Published by Macmillan on February 3, 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Emotions & Feelings, Friendship, Love & Romance, Young Adult
If seventeen-year-old 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 standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off 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 dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.
I was provided with a digital review copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Macmillan for the opportunity.
We all have that one book right? Or maybe it’s two or three books. The ones that stick with us long after we’ve read them. That you could start reading all over again the second you reach the end. That special book that speaks to your heart and touches you in a way no other book has in the past. For me, that book is I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios.
I’ll Meet You There is the story of two broken hearts, brought together in their shared pain, and how they work together, and sometimes apart, to try to find a new way of life. Both Sky and Josh are so broken and beyond repair when they meet, that you just don’t know how they’re going to get themselves out of the situations they find themselves in. Josh is a returning war veteran, coming home to the wasted old town where he used to reign supreme. His return is not one of fanfare and celebration though, as he’s come back a much different man then when he left. Sky is facing her own demons in a town she’s so ready to leave behind, but the loss of her father and the resulting downward spiral of her mother, have left her reconsidering a future she was so desperate to attain. The way in which Demetrios shapes these two characters and who they are as a result of their dire circumstances is masterful. She provides such a vivid and haunting portrayal of a way of life that is not pretty, not at all romantic, but intensely raw. I appreciated what Demetrios did here because so many YA novels today feature young people living these privileged lives. It was such a jarring and welcome change of pace to see such intensity and grit in an ultimately uplifting and romantic story.
One of my very favorite parts of this novel were the sections between chapters where we get a glimpse of some entries in Josh’s personal journal. This intimate look into his inner thoughts provides so much insight into who he is as a person and what his motivations are. Since most of the story is told from Sky’s perspective, it’s so gratifying to get inside Josh’s head to learn his back story and why he is the way he is. These sections of the book are so heart-breaking, haunting and moving, and the thing I appreciated about them the most was how they evolved throughout the book, as Josh’s character evolved. It was truly inspiring to see this progression and most of my tears were shed in these moments.
I just want to go back, man. I want to be on post – I don’t care how boring it is. All I need is my gun and the guys and it doesn’t matter anymore that everything there is sad and hopeless and everything’s dead or dying. It’s like that here too.
There was so much about Josh that I normally wouldn’t connect with, but for some reason I immediately felt this need to protect him and make sure that he was going to be ok. He’s one of those characters that hides so much beneath the surface, but behind that mask of tough guy Marine was a man who was struggling in a very real and visceral way. One of the most amazing things about his character was that even in the midst of his own heartache, Josh still managed to be a driving force in Sky’s development. Bravo to Demetrios for giving us such a damaged but loving man in Josh Mitchell.
I can’t talk about Josh without sharing my love for Sky as the female protagonist of this book. She is one of the most likeable characters I have come across in a long time and I felt such sympathy for her and sadness over everything she was dealing with. Sky is in a delicate place when we meet her, right on the verge of a life-changing event when everything starts to fall apart. The future that she worked so hard to create for herself is threatened by the person closest to her, and she’s terrified that she’ll have to make a very painful decision of choosing between one or the other. There were times in this book that I wanted to grab Sky’s mother and shake the crazy out of her. I was so frustrated by her emotional immaturity and her lack of perspective when it came to her daughter. It just made me love Sky more though, to see her fight for her mom by trying to give her a better life when it really should have been the other way around. I was fascinated with Sky as a person and what made her tick. I felt like she was so connected with herself and was inspired by the way she coped with the hand life had dealt her. That’s not to say she had her weak moments! I mean, we ALL have our weak moments when it gets to be too much and that’s what made me connect with her on such a deep level.
Sky and Josh together? Absolute perfection. Granted, they have some extremely tense moments in this book and not everything is romance and happy times. Which is, again, something I absolutely adored about this book. Demetrios wrote a truly authentic relationship between Sky and Josh. One filled with misunderstandings, insecurity and fear; which to me, only made what they shared together so much more compelling. My heart ached for these two and I wanted nothing more than to see them come together in their shared experiences and help each other heal. The evolution of their relationship is a transformative, and I cannot tell you how much I grew to love them as individuals and together. I’ve never felt more connected to a couple than I did with Sky and Josh.
Finally, I have to talk about the Demetrios’ innate ability to place the reader IN the story. I can’t tell you how many passages I highlighted from this book that were just so gorgeous in their description of settings. Here’s a little snippet to give you an idea…
Dylan turned onto a narrow dirt lane bordered by cornfields and parked among the jumble of cars at the edge of a large clearing, her headlights slicing through the sudden darkness. Fields surrounded us on three sides, with the creek at the far end, boxing us in. I could just barely see its inky water, slithering beyond a wall of brush. The only light came from the fireworks people were setting off and a sliver of moon that played hide and seek behind a charcoal cloud. Smoke from the fireworks settled over the land like a thick mist. Everything – the moon, the fireworks, the fields – had an otherworldly beauty, and I shivered, greedy for these bits of loveliness the universe was throwing our way tonight.
The most amazing moments between these two characters happen in the most everyday and desolate locations. There were no cliffs overlooking the ocean or running through meadows for these two, but there was still so much beauty to be found. There’s a scene that takes place at the pool of an old roadside motel that Sky works at and it’s so, SO stunning in its simplicity and realism. Sky and Josh manage to find some beautiful moments in the midst of their bleak surroundings, which is a true testament to Demetrios’ skill as an author than she can turn such dreariness into such exquisiteness through her beautiful words.
Needless to say, “I’ll Meet You There” by Heather Demetrios has become one of my very favorite books I’ve ever read. it’s an intensely moving story filled with beautiful moments and heart-wrenching emotion.
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