Stunning debut novel, a “new adult” social drama and touching romance
Reading Level: New Adult
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages: 224 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Nineteen-year-old Travis Stephenson is on leave after serving his first of four years as an active-duty U.S. Marine. He has just finished a grueling tour in Afghanistan where an IED blew up his best friend Charlie right in front of Travis. As a result, Travis is suffering from PTSD in the form of anxiety, depression and intense, debilitating flashbacks and nightmares. Staying with his family is anything but reassuring. His promiscuous ex-girlfriend is dating his brother, his father is cold and critical, and his mother is filing for divorce because Travis’s father is cheating on her. Worst of all, Travis is afraid to admit to anyone that he thinks he’s losing his mind. Then he runs into Harper Gray, a girl whose reputation he ruined in middle school by never bothering to correct vicious rumors about her that he carelessly started. In spite of a rocky start to their relationship in the form of her punching him in the face in retribution for his past misdeeds, Harper proves to be a warm, sensitive person, and she rapidly becomes more important to Travis than anyone else in his life.
This book is so brilliantly written, I was stunned at its emotional impact. Travis is an incredibly sympathetic character, and his plight is movingly written without ever being maudlin or melodramatic. His story is intensely honest and real, and the author does a remarkable job conveying what Travis’s life is like as a Marine, both in Afghanistan, and on returning home on leave.
Every character in this book is distinctly and realistically drawn, and Travis’s individual relationships with his mother, brother, father, slutty ex-girlfriend, Marine buddies, the deceased Charlie (told through flashbacks and visions), and most of all, his romance with Harper, are all tightly and convincingly written.
The writing itself is outstanding. It serves the story well, without overly drawing attention to itself.
Because of the maturity of the subject matter, this book is most suitable for teens over the age of 17 and adults.
I read the Kindle edition of this book, and it is quite well edited and formatted.
I rate this book as follows:
Social Drama Plot: 5
Romance Plot: 5