Thursday, May 14, 2015

Book Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Release Date: February 3, 2015
Info about the Author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Age group: YA
Pages: 397
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

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.

Oh my… I am a mess right now.

In 2007, I traveled to a little town called Triangle in Virginia and spent the next 10 months there as a foreign exchange student. On my first day of school, I noticed some of the students walking around in uniforms of sort. This was something that I had never seen in Finland and I had no idea what it meant and who these people were. A couple of weeks later there was a man in an army uniform in the school cafeteria handing out leaflets and talking to students. By that point I knew that the students in uniforms were Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps members (JROTC), which is a program sponsored by the United States Armed Forces. Basically, these students were taking a class on leadership, military art and though the program did not directly produce officers, it could be seen as a stepping stone for such a career. From that moment onward, I became intrigued about the system of defence in US. I come from a country where there is a universal male conscription, meaning that all men above the age of 18 are legally obliged to serve for either 6, 9 or 12 months. The service is consists of different type of exercises and it usually takes place in one of the army bases located around Finland. After the service time is fulfilled, the young men usually enter studies completely separated from the military, meaning that very rarely our men are sent to actual war zones.

I was a junior in high school during my exchange year and met a lot of people who planned on going to service before going to college so they could get help with their tuitions. In a situation like that, I was filled with both admiration and sadness. Admiration for the bravery, sadness for the fact that some found themselves from a situation where they had to join the army/navy/marines, etc. just to be able to go to college. Coming from a country where college is free, I wasn’t quite able to understand what these young students were going through.

When I read the synopsis for Heather Demetrios’s I’ll Meet You There I instantly knew that I must read it. Ever since my year in US, I have been extremely interested in stories that involve people who are or have been in service, mostly because I met a lot of people like that during my exchange (I lived very close to the Quantico Marine Corps Base). Both books and movies as well as documentaries focused on those individuals who have fought in one of the wars, instead of being focused on the system in general, have left an impact on me, and I can certainly say I’ll Meet You There left an impact too.

The novel follows Skylar, a recent high school graduate about to leave her small hometown for college in San Francisco. She’s spending the summer working at the Paradise motel, counting the days for her chance to escape. Everything is going according to a plan, but then she crosses paths with Josh Mitchell, her old colleague from the motel, and everything starts to avalanche in a direction Sky never expected things to go to.

Josh thought the Marine Corps would be his escape from his small California hometown. But then a bomb exploded and he lost his leg, which means that he was first shipped to a military hospital and then back to home. Josh is now seen as a hero by those around him, but inside his mind, he thinks of himself very differently. He is lost, not sure what to do next and feeling like he is just a waste of space back in the States. He is yearning back to the combat, to the position where he felt like he was useful while at the same time questioning why he is alive when so many of his friends have died.

The relationship between Sky and Josh is so special and beautiful and sad and happy and just so many more things. You want these people to be together, but they both come with so much package that you know that they won’t work out until they clear their heads and really learn to trust each other. Without really even realizing it, these characters help each other out so much and it was such a treat to read about two young people who connect in so many different ways.

Reading about Sky and her problems caused by her slightly alcoholic mother and the worries of whether she will be able to attend college or have a dinner made me realize how incredibly privileged I am. It was incredible to read about this character that is strong and independent and yet quite lost in so many different ways. Her character development was so well done and throughout the whole book I felt like Sky is a character I would really like to have as a friend.

Josh broke my heart in so many different ways and in many instances, I wished that I could just hug him and give him a chance to talk to someone. Demetrios characterizes Josh so well and at no point I felt like he was just one of those stereotypical YA love interests with a tragic past. I feel like Demetrios really honors those who have gone through something similar to what Josh is going through in her novel by being honest and describing Josh’s state of mind with detail and sincerity.

While the majority of the novel is from the point of view of Sky, there are short chapters in between from Josh’s POV which really help the reader to understand Josh’s actions and his feelings towards himself, his past and his future as well as Sky. Demetrios writes well, which makes this one of those books that was extremely difficult for me to put down.

While I’ll Meet You There includes several scenes that made me cry like a baby, I want to point out that this book is also extremely romantic, mostly because the exchanges between Sky and Josh feel so incredibly real, like something that could actually happen. There are no private helicopters or trips to Paris, but instead we find Sky and Josh dancing in the rain to Hotel California or holding hands by the Creek where Sky left the ashes of her father years before.

I haven’t read Demetrios’s Something Real, but I am definitely acquiring that ASAP because if it is even half as awesome as I’ll Meet You There was, I will be very impressed.

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