I knew this would be a difficult book before going in due to the subject matter and personal experience. It’s a topic that is very rarely addressed in real-life, let alone in novels, so I found this to be a very important book. One that every teenager needs to read, because domestic violence is not necessarily physical, and more awareness needs to be made regarding what’s okay and not okay in a relationship.
We follow Grace and at the start she is full of ambition, reaching for the stars (i.e. New York) to follow her dream to become a famous, successful directer. She loves musicals and Pepsi Freezes (don’t know what they are, but after reading this I want to find out if they exist and what they taste like) and is enjoying life with her friends and drama club. Enter Gavin, who is your typical charismatic, charming, music loving boy. Basically, any teen girls kryptonite, or blue eyed snake.
We see how he worms his way into Graces life. even from the beginning she had no control, it felt like she was under his spell and he was ready to take advantage, which immediately gave me alarm bells. Straight away I saw him as a manipulative narcissist, but Grace was crazy about him, and love is blind from these subtle signs. He wanted Grace and Grace just needed to sit back and watch it happen. The further we go, the more aggressive, controlling, and dangerous Gavin becomes, and it honestly was scary about how far he was going to go. I started getting really scared for Grace, and it was seriously affecting her mental health. Even though I never went through anything as serious as Grace did, but there are still similarities that I was able to relate to. Making excuses for their behaviour, blaming yourself when they got angry, having such a low self-esteem you start worrying that you can’t leave because ‘no-one else can anyone love me’, using ‘I love him’ as an excuse for sticking around and hoping that you can somehow fix everything if you stayed.
I really empathised with Grace. Her family life was terrible, with her mother suffering from OCD and forcing Grace to clean an already clean spot, doing ridiculous chores, and dealing with an equally abusive step-father. It was clever to include this in the novel, as Grace’s need for love and acceptance from Gavin can be linked to her poor home life. At the beginning, Gavin seemed like a break from them, an escape and a chance to feel happy again. This frame of mind is possibility how people get trapped into abusive relationships. The bad relationship at home is considered ‘normal’, and Grace started to realise this further in the novel, she could she herself in her mother, and what could be her life if she doesn’t get out soon.
I loved how Grace had such a positive relationship with her two best friends Nat and Lys. I loved their characters and story arcs. Nat is a sweet, innocent Catholic girl, and Lys is a scene-kid lesbian and they are all such incredible, supportive friends to each other. They help Grace as much as they can, whilst also helping her see the light without being impatient or pushy. They were always there for her which is such a good thing to see. Friends sticking together. It showed how important friends can be in this situation as they can really see how moods change and red flags show.
The story is told in the second person, and Grace is talking to Gavin (i.e. ‘you’) which I thought was a very good way to tell the story. We see Grace’s inner monolgue throughout the entire relationship and how in retrospect she feels she could’ve left after the first red flags, because hindsight is an amazing thing, right? You feel all the emotions that she goes through and how many times to changes her mind and give Gavin ‘one more chance’ and your rooting for her to finally do it. It is so incredibly brave to stop with the excuses and stop with the ‘compromises’ and cut all ties. At the end, we start to see the Grace we see at the beginning. Excited for life, loving her times with her friends. Although the affects of Gavin are still there, haunting. She still worried about whether he’s going to follow her, or find her, and that’s something that might stick for the rest of her life.
The slight critique I had was that it seemed strange how Summer was no longer present in the novel after a few chapters in, and I really thought her perspective and past would’ve really helped Grace. I also would’ve loved to see a bit more of the aftermath, maybe seeing Grace at College and starting her new life? But I understand why the author left it where she did.
Overall, I think this is such as important read for every young person. But there are trigger warning for abuse, suicide, depression, anxiety. So bare this in mind at all times and don’t feel as if you need to push through them. It’s such a difficult read that not everyone can get through, but still incredibly important.