Reviewed by: ?wazithinkin
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Young Adult/Relationships
Approximate word count: 85-90,000 words
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Erica Lucke Dean:
“After walking away from her career as a business banker to pursue writing full-time, Erica moved from the hustle and bustle of the big city to a small tourist town in the North Georgia Mountains where she lives in a 90-year-old haunted farmhouse with her workaholic husband, her 180lb lap dog, and at least one ghost.”
Laura M. Kolar:
“Laura M. Kolar lives with her husband and daughter in a one-stop-light town in northern-lower Michigan. Though she didn't discover her love of books until she turned thirty, as a self-declared hopeless romantic, she has spent the past few years reading and writing stories with mostly happy endings. If not at her day-job or with her family, you will find her sipping a cup of chai latte while sitting in her favorite rocking chair, hunched over her laptop writing or spending entirely too much time on Twitter.”
Ms. Kolar is the author of Canvas Bound (Book 1 of the Captive Art Series). Find out more about Ms. Kolar, by visiting her website or follow heron Facebook.
“Married for just three months, Alex Barrett is stunned when her husband, David, dies in a tragic accident. And the absolute last thing the pregnant young widow wants is to take on responsibility for his teenage daughter, Maddie. Reeling from loss, Alex struggles to deal with her grief and her troubled stepdaughter, but one question haunts her: why was David with his ex-wife when he died?
All Maddie Barrett wanted was for her parents to get back together, but an icy road took that dream away. Afterward, Maddie is riddled with guilt that she can’t share with anyone. Feeling angry and alone, she lays all the blame on Alex.
Alex and Maddie must find a way to move past their pain—shared, yet separate. Thrown together in an untenable arrangement, they fight through a frozen landscape of sorrow and redemption while redefining love, forgiveness, and family.”
I have read all of Ms. Lucke Dean’s books and Ms. Kolar’s Canvas Bound. And enjoyed them all. But the emotional impact this book had is something else completely. Ms. Lucke Dean’s stories are generally light-hearted and full of humor. You won’t find that here. Although a bit of humor is brought in with Alex’s best friend, Natalie, owner of the local coffee and bakery shop in town. She is everything you need in a friend, supportive, honest, and a strong shoulder you can cry on when the need arises.
Alex is beside herself, buried in grief, and the question of why David had Sarah, his ex-wife, riding in the car with him is hounding at her insecurities. This story is told through alternating perspectives of Alex and Maddie so we are allowed to see all of their inner turmoil and insecurities up-close. It’s messy, ugly, and realistic. There were times when I wanted to shake Alex or bop her on the head and yell, “Snap out of it!” right in her face. Luckily, Natalie filled that role for me. I couldn’t help but love her. Ms. Lucke Dean’s secondary characters are always likable, outspoken, and have an inner strength that comes through.
Maddie isn’t your typical teenager, she is a troubled teen acting out, even before her parents wreck that fateful night. Maddie is in self-destruct mode. She describes herself as a cutter who doesn’t cut. She is trying to destroy herself from the inside-out from guilt. She’s taking drugs, drinking, and skipping classes. She also starts things with a “bad boy” because she knows he will hurt her in the long run. Maddie lashes out at Alex every opportunity she gets and Alex unwittingly gives her plenty of ammo. Maddie is a hard character to like, but when she is alone it’s easy to see how broken she is and you want to help her.
Then Grey gets Maddie’s attention, he is a quiet introspective nerd in one of her classes. Grey reaches out to her, he knows her pain. So, now Maddie has someone new to direct her anger at for a while. However, Grey is unrelenting in his pursuit to get through to the real Maddie. Slowly but surely he starts to chip away at the walls she has built around herself. Their relationship and the pace it grew was realistic and their dialogue was believable. Ms. Kolar excels at writing young adult themes and I think she captured Maddie and all of her classmates perfectly.
Alex’s walls are a completely different story, she was constantly filling in any cracks that started to let a little light in. She feels she is too broken to enjoy any happiness. It was heartbreaking to watch. Even after Natalie read her the riot act (This is where I cheered Natalie on) Alex too quickly repaired her walls again to shield herself from life. Misunderstandings can suck the life right out of person as they did in this story. The moral is open your heart and seek the truth. Life is messy. If you don’t take risks, there is no reward. I would recommend this story to everyone, even if you don’t normally read contemporary fiction or young adult.
I found no significant issues in editing or formatting.
Rating: ***** Five stars