Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lovely, Dark and Deep

Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. "
- Robert Frost

Synopsis via Goodreads:
A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it. 
Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone. 
Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Reading this book was like seeing everything I've been feeling perfectly articulated on a page. It's like Amy McNamara saw inside me and was able to put into words what I never could myself. It was eerie and beautiful.

So, thank Amy McNamara, for writing this stunning book.

The only thing I can think to do is include some quotes that really resonated with me..
"I'd leave if I had somewhere to go. I hate being the cause of their concern... I've listened to everything everyone had to say on the subject of loss and bereavement. Survivor's guilt. None of it mattered. Matters. They're just words. Falling like snow. But I have to listen to them. Because I'm not free. My parents are still in charge, and apparently now frighteningly united. Another weight on my chest. I want to get away from weights. From the possibility that people need me not to dissappoint them. But where else can I go? I have nowhere else." (50)
This book really touched me, I already expressed how I felt like I was reading my own thoughts on the page, but that isn't because I am dealing with loss. Yes, this book is about loss, but it is also about depression, sadness, anxiety, about what it feels like to suffocate under the weight of your own body. I think any one who has dealt with depression would find solace in this book, just for its utter honesty.
"What I now know about sleepless nights, hours moving us toward what's never not there. How scarce it matters to be scared or brave. Dawn lifting itself to the window all the same." (55)
"It's terrible when you can tell you're scaring your mother... I can barely imagine getting through this evening, much less planning anything long-term. Looking forward. I just want to be alone... It has to stop, this conversation. I have to let her win. That's how it goes. I fold just to end the conversation." (212)
"A lock I don't want to pick. A map I can't follow. Not now. I think about skipping my appointment, chucking my phone out the window, slipping away. Drive to Canada, maybe, or at least until I run out of gas, but that would kill my parents with worry, and I don't want to give them any more grief. It shouldn't be so hard to live without messing up other people." (221)

Now, for the plot. The reason this book is half a star away from perfection is that I had a couple problems with the story. But, as you can probably tell based on the rating, these problems were minor. I loved this book.

The romance.
Unlike the synopsis leads you to believe, this story doesn't revolve around Wren's romantic relationship. This book is about Wren and her journey to finally coming to terms with a traumatic loss and her emotions surrounding it. And during the year she finally begins to heal, she meets someone whom she comes to love.

Wren's relationship with Cal is fragile and tentative, they both feel an immediate connection and the more they learn about one another, the closer they grow. But both Wren and Cal (though especially Wren) are afraid of what that kind of closeness means. 

This story is a departure from what you normally see in YA, where the entire story is leading up to the ending where the two main characters finally get together. Wren and Cal are together for the majority of the story, their problems arise from the deep emotional (and physical) pain they are dealing with, though their obstacles are very different. Actually, the only slight problem I had with the story was how quickly Wren and Cal get together. To me, it felt slightly rushed and I would appreciated more pacing, but in the end I felt like their relationship matured and deepened throughout the book. Despite the awkward beginning, the romance in this book is sweet and well-executed.

The characters.
I really enjoyed reading Wren's story. She is 18, my age, and though she is technically an "adult" she is still a teenager. The author did a wonderful job of capturing what it's like in that "in between" phase. Personally, I really appreciated how mature all the characters in this book were, including Wren. Yes, Wren struggles, and at times she loses sight of other people and is overwhelmed by her own issues, but that is a result of her crippling depression, not any lack of maturity. 

This book also is excellent in the way it depicts Wren's family dynamic. There is no DPS in this book (Disappearing Parent Syndrome, common among YA books).  Wren's parents are divorced and although her mother doesn't live near her and her father is the more laid-back of the two, both parents are fixtures in Wren's everyday life. Throughout the whole story we see Wren's mother checking in over the phone constantly. Both parents are involved and worry about Wren. 

Another thing I love about this book is how the characters grow and overcome so much over the course of the novel, but at the same time their problems never completely go away. At the end of the novel they are not magically healed by the power of love, they are both still very much broken. But, through their relationship they find strength to face their problems and there is hope for the future. Their issues aren't nicely wrapped up in 300 pages or the year they are together, but that's how real life is. And I found that both refreshing and beautiful.

Final Thoughts.
This book is truly lovely, dark and deep. It is one of the truest portrayals of depression and anxiety that I've read. I kept finding myself, my experiences, within the pages. This book cracked open my chest and reflected thoughts and feelings I hadn't been able to put into words. This book, this story, was raw and beautiful. It was achingly honest, both the story and the ending. I loved it. Very highly recommend.

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