Published by Macmillan on February 3rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Family, Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 400 •Format: Hardcover •Source: Library
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.
I’ve seen a lot of readers project that 2015 was going to bring a shift in trends toward the popularity of grittier contemporaries, and I’ll Meet You There definitely proves such predictions. This book was darker than I anticipated, following the lives of two teenagers from a dead end town in central California, one a former marine who’s landed back where he started, the other a budding artist with every ounce of determination focused on getting out of the desolate area. This book is not just an extremely well-written story, but it’s a relevant reflection of so many social issues today, especially poverty and the veteran experience.
I was initially sucked into the writing of the book because it was not only excellent, but uncensored in both its language and plot. In the first chapter Skylar introduces not only herself and her own impoverished circumstances, but the reality of what teenagers in lower socio-economic demographics go through. Underage drinking and drug use are frequent, dysfunctional families are common, teen pregnancy is not shocking (Skylar’s best friend Dylan already has a one year old at eighteen years old, and it’s treated as a fact of life, not as a morality tale about the consequences of sex). Poverty is real and stark and everywhere, but is so common for everyone in Creek View that once you get into the book you become resigned to reading about the struggles of the characters, rather than being shocked by it.
Aside from featuring poverty as a main theme, the book also was the best YA novel I’ve come across that features the topic of post-military life and veterans. Josh, the protagonist opposite Skylar, has returned to Creek View after losing a leg to an IED overseas while in the Marines. With the clutches of poverty digging in so deeply to most Creek View teens that they never read, it’s really an emotional journey watching Josh, someone who did make it out, have to return home with even less than he had before. He doesn’t always do the right or good thing and isn’t always likeable, but watching him deal with not just adjusting to live as an amputee but dealing with PTSD in a community that cannot even begin to fathom what he’s been through was really emotional. The best part of the book was watching Skylar and Josh learn how to interact with each other, how to overcome the trauma of the war and keep it from invading their interactions and relationships. At the end of the novel Demetrios includes an author’s note detailing just how much research she did on the issue of veterans dealing with PTSD and the consequences they suffer once they’re out of the war, with shocking statistics, such as the alarming rate of suicides due to PTSD in veterans. I have so much respect for Demetrios for choosing to tackle these topics in her novel, as so many men and women join the military to better their lives and end up back home dealing with severe demons, mental and physical health issues, and little to no support. I applaud Demtrios for acknowledging that no matter how you feel about the military conflicts themselves, we should support those who fight and those who return from fighting for our country.
The writing itself was poignant and raw and often uncensored, and there were certain scenes that really moved me emotionally, from the painful rejections Skylar faced at times at the hands of Josh to the discomfort Josh felt when being approached by strangers to thank him for his military service (made obvious by his prosthetic leg). The middle of the book did drag a bit for me, and I was frustrated so many times with both Skylar and Josh, from Josh’s continued bad decision making to Skylar’s continued loyalty to her alcoholic and irresponsible mother at the potential expense of her own dreams. Yet the novel does the wonderful service to its characters by truly showing how they grow, and unburden themselves from what’s holding them back: Skylar from her mother and Josh from Afghanistan. This was my first time reading a book by Demetrios and there’s no doubt that she is an excellent writer, especially by her ability to balance the topics of romance, social issues, and personal growth simultaneously.
Overall: This book was a undoubtedly a slow-burn with a dynamic ending that left me emotionally hungover. It has fantastic writing, dynamic character growth, and deals with social realities in an honest and uncensored way. This book really left it’s mark on me due to the unabashed ways it tackled social issues, especially poverty and PTSD, and left my heart full not just for Josh and Skylar but for all of the men and women serving in the military and for the families that learn to adapt and nurture them and carve their relationships around and despite trauma. At it’s core this book is about rising above your circumstances, and making the choice to change your life, while acknowledging that it’s not often a simple task. I’ll Meet You There impacted me as a reader on a deeper level than I anticipated, which is always a sign of a solid book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge