I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
It's been a year since John lost his girlfriend, Leah, to suicide. Living with his uncle keeps his mind from the tragedy and his screwed up family-until he gets into trouble and a judge sends him back home. With a neglectful mother and abusive brother, John's homecoming is far from happy. As he tries to navigate and repair the relationships he abandoned years ago, Emily, the girl next door, is the only bright spot. She's sweet and smart and makes him think his heart may finally be healing. But tragedy isn't far away, and John must soon face an impossible decision: save his family or save himself.
There were so many emotional aspects to the synopsis of the book, but unfortunately I felt a bit let down by the story. John's brother was in an accident years ago (I think John was nine or so) and became paralyzed. He also can't really speak or feed himself very much. John acted out after the accident and he was sent away to his uncle's. But he gets in trouble there too, and he comes back to his parent's. He is also still depressed about his girlfriend committing suicide.
Okay, the issue with this book is that I felt like everything was kind of superficial and there were too many unanswered questions. I didn't understand why the parents would send a ten year old away? I also didn't understand the relationship between John and Leah and why she committed suicide or why he suddenly acted out or why he had to leave his uncle's after getting in trouble once. The uncle wasn't even in the book, except for an occasional text. That seemed odd for someone who practically raised him. I didn't realize until after I read it that John's girlfriend, Leah, was the character from Ramey's first book, The Sister Pact. After finding that out, I understood Leah a bit better but I still have questions about her relationship with John. I really enjoyed Ramey's first book, but honestly, I don't remember how much they talked about John in that one. I don't remember it being very much. Emily (John's love interest) also had some issues that were unresolved. She talked a bit about feeling overwhelmed with pressure and a cousin who was on drugs. I get the feeling that the author created this conflict to emphasize John's need to take care of everyone. The problem is that Emily's issues weren't resolved; they were just kind of dropped so I didn't understand the point. I didn't really like Emily either. She was just too bland and too perfect.
But there were a couple of things I liked about the book: the writing style, for instance. And John's struggle with anger. I kind of liked that he called it his "dragon" and he talked about his anger like it were an actual person. I could empathize with John's struggle to keep his anger in check, but this was just another issue that was too underdeveloped. I didn't really like John's parents, but I could empathize with them and I can imagine that it was somewhat realistic. John's mom felt like she had to take care of her disabled son and her other two children naturally felt neglected. Speaking of which, John's sister Livy was too cute and also too smart for her own good. I loved her and I loved John's relationship with her. I did like the fact that John was in therapy for his issues, but again, they didn't really touch on John's anger very often.
Sorry, but I just didn't enjoy this one as much as I enjoyed the first one.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Skip this one.