A heart-wrenching novel about a sixteen-year-old girl trapped in an abusive relationshipand the path she takes to freedom and happiness, from award-winning author Heather Demetrios.
“Like Speak, it is one of those rare books that can have a real, lasting impact on readers, and can start important conversations.” Adi Alsaid, author of Let’s Get Lost and Never Always Sometimes
Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York directoranything but scared and alone.
Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape.
A deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest portrayal of a destructive relationship, Bad Romance is a young adult novel about spiraling into darknessand emerging into the light again.
Also by Heather Demetrios:
I'll Meet You There
Praise for Bad Romance:
“Like Speak, it is one of those rare books that can have a real, lasting impact on readers, and can start important conversations.” Adi Alsaid, author of Let’s Get Lost and Never Always Sometimes
“A raw, honest, unrelenting novel. Demetrios writes with heartbreaking clarity about the way first love can turn from safe to dangerous, from beautiful to ugly. Brave, bold, and deeply felt.” Corey Ann Haydu, author of OCD Love Story and The Careful Undressing of Love
“[A]n intense reflection on abusive relationships.” Publishers Weekly
“A realistic, worthwhile look at dating violence.” Kirkus Reviews
"Through Grace’s lively, engaging voice, readers gain a vivid picture of the way a smart, self-assured girl can fall into an abusive relationship . . . . Demetrios’ well-drawn characters are tremendously appealing, and Grace’s discovery of the power of her own strength will make readers cheer." Booklist
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By Heather Demetrios
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2017 Heather Demetrios
All rights reserved.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.
That's how long it takes me to start falling out of love with you. One year. Our own season of love. You do know which musical I'm referring to, right, Gavin? Because there's no way you can be my boyfriend and not know that of course, of course, I would bring Rent into this. Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes of your lips on mine and whispering in the dark and you picking me up and spinning me around and taking my virginity and fucking with my head and telling me I'm worthless, worthless, worthless.
If I were writing a musical about us, I wouldn't start where we're at right now, at the end. I would want the audience to really get how I was able to fall for you hook, line, and sinker. Girls don't fall in love with manipulative assholes who treat them like shit and make them seriously question their life choices. They fall in love with manipulative assholes (who treat them like shit and make them seriously question their life choices) who they think are knights in shining armor. You rode in on your fucking white horse, aka 1969 Mustang, and I was all like, My hero! But I am so tired of being a damsel in distress. In my next life, I'm going to be an ass-kicking ninja warrior queen. And I will hunt shits like you down. Throw your ass in a dungeon and drop the key in my moat and my lady knights will be all, Huzzah! and I will sit on my throne like, Yes.
But I can't daydream too much about my next life because I have to deal with you in this life. Before I break up with you, I want to reflect. I want to go back through us piece by piece. I want to remember why I was so ooey-gooey crazy in love with you. I want to know why it's taken me this long to figure out that you're poison.
So, I'm gonna Sound of Music this shit: Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start ...
There I am, downstage right, finishing my breakfast at the dining room table. It's my junior year. Winter. A Tuesday, which is better than Monday but not nearly as good as Wednesday. We aren't together yet, Gav, but, as my lusciously crass best friend Alyssa says, I am so hard for you. I've just finished my peanut butter toast and I'm thinking about how yesterday I saw you eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and wanted to lick the chocolate off your lips. Because that would be the most amazing kiss — Gavin Davis tasting like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. YES. You are my super happy place and I am there, la la la, trying to ignore my stepfather (who shall hereafter be known as The Giant). He's pounding around in the kitchen and muttering under his breath, and I know he wants me to be all, What's wrong?, but I'm not going to because he is an absolute fuck nut (that's an Alyssa expression, too — she's very linguistically creative) and nobody should have to deal with absolute fuck nuts without caffeine.
The Giant is displeased.
"Where the hell's my lunch?" he growls, louder now, as he paws through the refrigerator.
Today is the day that will change my life. But I don't know that, of course. I have no idea what's in store for me. What you, Gavin, have in store for me. All I know is that The Giant is ruining my Gavin daydreaming buzz and I really want some of that coffee in the pot, but I'm not allowed because they said so. Everything is Because we said so.
