Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Reading Level: Young Adult, 14+
Pages: 304 (ARC)
Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realizes that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.
This book has been the first book I've really struggled with for a while, so I don't really know how to review it. Though the tale itself is promising and it has the promise to be incredibly emotion for some, I found it to be incredibly dry and distancing. So many huge things were going on and though I was reading the words that put this plot together, I felt miles away. I was not in the story, I was a distance away from it.
I want to begin with our main character, Caggie. Firstly, girl, I pity you for your name. All things aside, Caggie's been dealt a tough hand. Her younger sister, Hayley, died tragically while she should have been watching her. As a result, Caggie blames herself. She takes everything out on herself and begins to curl into a shell. Her boyfriend, Trevor, eventually breaks up with her because of her refusal to let him be there for her the way he so desperately wants to. And then, suddenly, Caggie's misery is intensified when she is put into the public eye because she saved a girl from jumping off a building--or maybe something else entirely different happened that night.
I felt bad for the things she was experiencing, but my heart wasn't breaking alongside her. Instead, I often just wanted to shake her and scream in her face for being an idiot. She was blind to the world around her because she was so wrapped up in her own self-misery and pity. She didn't realize that others were suffering too, that her parents and best friend, Claire, and even Trevor we still there for her. Most of all, she didn't realize how toxic Astor was for her despite how many times other people pointed it out to her. She heeded no warning, thus when her actions blew up in her face I wasn't shocked at all. I expected it because it was not only predictable, but it's the type of thing you'd expect from a girl who ignores everything around her.
Speaking of which, I found a lot of this story to be predictable. I figured out how Hayley's death affected her even though it took a solid 100 pages to actually be told about it. I figured out who was right and who was misled in the story way before our main character did. I figured out what exactly happened on that rooftop before I was a third into the story, and Caggie didn't actually bother revealing it until the very end of the story. I was ten steps ahead with the smallest ounce of common sense and it made this already slow book rather laborious.
That's not to say that this plot isn't powerful and moving. It really, really is, but I was not in the proper mood to read this book and the pacing trouble only proved to further my disinterest. The first forty pages dragged on, the next few were good, and then there was some more dragging with brief spurts of epicness in-between. I don't know if this is attributed to Serle's writing style since I haven't read her previous novel, but I think this has more to do with the fact that I couldn't connect to anyone and thus didn't really want to enjoy the book that much. I liked characters, like Claire, Trevor, and Caggie's older brother, Trace, but I didn't champion any of them and cry alongside them. I wasn't moved to do so, though I desperately wanted to be.
On an unrelated note, I think that anyone from New York City will enjoy this book. I enjoyed being able to follow Caggie's directions in my mind. I liked knowing the places she goes, the sights she sees. I like knowing that I've eaten at Big Daddy's and Serafina's, and that Central Park is the perfect place to walk and get lost so that you can think--only to always be able to somehow find your way home. I liked that I could relate to this, and that was a small beacon of happiness alongside the few characters I enjoyed and the overall idea of the novel.
Really, the novel is great, I just have some issues with the execution. However, I know several bloggers have adored this book and agree with me when I say that this is a very polarizing book. It will either move you to tears or distance you from the get-go. Unfortunately, I'm part of the latter group, but that doesn't mean you are. I urge anyone wanting to give this book a chance to do so because of the powerful stories hidden within its pages. It's about learning to forgive, to let go, to love again, and to fix a family (this last chapter was very moving in that regard). It's about starting over and it deserves a chance...maybe just more of a chance to be picked up from the library before being bought in print.