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A disturbing reverse chronology of first romance gone horribly wrong.
Ann regains consciousness on her bedroom floor, bruised and bloodied, one wrist broken, and reflects on the past year. How did her loving, thoughtful boyfriend Connor transform into this unpredictable, violent monster? It seems impossible to reconcile Connor's two sides, but as readers follow Ann's mental snapshots, working backward from one August to another, they will unearth clue after red-flag–raising clue pointing toward Connor's poorly controlled anger and borderline-suicidal feelings of worthlessness and Ann's own desperate desire to be needed and loved. When these two damaged, yearning souls connect, their problems simmer, then boil over into a foul brew of codependency and isolation from everyone who might help them. The parental characters are stock—Connor's parents are locked in a years-long abusive dance, while Ann's mother is still so lost in grief over her husband's death that she hasn't said "I love you" to Ann in three years—but Ann and Connor are more finely drawn than expected, inhabiting every shade of hope, despair, confusion, ecstasy, longing, rage and guilt with heartbreaking realism. Although Grace's efforts surpass Jennifer Brown's Bitter End (2011), they fall victim to the cliché that only emotionally scarred young women are drawn to abusive young men.
Flawed, but powerful and compulsively readable. (Fiction. 14-18)