The Giant slams his lunch pail on the counter and opens it. It is only then that I remember what I'd forgotten to do last night before I went to bed.
I close my eyes and wish I had a Greek chorus to shake their fists at the sky for me (Oh, woe! Woe!) because this slight infraction could result in me losing my whole weekend.
"I'm sorry," I murmur. "I forgot to make it."
My head hangs in shame. I am the picture of Contrite and Subservient Female because this is what The Giant needs to see at all times. But that's on the outside.
On the inside, which The Giant can't get to no matter how hard he tries: screw you, make your own damn lunch, and while you're at it, clean your own car and do your own laundry, especially your boxers, and can I please stop having to clean your bathroom, because your stray pubic hairs make me nauseous?
I play this role of the beaten-down, cowed girl because I'm scared. Terrified, really. What little freedom I have is like a delicate piece of blown glass. The slightest push can make it shatter into a thousand million pieces. It wasn't always like this. Before my mom married The Giant, there was laughter in our house, random dance parties, adventures. Not anymore. I live in a kingdom ruled by a tyrant bent on my destruction.
The Giant curses under his breath and I want to be like, It won't kill you to make your own fucking sandwich. Seriously. Bread, turkey, mustard, Swiss: boom — you have a sandwich. Christ.
I hear a door open down the hall and then Mom is coming in with her own version of Contrite and Subservient Female on her face. My mom thinks invisible dirt is real, that disasters are around every corner. She thinks the Grim Reaper hides in the cracks between tiles, on top of baseboards, in the toilet bowl. She is unwell.
"What's going on?" she asks, looking from me to The Giant. Her lips pull down as she glances at me, like I'm already a disappointment and it's not even eight in the morning.
"Your daughter didn't make my lunch again and so I'll have to waste money today on getting lunch out again, that's what's going on." He looks at me and I can almost hear the thought in his head: You aren't my child — I wish you would get the hell out of my house forever.
"You better not be expecting to go to the movies on Friday with Natalie and Alyssa," he adds.
Big surprise. Let me guess: babysitting.
Don't get me wrong: even though Sam is half Giant, I love him to death. It's pretty hard to hate on a three-year-old. It's not his fault The Giant's his dad just as much as it's not my fault my dad is a former/possibly current cokehead who lives in another state and forgets my birthday every year.
Mom shoots me an irritated glare and brushes past me into the kitchen without another word. She pats The Giant on the arm, then pulls down a mug for coffee. It says #1 Mom on it, which is ten kinds of ironic. I want mug makers to start keeping it real. Like, why aren't there mugs that say Once Pretty Okay Mom Who Got Remarried and Stopped Caring About Her Kids? I mean, that's a lot of words, but if you use twelve-point font, you could totally rock that on a mug.
The Giant doesn't walk past me on his way out the door, he pushes past me, shouldering like a linebacker so that I'm forced into the entryway, my spine colliding with a corner of the wall. Pain shoots up my back. He doesn't notice. Or maybe he does. Bastard. As soon as he slams the door behind him, Mom turns on me.
"What have I told you about finishing your chores?" she says. "I'm getting tired of this, Grace. First it's not properly rinsing the dishes, then it's Roy's lunch or Sam's toys." She raises a finger in the threatening way of dictators everywhere: "You better get it together, young lady. You're walking on thin ice."
According to her, I'm always walking on thin ice. It's the topography of my life. Cold, about to break, always uncertain.
She doesn't have to tell me what happens if that ice breaks beneath my feet.
My dad promised to help me pay for drama camp this summer at Interlochen, this amazing program in Michigan. I've been saving for it like crazy, working doubles on the weekends at the Honey Pot so that I can help my dad scrape together the hundreds of dollars it costs to be free of suburban hell for a few weeks.
I hang my head even lower this time and become Beaten-Down Daughter.
She's the cousin of Contrite and Subservient Female, but more tired. If this were a musical, Beaten-Down Daughter would turn to the audience and sing something like "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Mis. There wouldn't be a dry eye in the house.
"I'm sorry," I say again, my voice soft.
