A book with so much heart and depth and vulnerability it takes your breath away.
I found myself rooting for these characters from the very beginning. Two kids leading two seemingly different lives but both feeling pulled towards each other in an almost alchemical way.
Isa and Alex are a contemporary Romeo and Juliet, their story is sweet, romantic and harrowing. The way they treat each other, for better or for worse, is so real to how young adults would behave when facing situations like this. Normally, I would find their behavior annoying, but I think that I didn’t here because this was so well written. They kept things from each other because they were things that were too big for themselves to carry and couldn’t imagine putting that on someone else’s shoulder for fear of rejection. Who didn’t feel that way when they were 16?
I think a lot of times we see this and think, “wow miscommunication, poor communication, or keeping secrets, what a cheap way to make drama in a book especially a romance,” but here it didn’t feel cheap, forced, or gimicky. It felt genuine. The things these kids were dealing with, which many young adults deal with, are h e a v y. And when faced with serious or scary things, a lot of will clam up even still. It takes a lot of hard work and resilience to be open and trusting with people about things that make us vulnerable.
There’s a lot covered in this novel, from the light to the deep, racism, female sexuality, mental health, coping mechanisms, the pressure to succeed, racial profiling, gangs, suicide. And while that seems like so much that a book couldn’t possibly manage it all, Williams pulled it off in such a refreshing and simple way. She let the issues have full arcs, whether long or short, that treated them with the attention and care they deserved.
Often times when I writer tries to focus on too many topics, they either mishandle or let some fall by the wayside never to be resolved or touched on again. Here, issues were given their time to develop and be explored, either in the foreground or the background, and never let that detract from the main story and instead enhance it.
I’m so impressed by what was done here, and I’m so grateful that I was given the chance to review this book early through netgalley. This was definitely not a sophomore slump and I am looking forward to whatever Williams comes out with next.
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