Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all, there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss, a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.This book was way more solid than I was expecting. I don’t know why, but for some reason I thought it would end up being a superficial treatment of grief or that the romance would take over, but neither was true. I think this is pretty realistic portrayal of the grieving process someone would go through if they lost their whole family. Obviously, it was a pretty serious book, but it wasn’t a total downer or anything. Laurel’s growth is inspiring to see, and the book ultimately ends up being quite hopeful.
I also really liked that you get to see two different methods of grieving: Laurel for her family and David for his. They both deal with the grief in very different ways, but you never get the sense that the author is condemning one or the other. It feels more like a message that everyone deals with hardship and sadness in their own ways. I also liked that Laurel and David were eventually able to get to a place emotionally where they could help and support each other—where they can give each other advice that matters. I thought it was quite touching, actually.
One other thing I appreciated was the slow arc of Laurel and David’s relationship. It’s slow and rocky and realistic—and I thought it felt particularly well-paced. And although there’s a bit of a love triangle going on, it didn’t bother me. Maybe because it seemed to me that Laurel really didn’t know which boy was best for her—they each have their strengths and weaknesses. I feel like usually in love triangles, one of the boys is clearly better for the girl than the other, but that’s not the case here. Both David and Joe have things to offer Laurel that she needs or wants, so it’s a legitimately complicated choice, and I didn’t feel like she was playing one against the other or taking advantage of the situation or being dishonest with either boy.
The only thing that struck me as strange about the book was that although David’s mom dies in the crash along with Laurel’s family, everyone in the town seems to forget that fact. Everyone is always commiserating with Laurel and wanting to commemorate her family, but no one seems to remember David’s mother—which I thought was rather sad, even if it wasn’t intentionally done by the author.
Overall, I think this is a worthwhile book to read about the grieving process. It has a lot of good things going for it and deals with the sad and hard things without getting too depressing.
Rating: 3.5 /5