It is an act of will not to let the frustration building inside me slip into my voice, my mouth, my hands. In order to stay Beaten-Down Daughter I keep my eyes on my baby-pink Doc Martens because lowering your eyes broadcasts your worthlessness and makes the other person feel better about themselves and increases the possibility of them being magnanimous. You asked me the story of my boots once and I told you about how I found them in a thrift store on Sunset Boulevard and that I was pretty sure the girl who wore them before me did stuff like write poetry and dance to the Ramones because when I wear them, I totally feel more artistic. Betty and Beatrice are my shoe soul mates, I said, and you asked me if I named all my shoes and I said, No, just these, and you said, Rock on, and then the bell rang and I lived off of that two-second conversation for the rest of the day. So even though my mom's being heinous this morning, my shoes manage to cheer me up a little. I mean, everything is going to be okay as long as there are pink combat boots in the world. Someday I will tell you just that and you will pull me against you and say, I fucking love you so much, and I will feel like five million bucks.
"Sorry." Mom snorts. "If I had a nickel for every time you said that ..." She glances at the clock. "Go or you'll be late."
I grab my bag and a sweater, which is all you really need in Cali winter. I consider slamming the door on my way out, but that won't end well for me, so I quietly shut it and then rush down the walkway before Mom can think of some other reason to be mad at me.
I need to go to my happy place. Now. I can't let this be my day. I have to shake it off, Taylor Swift style.
Roosevelt High is less than a ten-minute walk away, and I spend that time with my earbuds shoved in, listening to the Rent soundtrack, probably the best thing to come out of the nineties. It takes me to New York City, to a group of bohemian friends, to my future. Some people run or meditate when they're stressed, but I go to the Village. I picture myself walking along the streets of the city, past overflowing trash bins and scurrying rats and cool boutiques and coffeehouses. People everywhere. I'm surrounded by brick buildings with fire escapes and I jump on the subway and I'm flowing under the city, on my way to the Nederlander Theater, where I'll be directing a play or musical. Maybe even a Broadway revival of Rent. By the time I get to school, the music is thrumming through me (Viva la vie Bohème!). My mom and The Giant and home splinter and fall away, replaced by my real family, the cast of Rent: Mark, Roger, Mimi, Maureen, Angel, Collins, Joanne. I'm okay.
I keep my eye out for you the moment I'm on campus. You'd be hard to miss.
You're like Maureen from Rent:Ever since puberty, everybody stares at me — boys, girls. I can't help it, baby.
You've got this halo of cool that makes people want to bow at your feet, light a candle. Saint Gavin. You leave stars in your wake. Whenever you walk by, I swear sparks fly off you. The air crackles. Sizzles. You steal all the oxygen so that I'm left gasping for breath, panting. In heat.
I want to steal the leather notebook you carry around all the time. Songs are in there and poetry and maybe sketches. All in your handwriting, which I've never seen but imagine as surprisingly neat. If I could, I'd crawl into your vintage Mustang, your bad-boy car, and curl up in the backseat, waiting for you to maybe ravage me or at least sing me a song. I can't get enough of that sexy, shuffling gait, the way your black hair is perfectly mussed up. The faded Nirvana shirt and the low-slung jeans, the black fedora that I've never seen you without. You have these eyes that are positively arctic, so blue I keep expecting to see waves or maybe glaciers in them. Then there's that impenetrable look, like you have a million secrets locked inside you. I want the key.
I like you best when you're playing guitar, leaning your weight forward, left foot slightly in front of the right, muscled hands strumming magic into the air, intent on the music that bleeds from those long, thin fingers. And your voice: gravel and honey mixed together, a little Jack White, a little Thom Yorke. The songs you write are poetry. You close your eyes and open your mouth and something starts spinning inside me, faster and faster, and I would do anything if you asked me. When you sing, I imagine my lips against yours, your tongue in my mouth, your hands everywhere.
