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: ARC from Henry Holt/MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much!!!
So, Skylar Evans just graduated. She just has three months until she has to leave her hometown of Creek View, California for the promise of getting-the-hell-out-of-there and surpassing the non-expectations of everyone she knows. Her mother is still depressed about the death of Sky’s father so many years ago and has worked at Taco Bell for nearly two decades. They live in a trailer park and Sky’s best friend and neighbor is a teen mother. Sky’s other best friend, Chris, is also ready to board the train to anywhere-but-here, so the two of them are counting down the days of summer until it’s time to go to college and begin their real life. This is where we meet our heroine, on the night of her graduation and at a welcome home party for Josh Mitchell, a 19 year old Marine vet who lost a leg in the war. Sky knows Josh because he used to work with her at the motel before he left and she briefly dated his brother, Blake, when Josh was gone.
Josh is back home, to the place where people don’t have many ambitions and are happy to spend their days drinking, having sex, and doing drugs. He’s lost his leg and some friends and he’s in a vulnerable place, though he would not admit to it. He dives right back into being cool Josh Mitchell, who used to have all the girls running. They’re still running, but Josh is putting on a facade of “nothing’s wrong” all the while torn up inside. His new found friendship with Sky is one of the few bright lights in his dull existence. Sky’s presence calms him in a way that nothing else can and they become close during the summer. They fall hard for each other but true love never did run smooth. Add to that Sky’s newly strained relationship with her mother and Josh’s PTSD and you have a heartbreaking story about love, family, grief, pain, loneliness, and finding hope in tragedy.
There is so much about Sky to love. She’s very strong, she doesn’t compromise her beliefs or values, she has a big heart, and is very loyal to her friends. As she’s falling for Josh, in the back of her mind, she doesn’t think he’d ever go for her, especially given the girls in his past. Though we see things through Sky’s eyes, we get brief glimpses of Josh’s thoughts, which I thought were very well done and heartbreaking, considering the subject matter. The author obviously has done a lot of research into PTSD and knows quite a bit about the military. She portrayed Josh with just the right amount of determination and grief. Josh is a shining example of bad boy with a heart of gold. When he goes off the rails and gets in his own way, it tore at my heart because he had really been through enough in his short life.
This book will rock you. As soon as I finished, I had to pass on the love to my friend, Tee. It’s her kind of book because of all of the swooniness. It’s more than just a love story, it’s a testament to love, friendship, and resilience. Both Skylar and Josh will burrow their way into your heart and you will be better for having known them. That sounded a bit poetic…sorry about that. It is Valentine’s day, after all. Don’t miss out on this book.