Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart. Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything. Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in. It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. Now Vada must confront what she’s been running from. A past full of devastating secrets—those of others and those she’s been keeping from herself.
Leah Raeder has this amazing ability to create characters that aren't very likable, but you still care about them. That's kind of how I feel about Vada. From the beginning, I found it hard to like her or understand her. She pushed every single person in her life out of it. But I kind of understood where she was coming from. I have to say that I probably would have acted very similar to Vada in her situation. Maybe that's why I still found it easy to care about her and what happens to her.
Vada and her best friend/sometimes lover Ellis are in a horrible car accident. Vada is driving and a car rear ended them, killing the other person in the car. Despite the fact that the police ruled it an accident. Vada and Ellis are both still racked with guilt. Vada is devastated because her arm was badly hurt in the accident and she is an artist. I felt her devastation so clearly at the fact that she couldn't do what made her happy and complete. She had this way of imagining how she would draw everyone in her head and her vivid imagery was so poignant that I was as devastated as Vada that she couldn't physically create those images herself.
On top of all that, Vada is struggling with her sexuality. She is attracted to both guys and girls, but she is undoubtedly in love with her best friend, Ellis. Vada is Puerto Rican and that added a layer of depth to her confusion. Because of her conservative culture, she didn't want to admit to anyone that she was in love with a girl. She refused to tell anyone just how important Ellis was to her. This felt like such a real struggle for me. The way Vada explains it is that she always had this idea in her head of who she was supposed to end up with. And yes, this idea of a wedding to a man and beautiful children was influenced by her culture and her mother. But that doesn't make the idea (or her confusion) any less real. Vada thought that even though she was attracted to girls, she would always end up with a guy. How many of us can relate to this? Vada needed to realize that maybe her life would turn out differently from this idea she grew up with and that would be okay. Her journey to realize this was filled with pain and so much anger.
Vada pushes Ellis away and they end up living separate lives for a while. Honestly, I wasn't even sure I liked Vada and Ellis together at first. Their relationship struck me as extremely codependent and it seemed like they hurt each other more than they loved each other. It turns out that Ellis is keeping a secret too and once I understood this, I understood Ellis's motivations a little better as well. When Vada works as a cam girl, it made perfect sense for her character. Working as a cam girl allow her to keep everyone at arm's length. She has these sexual connections with strangers online and whenever anyone tries to make a connection in real life, she again just pushes everyone away. It was so incredibly frustrating. Her push and pull relationship with Ellis just made me want to shake both of them and it gets even worse when Vada meets "Blue." Blue is a client online who pays her to perform for him and no one else. The problem is that she starts falling for him. I can certainly see why because Blue is sexy and mysterious and seems to understand her in ways that not many people do. The problem is that because he is a stranger, she opened up to him in ways she never did with Ellis. She told him everything about herself. I was equal parts excited and terrified because she was taking personal risks with someone she knew nothing about. And she kept pushing Ellis (a REAL person) away for the thought of an imaginary person online. I do have to say also that the reveal of Blue's identity was a bit disappointing. I just did not want Blue to be who it ended up being . . . if that makes any sense.
Vada also starts getting close to Max, the father of the man who died the night of the crash. They become something like friends, but not really. It's more like they both lost something that night and they talk to the one other person who can possibly understand it. It is evident from the beginning that Vada is hiding something related to the crash. Ellis was drunk so she doesn't remember much and Vada wants to keep it that way. At some point, Max starts digging around too. I had a hard time understanding Max. He said that he didn't blame Vada for the crash, that it was an accident, but then he starts digging around in the details and also digging in Ellis and Vada's lives. That should have been a red flag for Vada, but she was a glutton for punishment (obviously).
There was one issue I had with the book, other than the identity of who Blue was. First, the pacing towards the second half of the book was a bit slow. There were two mysteries: the mystery of who Blue was and the mystery of what really happened the night of the accident. And in the middle of this was Vada's confusion about her sexuality. But there was a part of the book where it dragged so much because there was no focus on the mysteries and no real focus to Vada's confusion. For the longest time, it was about Ellis and Vada trying to repair their relationship. And yeah, I get that. I really do. The problem was that nothing was happening. It was several chapters of Vada and Ellis having dinner together and reconnecting. Sorry, but as important as this part may have been, it was just a bit boring.
The bottom line is that while the pacing may have been a little off in certain parts, Leah Raeder still creates a story with incredible three dimensional characters and a plot that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!