You are the most exotic thing in our crappy excuse for a town. A rock god abandoned by cruel fate to an outpost of suburbia, where it's at least twenty degrees hotter than hell. I like to think that as an LA girl forced to move here I could somehow understand you more than the others. I know what it's like to hear car horns and helicopters and music all hours of the night. I know what it feels like to zip down neon freeways and find street art in the most unlikely places. I know what it's like to feel alive. You want all that, I can tell. You look at everything around us the same way I do: with quiet desperation.
Birch Grove has a newness that only towns in Cali can manage — shopping centers popping up like mushrooms, schools and housing developments where once there'd only been a strawberry patch or cornfield. Even though we have a Target and a Starbucks and all that, it's the kind of place that has an annual rodeo. There is only one vintage store and the mall is the opposite of Disneyland: the Saddest Place on Earth. The worst part is that everything here is the same — the houses, the people, the cars. There's no grit. No wild abandon.
I hate Birch Grove with a passion.
One of the few things I do like about it, though, is our school: the drama program, the dance program, my French teacher, who's half Egyptian and smokes long, thin cigarettes behind the gym. And I actually like the school itself, like, the buildings. It has a certain coziness to it, a human scale that makes it feel like a second home. I love how the open-air campus is drenched in sunshine, the huge grassy lawn in its center, the outdoor arena with its covered cement stage that looks like the Hollywood Bowl in miniature. It's an idyllic California school, although sometimes I wish I were at an East Coast boarding school with bricks covered in ivy. If I were, I'd wear a sweater set and have a boyfriend named Henry, who plays lacrosse and whose father is a world-renowned physician. That's a pumpkin spice latte kind of world I'll never be in, though.
When Miss B chose me to be her stage manager and chose you to be her lead for The Importance of Being Earnest, I ran home and had a dance party in my room. I wanted to cling to you just like the girls in the play and say, Earnest, my own! That's how happy I was to be just a few feet away from you every day after school for six weeks. It was too much, those feet. I wanted them to be inches. Millimeters. You gave me a hug once, laughed at one of my rare attempts at a joke. You accepted pieces of gum I offered you. Smiled at me in the halls. Do you know you are the bestower of the perfect half smile: part smirk, all enigma? Of course you do.
I asked you once why a rock god at night is a drama guy by day and you told me you auditioned for Singin' in the Rain (that was way back in my freshman year) on a dare and then you got the lead and your mom made you take the part. And you loved it. I wonder if rock stars are all secretly mama's boys who like to tap-dance.
I love you, Gavin. And maybe it's in the most superficial way, like how I can't stand it when you take off your fedora and run your fingers through your hair. Or how you keep those hands shoved into your front pockets when you're walking to class. I wonder, if you took them out and placed them on my bare skin, would I feel the calluses from all those hours of you alone in your room, playing guitar? Would your fingers be warm or cool? I want to know what it feels like to have your palm against mine, like Romeo and Juliet: Palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
I still can't believe that when you see me in the halls you say hi. You think it's cool that I want to be a director, so I never had to endure that separation between cast and crew that normally happens. It helped that my best friends were in the show, too. We talk about movies and who my favorite directors are (Julie Taymor and Mike Nichols). We talk about music and who your favorite bands are (Nirvana and Muse). I breathe you in like you're air.
I don't see you on the way to first-period French, which I take because how am I going to speak to my future French lover otherwise (François, Jacques?). Natalie and Alyssa think I'm a weirdo. My best friends are taking Spanish, which, as The Giant says, could be used in the real world (as if France is not part of the real world). I have a bit of trouble concentrating on what Madame Lewis is saying, though, because it's Valentine's Day and even though I dressed up in my Je t'aime shirt, pink poodle skirt, and red tights, I have no valentine and am thus depressed as hell.
