Monday, January 26, 2015
ARC Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Title: I'll Meet You There
Author: Heather Demetrios
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
When it comes to Heather Demetrios, I've come to expect that my expectations will be blown out of the water. It doesn't matter just how outrageously excited I may be for her novels to release and, believe me, even the hype can't ruin the feeling of finishing a Demetrios novel--that click when it feels as if a small part of the world--and yourself, in the process--is repaired,without even realizing it needed fixing. I'll Meet You There is not only a profoundly realistic, human tale; it's one that transcends boundaries, particularly those invisible ones the YA genre feels all-too-trapped in.
I'll Meet You There is slow to start and open to end--just the way I like it. In fact, the magnitude of this novel is at a low simmer when you first begin to read until, suddenly, you're embroiled in the tension; it crept on you. Skylar and Josh, the protagonists of this tale, are, from the surface, far from "likable" people. And, as Demtrios builds the fictional town of Creek View, it isn't difficult to see why. The women of Creek View typically find themselves pregnant at seventeen, living and raising their children on a trailer park only to see history repeat itself, generation after generation. Skylar, though, has one foot out of Creek View already and after the three hot, sticky summer months, she'll be in art school, determined to never look back. When her mother loses her job, however, and spirals into depression, it seems as if Skylar is forced to plant both feet firmly back into Creek View, despite the fact that it's the last thing she wants to do. Josh, on the other hand, left Creek View--and returned, only this time, only with one leg. After joining the Marines, his ticket out of Creek View, Josh changed--drastically. No longer the drunk womanizer who curses and plays pranks, war has left Josh hurting. Although he quickly falls back into his old ways, the unexpected friendship he strikes with Skylar reveals that there is far more to him than his persona may suggest.
Demetrios has a way with words, one that leaves you feeling. Just feeling. About everything. From the despair that settles over Skylar's shoulders as she contemplates a life stuck in Creek View to the horrors of war that play behind Josh's eyelids every time he blinks, it's impossible to crack open the spine of this story without endangering your heart to fictional characters in the best possible way. Skylar and Josh's romance is slow to develop, as it should be with two such opposite, angry, and deeply pained protagonists. What makes Skylar and Josh so perfect for one another is the fact that they take the time to see beneath the veneer, have the patience to wait until the time is right, and are willing to lend the ear needed to peel off the paint. Yet, their slow transition from acquaintances to friends to more is interspersed with dialogue, banter, jokes, and fights. Neither Skylar nor Josh are perfect and their flaws are apparent, bleeding through every page, but it is those very same qualities which render them such poignant characters.
Moreover, despite their flaws, they are both characters who straddle the line between "likable" and "unlikable," proving that there's so much more to them than just black-and-white. Skylar is strong-willed and ambitious, but those qualities also emphasize her weaker moments where her loyalty seems to shift towards selfishness versus selflessness. Josh, too, with his moments of guilt and helplessness shows, all too clearly, that there is substance to him beyond his past actions but that his future is tied up with his past, particularly Afghanistan, and moving on means moving past not only his perceptions of himself but those of others as well. Despite the fact that I've grown up in a town that's the antithesis to Creek View, despite the fact that I've always seen my mother as a pillar of strength and inspiration and never as a burden or disappointment, despite the fact that I've never known the struggles of war; despite all that, I still felt deeply for these characters and connected with them on a purely personal level.
What's more, I'll Meet You There has a stellar cast of secondary characters whose personalities, goals, hopes, and dreams are far removed from that of either Skylar or Josh. Dylan, for instance, Skylar's best friend, won't be leaving Creek View and at one point in the novel, she completely calls Skylar out for acting as if staying back is the lesser option. Dylan and Skylar's friendship is rock solid but I think it's also demonstrative of so many close friendships in high school where college means that one person in a former duo is going farther. It happened to me--I'm the one who left in my friend group--and, much like Skylar, I admit to being ecstatic at the choice to leave my hometown. But, that doesn't quite make us better people and I love that Dylan's perspective grounds Skylar, making her appreciate the options she has without looking down upon the existence others have chosen to live.
I'll Meet You There is told primarily from Skylar's perspective but there were a few chapters told from Josh's POV and, though Demetrios excels at capturing the male voice and distinguishing Josh's narrative from that of Skylar's, I didn't find every insight into his mind to be completely necessary. I felt as if Demetrios gained traction with Josh's perspective as the novel wore on and, by the end, I really loved being in his mind and felt closer to him as a result but, like all good things in this novel, it took awhile. I'll Meet You There is only Demetrios's sophomore contemporary piece and, with only three books under her belt, she writes like a seasoned author; confident, willing to take risks, and able to gauge the direction that the genre she writes in needs to go. Each one of her novels have been original and enticing, filled with characters I can get behind and a style of prose so impressive I wish to imitate it myself. Needless to say, with I'll Meet You There Demetrios as only secured her spot as one of my favorite authors and, no matter what she chooses to write next, I know that I will both buy, and love, it.