Before heading into this, I have to give a special mention to Melissa, the one who recommended me this book day and night until I read it. I can’t thank her enough – I’ll Meet You There was everything I expected it to be and more. It was the kind of book that make my heart grow and swell and explode inside my chest as I read and that, my friends, definitely is the sign of a great story.
WELL-SHAPED MAIN CHARACTERS TO ROOT FOR
“But I knew it was too much to wish that Creek View would be wiped off the face of the earth forever. The other towns needed us: you can’t have the light without the dark, right? Maybe our darkness was necessary for other people to see their light.”
I’ll Meet You There is the story of Skylar, eager to escape her small California town to San Francisco, her trailer park, her life as it is right now. I’ll Meet You There is the story of Josh, back to that same Californian small town from Afghanistan after serving as a Marine, broken both physically and mentally. I’ll Meet You There is the story of the two of them as their lives meet again, intertwine in a way none of them imagined it to.
Like in most of young adult contemporaries, the characters are the one making the story: this is not a fast-paced, breathtaking or mysterious, intriguing story, this is a story about life, about its characters and their way of going through life as they did not imagine to. If the characters are the ones at the heart of the book, they better be strong and well-shaped and boy, here, they were everything I expected them to be.
“Maybe all those years when Josh was running around town, acting like an idiot, he was just trying to find a way to escape. Maybe that was what all of us were doing, in our different ways.”
Skylar was such a complex, three-dimensional character: as the story goes on, I could relate to her and her feeling of wanting more than this small town life, this feeling of wanting to grow up, to escape, to discover the world and do more, this feeling of not exactly fitting in this small town canvas with all of the other people, like they were all just drawn in perfectly and she is standing at the edge of the canvas, not quite finding her place. As the story goes on, we find out so much about Skylar’s character, her feelings, her personality, her fears and ambitions: everything was well-shaped, realistically and without info-dumps: we could discover her as the story went on, which is the best way to get and absorb a character’s personality completely.
On the other hand, we have Josh, the other main character of this book. If the book is mostly narrated from Skylar’s point of view, Josh has a couple of short, quick chapters definitely helping us grasp his personality. It’s raw, it’s heartbreaking, it’s a messed-up world and jumble of thoughts as he is trying to get through this new part of his life, stuck at home while his friends are still out there fighting, trying to cope with everything that had happened to him out there, and so on.
“I don’t really know what it means to move on, but lately, with Sky, I’m starting to feel like I want to because when I look at her, I don’t see you or the war or any of the shit in my head. I just see her, and it’s like suddenly I can breathe again after holding my breath for so long.”
Having lost his own leg, having PTSD, we get to read his own side of the story, feel his pain and everything that had happened to him. If Josh’s behavior is, at times, a bit curious and annoying, given everything that had happened to him and thanks to these chapters inside of his mind, we are getting so much more from him and making this character jump off the page realistically.
COMPLEX, SWOON-WORTHY AND HEARTBREAKING RELATIONSHIPS
Something I love about contemporaries is how they are able to, by talking about different characters in different situations, feel like our lives, make us relate to the feelings, make us think about what’s actually going on in our minds and in our world. I’ll Meet You There manages to do that perfectly.
The relationships in this story are all complex and flawed, but in a perfect way. Skylar and Josh’s relationship is complicated: from almost strangers after not having seen each other for years, to friends again, to something more, everything develops slowly, naturally and in such a great way that I couldn’t help but swoon.
“My life was being planned in sentences that started with ‘We’ instead of ‘I’, yet it felt like the most natural transition in the world.”
Yet, if it seems to be at the heart of the story, the romantic relationship isn’t everything in this book: we get a fantastic glimpse of well-thought friendships between Skylar and her friends as they struggle to spend their last summer together, both thinking about the future, about escaping, both struggling between enjoying their last moments together and thinking about what will become of their friendship next. The feeling of moving away, moving on, changing lives and leaving all you’ve ever known in this hard, bittersweet moment you’re going to college is perfectly painted here in a relatable way and something that makes us think – or at least, made me think – about my own departure to college. It really helped that, as much as the main character, Skylar’s friends were well-developed, each with their own struggles, needs and wants out of life.
Family relationships are also a heavy subject in this book: having lost her dad, Skylar lives with her mother in the small trailer park and life is far from being perfect. As her mother deals with depression, struggles with keeping her own job and overall just to lead her life the right way, Skylar finds herself at crossroads more than once with her own mother. Both have such an ups-and-downs, complicated relationship that was heartbreaking, raw, realistic, just like the rest of the relationships in this book.
I really want to use this comparison to end my review, because it feels so true: in this book, Skylar’s fond of doing collage and I loved the metaphor for it in the story. Everything in this life, in this story, is like a collage. Broken, then put together again. Even if it’s not as perfect as it used to be, everything can feel complete again.
I’ll Meet You There was such a lovely book, with complex relationships, great character development. It wasn’t perfect but it was quite amazing and most definitely one I’d recommend to everyone. So, if you’re a fan of the genre, do yourself a favour and add this to your TBR right away.
Final rating: 4 drops!
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Heather Demetrios, I’ll Meet You There, Published by Henry Holt and Co, February 3rd 2015.
If Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing separating Skylar from art school is three months of summer…until Skylar’s mother loses her job, and Skylar realizes her dreams may be slipping out of reach.
Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.
What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.
Compelling and ultimately hopeful, this is a powerful examination of love, loss, and resilience.