After suffering a tragic accident as a child, Maggie Wilson has tried her whole life to regain the happiness she lost. She has been in survival mode ever since, dealing with a mentally unstable parent, having no one to turn to for help. Her desire to escape to a better future fuels her motivation and keeps her focused on what really matters, breaking free of the hell she lives in.
Things at home are complicated and it’s easier to push people away than allow them to get too close. She doesn’t let anyone into her life except her best friend Amanda. Maggie has perfected keeping secrets, maintaining her GPA and staying out of relationships. All her energy is put into her school work so that when she graduates she can leave for college and forget her past.
All of that changes when she meets Vincent Moreno. His reputation precedes him but she quickly discovers there is so much more to him than what you see on the surface. He manages to wiggle his way into her life despite her efforts to keep him at a distance. As Maggie starts to open up she realizes how much she needs someone like Vince in her life. They form a connection like no other and it has her reconsidering everything.
Okay, I will be honest here because I don’t know any other way to be. I’m going to go ahead and get the few negatives out of the way. At first, I found this one to be a little trying. It is written in first person, which is no big deal, but it is also written in present tense which I find a little difficult to follow. The first few chapters are told from Maggie’s point of view and then the exact same exchanges are told from Vincent’s; I found myself hoping that the whole book wouldn’t be that way because I felt that it backtracked too far–it retold the events over more than one day when it switched perspective and I had a feeling it could get confusing and tedious if it was all written in that manner but after the small segment in the beginning told from Vince’s POV, it switched back to Maggie’s and didn’t switch back until the very end.
After a while, I got into the groove and the present tense didn’t bother me because the story was amazingly good. The characters were realistic and the story was captivating. I ended up completely consumed by the story and I couldn’t bring myself to put it down. I found myself falling in love with everything about the book. I do feel the need to issue a disclosure statement about the though–there are several scenes that depict child abuse. These scene are told from the child’s point of view and they are extremely heartbreaking. The emotional turmoil the character goes through every time her mother snaps is haunting and strangely beautiful.
That being said, I feel the need to explain why a subject as horrendous as abuse isn’t a deterrent for me. During my stint as a Literature student, I took a class on southern lit. For anyone who has never had the pleasure of studying that specific field, a lot of these types of books tend to focus on certain set of themes: absent fathers, abuse (physical and otherwise), etc. During that semester, I learned to look beyond the events and focus on how they further the development of the character and the story. While there is still a very visceral reaction when I read stuff of this nature, it doesn’t keep me from reading on. This book really took me back to those days. I found myself hating Maggie’s mother but admiring the fact that Maggie couldn’t bring herself to hate; instead she drew strength from a psyche that should have been too damaged to love and she found something amazing.
This is probably one of the most beautiful coming of age stories I have read. It is an emotional roller coaster but well worth every gut wrenching twist and turn. I give this one a 9.5 out of 10 because even though I wasn’t keen on the style, the author truly impressed me so much that I’m rethinking my stance on works written in present tense. I do hope to hear more from this author in the future!