Title: I’ll Meet You There
Author: Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Check this book out on Goodreads.
If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper. (Source: Goodreads)
Skylar has just graduated high school and she’s counting down the days until she can move to San Francisco and escape the small town she grew up in, and then her mother loses her job and things are in limbo for Sky. Josh comes home from what was meant to be his escape, Afghanistan. He’s not the person he used to be when they worked together, before the war. They go back to work together, both of them unsure about the future, and they bond over this uncertainty and isolation.
I have been wanting to read a book, any book, by Heather Demetrios for ages now but can never seem to find them anywhere I look. I have to say, I’m very glad that this is the book I started with. Not only was it a fantastic introduction to her writing, it was a book that means a lot to me and will stick with me for a long time. I loved everything about this book. The writing is fantastic, the content is important, the characters are beautiful crafted and so loveable I wanted to hold tight to them and keep things from falling apart.
This being my first time reading anything by Demetrios I had no idea what to expect. I had high hopes, and I was not let down. This book was so smooth and well crafted. The book alternates between Sky and Josh’s perspectives, with really distinct writing styles which were fantastically written. I finished this book about 20 hours after I started it, but if you counted up all the time I was actually reading, it was probably between 1 and 2 hours since most of those 20 hours were spent sleeping and working. I didn’t want to put this book down, I wanted to know more and feel more. There were no moments that dragged on, of course there was some discomfort but that’s because what Josh is going through is so hard to wrap your head around if you’ve not felt it yourself. I think Demetrios really deals with it very well and makes a very realistic character in Josh.
Now, about that character, Josh, and also Sky! Oh my goodness, how I loved them, how I still love them. They’re so real and alive. I really loved Sky. She was a very real teenager to me, one that’s trying to escape her less than fantastic situation (she reminded me a little of Cat from Lauren Myracle’s Shine). I think one of the things that really stood out to me was that no matter how much she wanted to leave Creek View the most important thing to her, in the end, was actually just taking care of the people she loves. This means risking her college dreams to look after her mom, be with her best friend, Dylan, or even just be there with Josh. And Josh of course is massively swoon worthy, because he definitely shows this side to him that’s very tender and caring. There’s a lot more to him though, which doesn’t fall back on the typical “bad boy with a heart of gold” kind of trope. Yeah he’s a bit of a bad boy and he has a heart of gold, but he’s also a soldier, and a friend, and he seems to have PTSD even if he refuses to acknowledge it. And all of these things stack up to make this very real man-who-shouldn’t-even-be-a-man-yet. There’s something Demetrios does that at first I was think noooo but then, I mean, it made sense. She uses words like “pussy” and “faggot” a few times in the book. It’s not great, but it serves a really important purpose, it points to the ways in which men in our society are shamed into silence about their pain, fear, mental health, emotions in general. Josh can’t talk to anyone about the pain he feels from his injuries, his possible PTSD, his fears about being close to people, and many, many more things because he’s been taught it would make him a “pussy”. I really think Demetrios handled this well, and I certainly think it’s something we all need to be more aware of and try to stop in real life.
This book is so very important to me and it should be to everyone. I read this book right after Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, which was also a very important book to me, I only mention this because theses books share something. They both take on topics that many people choose to ignore. Niven’s book is about mental health and suicide, these are topics we are constantly battling to end the stigma against. Demetrios’s book is about what comes after the war: PTSD, suicide, alcoholism, physical injury, death. A lot of these things are hidden or ignored in society still, especially PTSD which many people refuse to acknowledge. I think that the honesty with which Demetrios and Niven use to talk about these topics is very important. There’s a lot more that needs to be done to help, to spread information and understand, and to end the taboo and the stigma that surrounds these topics, but these two wonderful women have certainly contributed something meaningful, and helpful, to this fight.
To add to all of the awesome that this book already is, Heather Demetrios is doing this super amazing promo where you will get an exclusive Valentine’s love letter from Josh Mitchell! I don’t know how long it runs to, I think until Valentine’s Day though. Basically, if you pre-order the book (or I guess buy it after the 3rd?) and send her proof of the purchase she will send you a handwritten love letter from Josh, a signed bookplate, and bookmark. AMAZING. You need a US mailing address, but if you’re international you can get the letter e-mailed to you. Which is kind of amazing of her to do. I live outside of the US but I asked a relative if I could have everything mailed to them, and I am so excited for it all. I think this is such a unique promo and that it really fits the content of the book perfectly.
This book is an absolute must-read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I also cannot even begin to describe how grateful I am to Heather Demetrios for doing writing this book, I know it’s going to mean something to a lot of her readers.