Author: J.A. Rock
Publisher: Loose Id
Cover Artist: Dar Albert
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Dresden Marich has failed out of high school three months shy of graduation. He’s infatuated with his online friend, Evan, alienated from his family and former classmates, and still trying to recover from his father’s death six years ago. He’s also keeping a troubling secret about his older brother, Gunner, who is away at boot camp.
Then Dresden meets Caleb, a judgmental environmentalist who’s hardly Dresden’s fantasy come true. But Caleb seems to understand Dresden’s desire for rough sex, big feelings, and, ultimately, safety. As Dresden becomes embroiled in a farmers market drama involving Caleb, a couple of bullying tomato enthusiasts, and a gang of vigilante vegans, he discovers he might be willing to trade a fantasy relationship with Evan for a shot at something real with Caleb.
But Dresden fears telling quick-to-judge Caleb his secret, and the news that Gunner is coming home sends him fleeing to California for a chance to meet Evan in person and hopefully fall in love. When the encounter doesn’t go as expected, Dresden faces a choice: stay in California and carve out a new life, or take the long road home to his family, Caleb, and a past he must face if he has any hope for a future.
J.A. Rock was recently a guest of Prism Book Alliance. Be Sure to check out their guest post here.
There’s nowhere to hide from the unflinching beginning of this book. You get a chance very early on to decide whether you want to keep going where it’s going to take you. I, of course, kept going. I was already paralyzed, stillness surrounding me. I had no choice.
This story is grief, losing control, needing and yet rejecting it, anger, emptiness, family, self-preservation, escape, heart, need, and it’s all spectacular.
Word selection is sublime. Not a single misstep. This story about Dresden and Caleb was meant to be told by this author. You know that feeling? I know you do. I felt that here, all the way through.
I want to be a night noise – a mysterious and haunting sound people take for granted and tune out.
There’s no escape from the emotion, no escape from the crystal clear descriptions of the rough edges that seem to define everything in this small Oregon town and the people within it.
Real. Awkward and blunt conversations. Dirty hands. Freedom captured. Dresden’s narration sometimes reads like stream of consciousness, or maybe just the brain of an eighteen year old. The exception comes when he’s with Caleb. His mind slows, everything slows, except for maybe Dresden’s heartbeat. Caleb, on the other hand, is lost, slowly feeling his way around, except when he’s not, which is a lot. He’s disconnected, quiet, even sometimes with Dresden. This is where it starts, this thing that seems to make them “work” together.
To toss a bit of light into this darkness, this book has one of my favorite lines, something Dresden is thinking about Caleb:
He’s like a filthy Captain Planet.
Rock asks many of the questions I’ve wondered over the years, at different times in my life. I think I’d win big if I placed the bet that most of us have asked these things Dresden is trying to figure out.
I don’t know. I just want to be quiet. I want to not think.
Dresden begins to learn what he needs and wants, that maybe trust can once again be a part of his life. Maybe that trust will be repaid instead of betrayed. If I had to pick a single thread that weaves through this story, it would be the struggle to trust.
There is one part of the story that interrupted the flow and tension for me. It makes all kinds of sense for the story and it couldn’t be ignored, but it temporarily took things off track for me, even though I know Dresden had to try, had to find out. On the other hand, the tension is nearly unrelenting, so taut with discovery and doubt throughout this book, maybe it had to catch its breath, too.
The emotion is lingering and scratching and screaming all over these pages. It yanked my breath right out of my lungs at times. Rock found her decipher with this one and manipulated it beautifully. My experiences have been different than Dres and Caleb but I have felt exactly the same as they when facing challenges, grasping for satisfaction, and attempting to strangle anxiety.
There’s a rhythm to grief, strong and identifiable as any song. You sink into it, rock with it; you find it stuck in your head long after you’ve stopped listening, perched like a bird on the surface of your brain and pecking.
I cannot say yes, yes, yes too many times. Yes.
AJ Rock knows vulnerability, exposes and examines it. She treats it like a precious, vital thing, despite its ability to inflict pain, to make us aware that it can cause pain. The fear of vulnerability, of letting people see us, to touch and pity, to recognize and therefore strengthen and solidify its hold and power… this is the struggle with trust. It’s also redemption. The one who acknowledges our vulnerability is often one who helps us to see our opportunity and redemption.
He’s in my museum and he’s looked at my life, and now he sees all the shapeless things I’ve been and am and will become. He’s the only one in here, because he’s the only one I trust to make sense of it. To come up with an interpretation I can live with.
Rock can make the words do her bidding. It feels like I read this quickly, more quickly than usual, but that might just be my “excuse” for wanting to turn right around and read it again.
This is one of the best of the best. Not just this year or the next list. It resides in a spot which can never lose its home.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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