I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is March 1, 2016.
Jaycee is about to accomplish what her older brother Jake couldn't: live past graduation. Jaycee is dealing with her brother's death the only way she can – by re-creating Jake's daredevil stunts. The ones that got him killed. She's not crazy, okay? She just doesn't have a whole lot of respect for staying alive. Jaycee doesn't expect to have help on her insane quest to remember Jake. But she's joined by a group of unlikely friends – all with their own reasons for completing the dares and their own brand of dysfunction: the uptight, ex-best friend, the heartbroken poet, the slacker with Peter Pan syndrome, and... Mik. He doesn't talk, but somehow still challenges Jayce to do the unthinkable-reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.
I went into this book with low expectations. I thought that I would like it, but I wasn't expecting to fall in love with it the way I did. I loved the characters and the writing and the setting and all of it was just beautiful.
Jaycee's brother died five years earlier (0r maybe six, I can't remember) and everyone around her is still reeling from the after effects. It was the day after Jaycee's brother graduated from high school and he was dared to jump off a swingset (something he had done many times before) and he broke his neck. Jaycee was there to witness it and she has not been the same since. Jaycee experiences grief in her own way and because of it, I didn't always like it. She was honest to the point of being mean and she did a lot of dangerous stunts, including the one that got Jake killed. It isn't that Jaycee wants to die, she just doesn't have a lot of respect for life. Throughout the book, we learn a lot more about Jake, namely that he was an idiot who couldn't resist a dare and was always doing something that could get him killed. Now that Jaycee is the same age her brother was when he died, it seems like her stunts get crazier. She is on a mission to remember her brother and is joined by Natalie (her ex best friend), Zach (Natalie's boyfriend), Bishop (Zach's best friend) and Mik (Jake's childhood friend).
So let's talk about the characters. Like I said, I didn't want to like Jaycee a lot of the time. She was mean and it seemed like she didn't care who she hurt when she lashed out. But somehow, I ended up loving her a little bit. I just wanted to give her a hug and make all the pain go away. She had so much grief, but I hated that she thought her pain was worse than everyone else's because she was there. I mean, yes it must have been awful to watch her brother die. But did that mean her parents didn't understand how she felt? They did lose a child after all. And Jaycee's mom now lives in a mental institution and Jaycee gets mad at her father because she thinks he is forgetting Jake. I think she is torn because she wants to move on and yet, she thinks if she stops thinking about Jake for a second that she is betraying his memory. There is also a lot of anger there because, let's face it, her brother was an idiot. But she can't yell at him so she yells at everyone else.
Natalie was Jaycee's childhood best friend until she didn't know how to handle Jake's death. Her way of dealing with it was to stop being friends with her. Now she is counting down until she can break up with her boyfriend and move to New York. She just wants to get out of town. Natalie acts so pretentious and like such a know it all. I didn't like how she acted towards Zach and I hated how she handled Jaycee after her brother's death. But she did have reasons for checking out like she did and I could still relate to her a bit. Natalie had all these panic attacks and she just wanted to get out of town where no one knew her or Jake. I get that. I did want Zach to grow a backbone though, but there are reasons why he is the way he is as well. I think the book kind of lost me on all the psychoanalysis though. I know that Natalie's mom was a psychologist, but all the kids just seemed so self-aware. It was weird.
And Mik . . . ahh, Mik. Mik is selectively mute. He has a lot of social anxiety that prevents him from talking to people he knows and cares about. I don't know how the author managed to get me to care so much about a guy who rarely spoke, but she did. Man, did I love him. He was your basic strong and silent type and even though he rarely spoke, he still let Jaycee be herself and he still encouraged her (without even speaking) to move on. And man, the chemistry between Mik and Jaycee was HOT! I really loved them together and couldn't wait for them to kiss already. There was such a slow burn with that and I loved it. The best part was how the author chose to write his POV. We never, ever got to hear what he was thinking. His POV was basically a comic strip of a scene that was taking place. It was kind of awesome. I loved the art and I loved that the next chapter was someone else's POV AFTER that particular scene. It did take a couple of chapters to get into that, but it was awesome. Bishop's POV was kind of the same. Bishop had a tendency to spray paint graffiti and wherever they went and he would draw or paint or write some really deep statement. So his POV wad just drawings of his graffiti art.
Throughout this book, all four of these teenagers develop this loyalty and protectiveness and friendship that was awesome. I loved how protective Zach got and that he NEVER hit on her or indicated any romantic feelings (even when him and Natalie broke up about a million times). That goes for Bishop as well, who was nursing a broken heart. How many times are STRAIGHT guys friends with a girl?? It doesn't happen often, so I really noticed it in this one. All of the different settings of this book were amazingly detailed: everything from the abandoned insane asylum to the abandoned amusement park. Everything was sufficiently dark and creepy, much like most of the book. The writing of this book was so beautiful, as well as the art. This was one book where every POV was distinct so there was no risk of not knowing which voice belonged to whom. There was also so much that the author dealt with in this book: death, selective mutism, verbal abuse, sex, grief, divorce, cutting, depression, and so much more. But somehow she didn't throw so much in there that I got overwhelmed. These were just a lot of teenagers dealing with some very heavy stuff in some immature ways. It happens.
I really loved this book and I can't wait to see more from this author.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one. You won't be disappointed.