Monday, May 25, 2015

What we're reading: Perfect for Memorial Day

I'll Meet You There
by Heather Demetrios
Realistic fiction / romance
379 pages
For grades 10 and up

Sometimes life is funny. What are the odds that I'd pick this book up and start reading it the day before Memorial Day? I had no thought in my head about that when I checked it out of the library last week--the intro on the flap sounded intriguing, and I decided to take it home with me as one of three books I would read over the weekend.

This is the story of Skylar and Josh. Skylar is trying so hard to get out of her dead-end town in the Central Valley, her job at the Paradise Motel, the trailer park where she has to take too much responsibility for her broken mother; her dreams of art school in San Francisco--even with a full scholarship and work-study program on her side--seem so far from reality that even though it's her plan, she just can't bring herself to believe in it.

Josh, the hard-partying Mitchell boy who took a different route out of agricultural California by joining the Marines, ends up back in Creek View just as Skylar graduates from high school, having left a leg in Afghanistan and brought back with him all sorts of dark memories and bad dreams he can't get past.

The two of them together? The most unlikely pairing in the eyes of anyone who knows them both. Sky's best friend Chris (about to get out himself, to go to college in Boston) is in a panic--he and Sky made a pact years ago that there would be no involvement with "the locals" to keep them from pursuing their lives--elsewhere--but Sky can't seem to keep away from the new, damaged but more compelling Josh Mitchell.

This is a love story, but it's also a story about poverty and hardship, about war and consequences and heartache. An author quote from the afterword sums it up for me: Demetrios says she wrote the book "because young adults are being recruited for the military while they're still in high school and they need to know what war really is and what it means to serve." Then she says to all the disadvantaged kids who have to grow up too fast, "Love is medicine and dreams are oxygen."

The book is compelling--the pictures she paints, the relationships she crafts, the emotions she invokes. Although I didn't learn until after reading it that Demetrios comes from a military family with two Marines for parents, the authenticity is on every page. The understanding she brings to the reader about the consequences of war, all bound up with the love story, are powerful, and the resolution is satisfying.

Also, I love the cover of the book. How often does a publisher get that right? Good job.

Due to mature language and fairly frank sexuality, this is one for mature high school readers. If you are one of those, I urge you to seek out this book.

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