Excerpted from Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios. Copyright © 2017 Heather Demetrios. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Resources for Teens in Abusive Relationships,
Also by Heather Demetrios,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Publication Date: June 13, 2017 Rating: 4 stars Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone. Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape. Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again. What I Liked: Ignore my rating a little - it's so difficult to rate books like these, because they are so powerful and intense and meaningful. Tough-issue contemporary novels are difficult books to write, difficult books to read, difficult books to rate. That doesn't mean they can't be "bad" and you can't dislike them. In this book's case, it was wonderfully written and so, so heartbreaking, and I can't help but be in awe of the author for writing such a tragic, intense, and hopeful story. This is an excellent contemporary story dealing with an abusive relationship and negligence and cruelty of parents. I usually avoid tough-issue contemporary novels, but I loved this book and I'm so glad I told myself to try it. The story starts with Grace telling the story from the beginning. She has a horrible home life - her mother and stepfather treat her like a slave, and she constantly has to give up social plans and homework time to do excessive chores and babysit her half-brother. She loves being in school, especially drama/theater class. especially since Gavin Davis is in the class. Gavin's girlfriend breaks up with him, and soon after, he and Grace start to hang out more. Grace has had a crush on him for forever, and she is thrilled with his attention. They fall in love hard and fast, and become inseparable. Even after he graduates from high school (he was a senior and she was a junior), they remain committed, as he goes to a state school nearby. But even from the start, little things start to happen that alarm Grace a little more each time. It takes Grace a year to realize that the relationship is a prison, and she'll need to escape before she, or someone else, gets hurt. There are two big "issues" in this book - the abusive relationship, of course, and parents' treatment of Grace. I'll comment on the latter. Grace's mother is awful - she has OCD, and she makes Grace clean the house over and over. Grace is late to work, to school, to the SATs, but it doesn't matter to her mother, because all her mother seems to focus on is a tiny smudge, or whether the doors are locked, or if the curling iron was unplugged. Grace's mother is a terrible person, even without the OCD that constantly ruins Grace's life. Grace's stepfather (nicknamed the Giant, by Grace) is even worse. He is verbally abusive to Grace's mother. He starts making Grace pay weekly rent. He threatens to kick her out, and yells when she doesn't do her slave work. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
I've been a fan of Demetrios' work ever since her very first novel. I've loved what's she's done ever since, and this one is no different. Although it's so much darker than her normal, it's still amazing! Grace has an unbelievably hard life. At home, she deals with a giant of a stepfather and a mother who refuses to accept her demons. Then comes Gavin, the boy who she's always adored. When he finally notices her, she can't believe her luck. Until she realizes the idea of him was much better than the reality of him. I started this book on my cruise and I was NOT expecting to finish it while on my cruise. It was just that good. As soon as I started it, I couldn't put it down. I hate this cliché (because no one should be that nosey and not get help) but it was like watching a train crash and not wanting to look away. It was such a terrible story, but Demetrios wrote it in a way that I couldn't put it down. I wanted to jump into the story and try to help Grace because I couldn't stand watching this happen to her. Speaking of Grace, I hated that I loved the main characters. It's just the way that Demetrios wrote them. Grace was too sweet and understanding and Gavin was such a perfect POS. Then there was her mom and her stepfather who I really disliked. They did nothing to help her situation. And then there was her best friends, Nat and Lys. They were amazingly sweet and understanding and I'm super glad Grace had them in her corner. This has climbed to the top of my favorite books by Demetrios. The story was so realistic, but it was so hard to read. There were times when I had to close the book just to write a super long passage in my notebook about the story. It's such an important topic and I'm very glad that someone wrote about it. Few people like to admit that abuse can happen in teen relationships. And as always, Demetrios' writing style pulled me into the story and wouldn't let me go until I was finished. I loved how she used second person in some places, it made it stand out more because she seemed to be looking back on what happened. It gave me hope for the ending. This story is so important and needs to be read by everyone. This book solidified my love for Heather Demetrios and I can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.
