanding, sweet, calming, gentle - is just on the verge of taking off, she is blinded by her grief and unable to pursue anything more with him. Eli, who lives with his father's death every day, who walks the dog that served in the army with his father, understands better than anyone. Even when Rowan's friends ask her to heal quickly, even when her remaining family pushes her to forgive her father, Eli gives her the space she needs. As such, their romance is a minimal aspect to this novel, but an important one. While they don't heal one another, they do help one another, and the understanding they share due to their traumatic pasts makes them an ideal match.
One of my favorite aspects to this tale, though, is Rowan's healing. Not only does Rowan write letters to her father, voicing her disbelief, her anger, and her sorrow, but the relationship she sustains with her mother is beautifully portrayed. Both these women have been touched by the same grief, but in different ways. Rowan and her mother are healing at different paces and through different mediums. After her husband's death, Rowan's mother takes it upon herself to house stray cats - eleven of them. It is only when her parents - Rowan's grandparents - yell some sense into her that she begins to accept that her husband is truly gone. While Rowan doesn't need to be there for anyone, her mother does need to be there for her which makes that burden of grief all the more painful, in some ways. Wiess charts these issues with grace, though, creating three-dimensional characters we can get behind and emotions we feel, despite not wanting to touch these difficult topics.
Where my criticism with Me Since You arises is in its conclusion. Rowan's father, despite being a meticulous man, fails to leave a suicide note which haunts Rowan. Although she heals, she is unable to fully let go of her grief until, eventually, she does find a suicide note. For me, this felt like a cop-out. In her debut, Courtney Summers writes about a young teenage girl coping with the suicide of her father - a girl who never finds a suicide note, never finds a reason, but still manages to heal. Me Since You seemed to be following this very same and poignant path until the tail-end, which ruined the impact of the story for me. Nevertheless, despite that, this novel discusses the issue of suicide and depression in a heart-felt manner and for fans of issue books, this one covers that scope beautifully - and even beyond.