This book seriously tugs at your heart strings. Have tissues handy. Mallory and Rider share a very hard, troubled childhood, but it’s not the few flashbacks that get to you, it’s the mental and emotional scars they still bear, and how those affect them today. It took me some time (as it took Mallory some time) to understand how deeply those scars affected Rider. There is a lot of focus on Mallory, and the reader has a very clear understanding of her situation, whereas we only really see a surface view of Rider and on the surface he seems fine. But he’s not. And eventually Mallory realises that. The use of the childhood book to illustrate the characters’ struggles was brilliant. It helped me (who doesn’t have that history or those scars) to understand the way these troubled teens viewed the world and their place in it. Some parts were predictable (the roles that Paige and Ainsley played, in particular) but there were enough curveballs (Jayden!) to keep you wanting to turn the page and find out what happened next.
The way that Mallory spoke did grate on me a little, and put me in mind of Bella from Twilight and all her teen angst, but it was pretty integral to the character and I can’t see how the author could have written it any differently, so I shouldn’t complain.
I thought Mallory’s speech was fantastic, and really pulled all the loose threads together, but then Rider went one better and gave us an incredible satisfying ending. The epilogue was also satisfying – no perfect lives, but moving together towards a brighter future.
This book should come with trigger warnings, but otherwise is a must read if you like powerful YA romances.