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“...it’s your job to develop your heart and intellect. Your outside will develop on its own.”
This book deals with some tough issues, but as in true Alison Bailey style it is done with heart and class. While some scenes had me in tears, the overall love story had me page turning and I couldn’t put this book down. This is more a YA/NA read, if you want a passionate read then this is not it, but this is a slow burn love, believable, full of questions and self-doubt but with good reason and all I can say is, thank god for the epilogue!
“I loved him then and I still love him. And if I can love him through all of that, why can’t he love me through all of this.”
Hollis was a beautiful character both inside and out, but for the past year she had had a tough time of it and her life was to never be the same, one life altering event that would forever shape her as a person and the opinions of those around her. Starting college is always a big step for any person, but for a girl that was extremely self-conscious and always having that mantra hanging around your head of fitting in and being accepted, college was always going to be a tough ride. Girls can be so mean, that is no secret and having been on the end of it myself I sympathised with Hollis unequivocally. Hollis was strong though, she stood up for herself, she had barbs at the ready but in secret, behind closed doors, the weight of everything would sometimes get her down.
Risher, O.M.G, one thing that Alison Bailey excels in is creating the perfect man, Risher had me swooning BIG TIME! This was a guy that was popular, all the girls wanted him, he was stunning both inside and out, but from the moment they bumped into each other, Risher only had eyes for Hollis. This was a man that knew beauty was only skin deep, he didn’t look at the outside, he wanted what was on the inside, he wasn’t superficial, he was a gentleman, he was perfect. He knew that Hollis had issues, but he worked around them, he gained her trust, he went softly-softly and this is exactly what Hollis needed. He was genuine, he was thoughtful, he wore his heart on his sleeve, he was fiercely protective, he was literally PERFECT!
I loved Hollis’s room-mate Abigail, while in the first instance she came across as prickly it soon becomes apparent she has her own issues to contend with and a problem shared is a problem and halved and it isn’t long before these two are as thick as thieves, they had each other’s back, always. This epitomises an Alison Bailey read...friendship.
“Things are not always black and white, Abigail. There’s a lot of grey in the world.”
Every single one these characters has their flaws, their insecurities, their issues. All they want from life is to be seen for who they are, not what they are or what they represent. They just want acceptance and to be treated as a normal, human being, not much to ask...but you would be surprised. Between mean girls and awful parents these three have their work cut out but the way they work through it will have your emotions all over the place.
“Stretch your mind, open your heart, and expand your understanding.”
As Mark Twain once said “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”
I am not going to say anything about the plot as this is one of those books that needs to be read blind, know it will be emotional, know it covers some tough issues and expect the unexpected. But also know that this book is full of life lessons and ones that we can take away from, this book makes you think, re-evaluate, re-assess and I love a book that makes you think. You will run the gamut of emotions from like, love, anger, compassion, hate and despair. You will be laughing one minute and crying the next, from happy, to sad, to shocked, to swooning. This book has it all, yes it is a rollercoaster, but it is exactly like the ride itself, once you are on you can’t get off, you take the ups and the downs, and you take the rough with the smooth but at the end you will be smiling because you have just been on the ride of your life.
“Never Discuss Infinity with a Mathematician. You’ll never hear the end of it.”
This is one those books where one cannot be sure what is considered a "spoiler" to someone, so my apologies in advance to anyone miffed by me mentioning something they don't think I should. Hollis is an incoming college freshman who comes from a loving and supportive home. Everything should be perfect, but it isn't. She was involved in a tragedy the year before, one that changed her life and those around her. Due to an accident, she is now somewhat "disfigured", and is ashamed of it, as well as petrified of the reactions of others. This causes her to be someone quite different than she used to be. Her roommate is Abigail, a very secretive and private girl with whom Hollis cannot connect, and seldom even sees. Consequently, Hollis is lonely.
Of course, the first day at college moving in she literally runs into a hottie of hotties, Risher Stevenson, who shockingly enough is nice to her and has no reaction to her disfigurement. As the days go on, Risher keeps showing up around Hollis, showing obvious interest, although other girls are draped all over him. Of course, there is a blond hottie, Leah, who is all over Risher trying to snag him. He keeps brushing her of in favor of being with Hollis, but Hollis's insecurity will not let her believe such a hunk could actually like her. Leah cannot comprehend why every red-blooded American boy wouldn't want a chance to be with her, so she is a semi-constant thorn to Hollis. Needless to say, I have now described most of the rest of the book.
What Hollis doesn't realize until much later, is that everyone has insecurities, self-doubts, and secrets that they don't want to reveal. Her self-centered pity party due to her disfigurement (not that I totally blame her for that) keeps her from seeing early on that not everyone is shallow, particularly once one gets to college. They might be, as it depends on what kind of people with whom you associate, but you are always free to choose others to hang with.
Through the book, at a much slower pace than I would like for a book of this level, we find out that Risher also has issues and secrets. Hollis doesn't see that until it is almost too late, but she finally catches on. Hollis does manage to reach beyond herself, though, when she finds out that Abigail has a BIG issue with which she is dealing, one that Hollis would never expect. It is this issue that takes the focus of the second part of the book, and here is where the book finally switches from a YA high school student going into college coming-of-age story, to a more college-level treatise on the effects loved ones and even casual acquaintances can have upon a person who is struggling and does not easily fit in..
The final showdown and finale, though in some ways quite predictable, is also rather touching, and one of the reasons the book made it to four stars for me. If you can get past the more juvenile sections in the first half or so, you will be glad you held on.
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