Author: Abria Mattina
Published: September 22nd 2011 by Primrose Publications
Format: Ebook provided by author for review
Eighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.
This book was fantastic!!!! Seriously, it was so good, if I could give it more than 5 stars, I definitely would. In fact, I’ve already gotten one friend to purchase a copy for himself, and I am anxiously waiting to hear his thoughts on it. Don’t let the high page count scare you off! It almost scared me off, I’ll admit it. I kept delaying reading this book. Funny how something like that can scare you. BUT I made a huge mistake in waiting. Honestly, I don’t think the cover or the blurb do the contents of this story justice. No, I have no clue how I would change either one lol. I should also note that I powered through this book in one weekend – I couldn’t help it, it was that good. I literally had double vision from eye strain while grocery shopping! And it was totally worth it!
Let’s start with the facts about this story. It is about Jem (short for Jeremiah) and Willa, two high school students with more pain in their history than any person should have to deal with. The story alternates between both of their point of views, sometimes both going over the same scene from their own point of view. This worked SO well for this story. It kept it fresh and moving. Right from the beginning of this story I was captured by the whole tone and easy flow.
First we have Jem. Jem is in remission from cancer. He is relatively new at his high school, so he doesn’t really have any strong relationships with people there. He does, however, have incredibly strong and powerful relationships with the people within his family. I loved them all, and I couldn’t wait until I could come over to their house and integrate myself into the Harper family. I firmly believe without their love and support Jem would not have survived the diseased that ravaged his young body. Aside from that, Jem is a bit of a snarky pessimist – a new thing for him. But he has just survived something so painful and it has stolen so much from him, you can’t blame him. But even further, he is a deep and caring person. He has a wicked sense of humor and I would totally want to be his friend.
“… And before you try any other small talk: yes, I really did move here from Newfoundland; no, you may not borrow my car, homework, or money; black is my favorite color and the Stones feed it to the Beetles. Okay?” -Willa
Next, and certainly not least, Willa. Willa has just moved back to Smiths Falls. She is a bit quirky, and cancer has also touched her family. She is no stranger to the pain and fear that the disease brings to not only the patient, but everyone around them. But she has this wonderfully warm and caring side that she just really doesn’t give herself credit for. So many times I just wanted her to see what a terrific person she is, but when you have secrets like hers it can be hard to see what is right in front of you.
Willa and Jem become lab partners in Social Studies. It begins as a horrible and annoying friendship of circumstance. Both are annoyed by the other, but you can tell there is something else there just swimming beneath the surface. And then a friendship begins; a complex, beautiful, enchanting, scary and frightening friendship. I really believe that Willa was a huge part in Jem’s recovery, and her sincerity and sensitivity were integral to him becoming him again. Their road is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But through the entire book I was constantly pulling for them. I wanted them to work through his attitude, her ability to shut down, all of the mountains before them. I fell in love with these characters. I didn’t do the math, but you get a nearly daily account of their days for several months. It really gives you a chance to get to know them. I mean, you get to know these characters on such a basic level you feel like you’ve known them forever. When they hurt, so do you. And when they smile it puts you over the moon. This book was definitely magical and touching, and I was sad when it was over. But I WILL read it again. I have a feeling this is a book where you learn something new every time you read it. I wish it was in print, but I don’t believe it is. (EDIT: Yes, it is in print - you can find it HERE) Another thing, if you are a foodie, make sure to check out Abria’s website while you read the book. Food plays a huge part in this story, and she is awesome enough to have the recipes on her site!
Want more Abria?
See her at the Canadian small press book fair in Ottawa on June 30th
She will also be at the launch of Ottawa Arts Review 6.2, which will happen in August (date TBD)
Find Abria online: