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ALMOST is everything I look for in YA. Great characters, story, and of course the kind of love that gives me butterflies and has me yelling "kiss! kiss!" at the characters. I love how the author shows us how Jess's struggle with the past and how she grows and gets stronger throughout the book (the younger sister was great, too) So many teen girls have dealt with this or a similar situation and I admire the author for addressing it and then showing that there's healing and hope. And then there's the secrets Gray's been holding in and how he deals with it. Gray Porter is sweet and cute and a great guy. The love story is totally sigh-worthy. I could go on and on about all the amazingness of this book, but I'll just say read it, read it, READ IT!!!
At age 14, while a freshman in high school, Jess Jordan attended a party. She got drunk, or was she drugged? Or both? She was almost raped. Now three years later, she's suffering debilitating nightmares. Afraid to sleep, she's living off of energy drinks and daytime power naps. She wants to be normal. She craves it. She thinks she's getting there, almost. But when everyone is holding a secret around you, finding your normal is a difficult struggle.
"A boyfriend, love, and any sort of normal relationship is not for me. I'm not allowed to have that. If I were, I'd have cured myself long ago."
Gray Porter is her perfect fake boyfriend. Well, sort of. Except that despite the deal they struck, they have both fallen for one another. Oh, and he is holding a secret that has the potential to both destroy their relationship and her.
This was a powerfully written book about the struggles of bad choices, "almosts", lies and secrets. What happens when everyone sweeps things under a rug and pretends things didn't happen or doesn't want to deal with it with the hopes of just moving on?
"Almost. Thank God. Almost. Nothing happened, right?"
"I never lied. I just couldn't figure out how to tell you the whole truth without losing you. Without hurting you. I couldn't bear either option."
There's a ripple effect. An avalanche. And when the rug is pulled away, hopefully there will be someone there to hold you up so you don't fall, and drown.
However, in the beginning I sort of wondered how a girl could still have problems from a certain occurrence after three years. The story was extremely well written. By the end, everything was explained and made sense. But until the end I was kept on my toes. I continued to think something terrible would happen with the contract between Jess and Gray, or better yet, that something amazing would happen. The suspense had me plowing through the pages.
I adored Gray. His character had several sides. I noticed how his inner voice sounded different from the way Jess heard and saw him, but then I realized that they were both holding secrets from one another, so understanding was bound to be rough. He otherwise was adorable and so kind to Jess. With the revealing end I just gasped at how dedicated he had been to her. He was very heroic. I almost want to say he was too perfect-and maybe to Jess he was-but he did have flaws, and I appreciated seeing that. It makes more sense to have an imperfect character with another imperfect character than a perfect character with a totally screwed-up character. Jess and Gray completed each other as they completed each other's story.
Jess was...different. There were some moments were I thought she was going to have a meltdown and I started feeling embarrassed for her. She was a tough character to handle. I liked her though. I remember that just from the excerpt she made me laugh. Her sarcasm and depressing attitude held some humor that lightened the story.
My major complaint about the book was the end. It was too rushed after all the building to the moment and all the details carefully set in. It was also very dramatic, and-at least I thought so-it was awkward. It wasn't awkward as in poorly written, it was more so just a weird scene where all the issues are let out and the parents are falling apart and Jess is exploding and the coach is there. I guess the scene was necessary because Jess had been holding so much in that it just had to all come out with a bang, but I found it unsettling and I wished it had been toned down a bit.
Overall, it was an amazing book. Extraordinary writing for sure. Reading it made me very emotional. But parts are very dramatic, and while I like reading about teen problems, I don't like teen, parent, friend, etc. drama. Loved it though. I definitely recommend it.