I'm Thalia! I run a book blog called Pictures in the Words and I hope to be an editor for YA fiction. I'm a GoodReads refugee!
This book definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. I’ve always had a stigma about books written in second-person narration, but this is the second book I’ve read that I absolutely loved because of its narration. Nell is supposed to be a freshman in high school, but her mature and lilting voice to her older sister really pulls you in and forces you to pay attention. You know this isn’t going to be a happy story because of the way Nell writes to Layla, and the fact that it’s like a letter—that she tells it all to her sister, to try and make her understand what she was going through by keeping secrets—just blew me away. I practically devoured it. It only had one major flaw that kept it from being truly sensational, but it didn’t ruin the entire book for me (as you can see from my rating). I’ve never read one of Reinhardt’s books before this, but considering how haunting this story was, it’s definitely something I’ll have to consider!
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
· Maybe I’m falling in love with second person narration. But I have to say; writing in second person is hard. It’s hard to capture the emotion that goes into spilling your heart to another person; it’s hard to show, without being whiny, how much the secrets we keep for the people we love can hurt us; as a writer, it’s hard to emotively write a letter to someone who doesn’t physically exist in the real world. Second person narration is not easy, and oftentimes I feel like most writers just go with a third person narration because it doesn’t confine them to one character, it doesn’t limit the story in any way. But Reinhardt took the most confining type of narration, limited to one character speaking to another, and did something completely amazing with it. She let us really get inside Nell’s head in a way that we couldn’t have otherwise.
· Something else I really enjoyed about this novel is the way it presented the conflict. Student/teacher relationships are a tricky subject. And it’s a subject that gets even murkier when you add in the fact that the student thinks she’s in “real love” with that teacher and is willing to do almost anything to ensure they stay together. Nell let us see how difficult it was to watch Layla change—how she went from super star student to closed-off and secretive about everything. Nell tried to convince herself that it was all okay because it was what Layla wanted, but she was able to prove to us that keeping it secret wasn’t the best course of action—no matter how her sister felt. I love when books can actually teach you a lesson—and this one taught that no matter how happy someone seems on the surface, when it’s wrong, it’s wrong, plain and simple. I really hope that kids in school read this book and see that, so if they’re ever presented with a similar issue, they’ll have a little bit of knowledge about how to deal with it.
What I Didn’t Like:
· The thing that bothered me most about this book was the ending—hands down. When you spend this much time with a set of characters in such a sticky situation, you want to see how it all plays out. In a weird, sick way, you want to see everything explode and the you-know-what hit the fan and watch as it all falls apart and puts itself back together again. You need that climax, that resolution—and maybe Reinhardt’s decision to instead end the novel right before Nell tells her parents about what’s going on was artistic in a way, but not in a way that at all satisfied me. As a result, there was no climax; there was no resolution. We were left with action that kept rising, but never actually went anywhere. It took away the part that we needed to see the most, so we could understand where the story would go from there. I didn’t need a happy ending—but I needed an ending of some kind. Maybe it was supposed to be artistic, but it came off as lazy to me, and that was supremely disappointing after how much I had enjoyed the book up to that point. It just…stopped. An extra hundred pages to reach everything else and create a full story would have been great—I would have read it happily.
Overall: Despite how I felt about the ending (or lack thereof), I would definitely recommend this book. It’s a great one for high school-ers, especially, and I loved that Nell was a freshman who proved that you could have elegant, pretty writing with a young character. Please don’t let the second person narration scare you away, because it makes the story all the more captivating and enchanting. This is one I wouldn’t mind having a hard copy of on my shelf!