I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is January 17, 2016.
Ninety seconds can change a life — not just daily routine, but who you are as a person. Gretchen Asher knows this, because that’s how long a stranger held her body to the ground. When a car sped toward them and Gretchen’s attacker told her to run, she recognized a surprising terror in his eyes. And now she doesn’t even recognize herself. Ninety seconds can change a life — not just the place you live, but the person others think you are. Phoenix Flores Flores knows this, because months after setting off toward the U.S. / Mexico border in search of safety for his brother, he finally walked out of detention. But Phoenix didn’t just trade a perilous barrio in El Salvador for a leafy suburb in Atlanta. He became that person — the one his new neighbors crossed the street to avoid. Ninety seconds can change a life — so how will the ninety seconds of Gretchen and Phoenix’s first encounter change theirs?
YES!! This book far exceeded my expectations. Phoenix comes from El Salvador and he came across the border so that he could get his brother away from the gang violence and the people that were looking to kill him. Phoenix is living with two women who took him in while he waits for word on whether he will be granted asylum status and his brother is living in a facility in another state waiting on word about whether he will be able to stay in the country. Meanwhile, Gretchen has PTSD from a robbery and assault months earlier. Both Phoenix and Gretchen were affected by gang violence, but in very different ways.
This was such a moving story and I loved both of these characters. Phoenix was so determined to save his brother and he went through so much to get here that I just wanted him to be able to stay. Phoenix's story just broke my heart. He made some mistakes and he carried a lot of guilt, but he was just trying to do the right thing for his brother. This book shed a lot of light about the gang violence in El Salvador and how hard it is for people to come across the border and what happens when someone tries to get asylum in this country. What I really loved was the author's use of the Spanish language. I have read a few other books where the author didn't do anything but drop some well known words in, like "amigo" or "buenos dias." It's like the author is just trying to do that to make us realize the character speaks Spanish. But I loved the author's use of that language and her knowledge of the culture and city of El Salvador. It felt so authentic. The author obviously did her research and she does talk about that in the author's note at the end.
Gretchen was such a survivor. Her story touched me as well. The author did a great job of showing how the assault and robbery affected her life and how everyone just wanted her to be the person she used to be, but that was never going to happen. I also thought Gretchen showed a lot of growth. In the beginning, she is a bit judgmental about members of gangs and why someone would choose to go into that life. Part of her feelings are because of the attack and part of them are because she has never went through what Phoenix did so she couldn't possibly understand. But I loved that she acknowledged her judgment and she realized she was wrong.
I loved the relationship between Gretchen and Phoenix and I also loved that this was not a story about how love can "cure" trauma. I have read too many of those books and they just aren't realistic. Gretchen has been through so much and during her first meeting with Phoenix, she mistakes him for her attacker. But then she realizes it's not him and she forces herself to apologize and become friends with him so that she can get out of her own head. Their relationship was so sweet and they had great chemistry. But I loved that they started out as friends. They got to know each other and opened up to each other.
This was such a beautiful story and I honestly can't think of anything I would want to change. The characters and the plot and the writing were all incredibly well done. I guess my ONLY issue was that things wrapped up a bit neater in the book than they probably do in real life. But it's a book so I can forgive it. Highly recommended!
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!