I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Published Henry Holt 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Format: Hardback from the library
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.
If I had written a review for this book right after I read it, like I’m supposed to, and not a month later (the shame…), this would be a very different review. I might go on and on about how much I loved the characters and the relationship and the romance and all of that. But alas, after I finished this book, I had some tech problems and couldn’t post anything for a while. Leaving this review, and this book, to mull over in my brain. And when I was creating a Top Ten Tuesday post recently, I decided to include this book. However, I had a problem. I couldn’t remember the character’s name. So this is not going to be the glowing review I once thought it would be.
Josh is the stand-out superstar, MVP of this book.
Plain and simple, he saved the story over and over again. I loved his one-two page perspectives and the way he was written. His PTSD felt real and emotional, not like something created just for the sake of romance. There is a lot of discussion in this book about the military and Josh’s youthfulness being taken away from him – something that we need more of in young adult fiction. This whole sector of veterans in our population is typically ignored, and that’s really sad, considering they risk their lives for us. The part of the book that sticks out the most for me, even now, is when Josh says that he doesn’t like when people thank him for his service.
What I’m saying is that the book would’ve been better if it was just Josh.
I liked Skylar. Don’t get me wrong. But I couldn’t remember who she was, and when I think about really great characters, that’s what I want. I want someone whose personality or thoughts or opinions or struggles sticks out and pushes me to think about my own life – especially when reading contemporary. Josh totally did that, but Skylar? Not so much. I felt like she was dealing with the same struggles as every young adult character – lives in a small town, has parental problems, wants to leave and uses college as her opportunity to do that. I did not hate Skylar. I felt like her struggles were real and deserved. But I wanted something more out of them.
One of the moments that still strikes me is when Skylar’s best friend tells her that not everyone wants to leave their sleepy California town. I LOVED that moment. I grew up in a small town, and I felt absolutely no necessity to leaving like so many young adult protagonists. Sure, I wanted to – but I was not going to leave my entire life behind for it. There is a part of me that wants to examine this from a sociologist lens (I once read about how recently, teenagers are more likely to want to leave and migrate around the US), but this review isn’t really the time for that.
I wish that Skylar was a stronger main character. The people around her were so well developed. She wasn’t boring, but she should not have been our lead through this story. I would have loved to hear straight from Josh, or maybe one of her friends. Skylar felt very immature from the community she grew up in, and her voice didn’t align with everything else. I did like the plot and the discussion of her parents.
Overall, I liked this book, but I do not think that Skylar was the one to tell it. I loved hearing from the PTSD-striken Josh, as well as some of the ideas on living in small town communities. However, Skylar and the romance between her and Josh did not pull it off well enough for me.