The very first thing that attracted me to Bad Romance was that EXQUISITE cover. It’s not meant to be beautiful, but something ugly and rotting like the relationship that Grace and Gavin have and it manages to capture it perfectly. I LOVE THE COVER! Short and Sweet: Bad Romance is a heart-wrenching book, showing you the light after an abusive relationship and the courage it takes to remove yourself from one. Let’s break it down: (Which has also become a standard line for me in my reviews) IDEA: Only two chapters in, I got this intense feeling that Bad Romance was a very personal book to the author. And so, I flipped back to the acknowledgements and realised that Heather Demetrios was talking about and also slightly fictionalizing her own experience in an abusive relationship and it made it THAT MUCH MORE AUTHENTIC. I love the idea for this book. Honestly, the last book on abuse I read was Shannon Parker’s The Girl Who Fell and that was a YEAR ago. We should be talking about these kinds of relationships more. PLOT & WRITING I’m going to do these two together because it makes more sense. The writing was jumpy. It moved quickly from one instance to another, weeks and months passed by between paragraphs and the feeling of something unfinished stayed with me. It also took me a while to get used to the fact that this was sort of a book dedicated to Gavin, who was always referred to in the Second Person. It ended up bringing out the pain and heartbreak that I LOVED and WANTED but it did take a quarter of the book to get used to. While the writing was jumpy, the plot evened it out. It showcased all the important things, and MANAGED TO CAPTURE THE HOPE, LOVE AND HAPPINESS that eventually turned into despair, insecurity and sadness. CHARACTERS: I got Grace; I understood Grace. I understood what if felt like to be head over heels for someone you think is better than you. I understood the elation when that boy finally looks at YOU. I felt her being suffocated and tied down and confused and in love. I understood Grace and my heart fell for her and broke as hers did. Obviously, we weren’t meant to like Gavin, so I won’t be talking about him. I wish I could have liked him, in the beginning, but it would have been impossible with Grace’s narration that ended with things like “One year from now I wouldn’t want to see you, but run away from you/ hate you.” I wasn’t allowed to like him and then go through the journey with Grace and it made me feel slightly disconnected from the book. That IS the point, right, to fall in love and then realise that you’re more than a sum of his wishes? -- Bad Romance is the kind of book we should be reading. I know I’m saying that for a lot of books, but it is the truth. Whether it’s body image, eating disorders, mental health and abuse, WE SHOULD BE TALKING AND READING ABOUT IT. Maybe we don’t get into fully abusive relationships like Grace did in Bad Romance, but a lot of the time we tie our self-worth to what society sees us as; where on the social pole we lie which is what leads to that ability to bend for something we don’t want to do in the first place. Books like Bad Romance are IMPORTANT. It’s important to know that you shouldn’t lose yourself to anyone, least of all a guy you feel freer without. I HIGHLY recommend it. 4 stars.
Their love was so perfect, until it became sick. Every movement checked, every word a possible grenade, living life looking over your shoulder; the life of a soldier entrenched in guerrilla warfare love. This is a cautionary tale about teenage love that starts as innocent as a flower but quickly morphs into a strangling vine. Cyclical venomous relationships, like mother like daughter, a lesson learned the hard way is Bad Romance. There are themes of emotional, verbal and physical abuse, depression, manipulation, suicide, and OCD on top of regular teen angst and growing pains, this novel packs it all in. Demetrios delivers all this with a sarcastic wit that keeps it all a little left of sane and adds a touch of humor to situations where it's hard to find. The truth and real of so many situations and relationships rang familiar (... mom? Is that you? Seriously.) Bad Romance gives another perspective on the ever popular Edward and Christian's kind of possessive, all encompassing 'love' as well! I am glad that Grace did hold onto herself as much as she could, and had the sweetest, truest love of all for a senior in high school, her BFF's who had her back through it all and then some. I love the author's note at the end; way to look out for others in this situation, and help heal yourself in the process. Fabulously written, a must read. *I received an arc from the publisher through NetGalley for an honest review
This is a hard book to rate. It was also a hard book to read. Grace is an amazingly well written character. Her descent from charismatic and spontaneous to broken and beaten down is subtle and so effective. Gavin is portrayed in such a way that you can understand how and why Grace falls for him. But it was Nat and Lys who steal the show and I love that they were such a positive support system for her. Plot wise, it was exactly what I was expecting. And I loved the use of second person. It was like Grace was writing a letter and it helped bring a different sort of perspective. Overall, it was captivating and heartbreaking and hopeful. I was cringing the entire time and yet I couldn't set it down. FYI: I'm putting it on my rape shelf because there is a creepy scene that stands out. The word rape is never used, but Grace's reaction and thoughts about it made me think about it that way. **Huge thanks to Henry Holt for providing the arc free of charge**