Ok... I'm trying my best to compose myself enough to write this review. I don't think I will go into too much detail about the plot, in an attempt to avoid spoilers, and also so that you are able to experience Gracie's struggle for
yourself. This book deals with a pretty serious (and, sadly probably often overlooked) issue-- psychologically abusive relationships. I went into this expecting to cry ugly tears. I'm a huge crybaby and I could just tell this one would hurt my heart. And it did, but it wasn't as difficult as I was expecting. The struggles, both internally and externally, that Gracie has to overcome in this book were heartbreaking, but there was also a very beautiful and sweet side to this novel that makes all of those hard parts worth the read!
Gracie, our main character and narrator, breaks up with her stable, comfortable, dependable boyfriend of 2 years to give Noah, a "pig-headed, womanizing ass" a fair shot when he shows her a side of himself that no one else ever sees-- a sensitive side. She's innocent and naïve and she falls for Noah and the excitement and "danger" he brings into her life. She falls hard. Shortly after transferring to Noah's college, Gracie's life is turned upside down when Noah reverts back to his old ways. And every time he screws up- which is a lot- and Gracie tries to stand up for herself and call it quits, he somehow finds a way to pull her right back in. He is completely and utterly infuriating. He treats her horribly, abuses her emotionally, pushes her away, then begs for forgiveness-- which she, of course, gives. Then turns around and does it all over again! The roller coaster of emotions that she endures at the hands of Noah are unreal. There were so many moments in this book that I was so frustrated with Gracie for not kicking him to the curb once and for all, but it was clear to see how badly she was struggling. His behavior and treatment of her turns her into someone who is constantly second guessing herself, her actions, and her worth. She is so caught up in Noah and trying to make him happy, that she loses herself in the process.
Which brings us to the oh so fantastic Jake. *sigh* There are no words for how much I love this character. Well, maybe there are three. Holy. Freakin'. Swoon! He's perfect. Disgustingly and wonderfully perfect! There are parts of the book where the author takes us through the... "process" I suppose of Gracie actually drowning- Being pulled under, unable to breathe, fighting against the current, etc... as it relates to Gracie's emotional state. I'll get into that in a bit, because I loved it, but there was one part in particular that relates to Jake, and it fits perfectly with how I imagined him in this story.
"I washed up onto the beach. It was warm. The sand was soft like big pillows. I laid there and listened to the beauty of nature while I soaked up the soul-healing glow of the bright midday sun. This was where I wanted to stay. This was a safe place. Nothing could hurt me here. The darkness was gone."
Jake truly was Gracie's safe place. Back when things were good, or as good as they could be between Gracie and Noah, Gracie and Jake became close, as he was friends with Noah before they began dating. As horrible as Noah is, Jake is his polar opposite. He is kind, supportive, funny, and a genuinely amazing person. The unconditional friendship and love he offers Gracie is beautiful and really made this story for me! He is there for her, each and every time, and helps to build her back up every time Noah tears her down. It would have been nice if Gracie had occasionally found the strength that she
needed to pull through things on her own, but I just loved Jake too much to even complain about that. The part that he played in Gracie's life and her story, and the way that their relationship develops is incredibly lovely.
"...Sad for you... and maybe a little sad for me, too. I'm also sad that you think you don't deserve more. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. I wish you knew your worth. I wish you knew how truly beautiful you are and how much more you deserve."
As I mentioned, there are parts in the story where the author gives us a glimpse into what's going on inside Gracie's head and lets us see where she is emotionally. She does this by equating Gracie's emotional and mental state to that of someone drowning. Someone being pulled under the water, unable to breathe, fighting to escape the current, and finally breaking free. I absolutely loved how this was written into the story and felt like the visual it provides goes a long way in allowing the reader to really feel what Gracie is feeling. This is such a powerful aspect of this novel for me.
On the next flash of light, I set my eyes on a hand and followed it back to a wrist and then to an arm. My eyes traveled up the pale lifeless arm...to my own shoulder. I was the reason I was drowning. My aching fingers sprung open and my body lifted off the ocean floor and slowly started floating up. Up. I was headed up.
I really enjoyed this authors writing style and absolutely cannot wait for the next book in this series. I look forward to reading much, much more from Michelle. I recommend this book to anyone who loves an emotional read and has an opening for a new book boyfriend, aka Jake Rockwell... But who am I kidding? We always have room for a new book boyfriend!