Novel: I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios | Goodreads
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.
This book is one that I’ve been wanting for a while. I spotlighted on quite a few end-of-year posts saying it was one of my top 2015 releases that I’d been lusting over. When I saw it at Barnes & Noble after a lacrosse game, I jumped at the chance to read it and eagerly started it during team breakfast (I know! I know! Sorry, team.)
It was a one-day read. A two-sittings read. I devoured it – something about the small-town feel coupled with the vibrance of the narrative convinced me to ignore my to-do list and just read.
The first aspect that really leapt out at me was how absorbing Skylar’s narrative was. It’s so easy to fall into cliche patterns with the small-town-girl just trying to get out there. From her black Chuck Taylors and blatant use of sarcasm, her characterization could have erred on the side of a trope so easily. But Heather Demetrios fleshed her out and attached small, memorable details to her that made her surprisingly vulnerable and lovable. She was strong in a way that reminded me of Reagan from Open Road Summer with a poignancy behind her that reminded me of Lennie from The Sky is Everywhere. To say that’s a pleasurable combination would be an understatement.
I had a lot of respect for Skylar by the end of the book, not only in her circumstance but in her own sense of right and wrong. She had a very firm idea of what she was comfortable with and didn’t stray much beyond those lines, despite her desire to see the world and escape her small town. From drinking to sex, she had a lot of limits that she felt would restrict her to her town and her reasons – and gradual experimentation – were compelling. Again, it lent her that vulnerability and fear that let me relate to her, but she was still strong. Both characters were flawed and still addictive to read about because they felt like people I’d want to talk to in real life.
Josh’s narrative is very dark. I was actually surprised in discovering the dual narrative, mostly because of the strange pacing. Similarly to Anatomy of a Misfit, I’ll Meet You There has small stream-of-consciousness-style inserts every few chapters; in this book, that’s where Josh’s thoughts came in. We got to see his bitterness, the harsh PTSD, and the struggles he was facing at home. This is where the war aspect of the book really consumed me, and I found myself mourning for everything Josh had to leave behind – that mixture between the horrors he witnessed in Afghanistan versus the duty that he felt to be over there again doing his job. It was really a perspective that swallowed me, and one that I valued highly in seeing.
Although I knew going in that I’d love this book – it struck me as one that echoed many of my favorites and so I featured it in a Waiting on Wednesday post – I was surprised by a lot of it. I was shocked by the atmospheric settings. It reads with that magnetic flow that most YA has, but it does evoke certain scintillating depictions of settings that feel real, which surprised me because their town didn’t exactly have a lot to choose from. Certain scenes, like going dancing at a Spanish music hall, were striking in their singularity without deviating from the voice that kept me reading.
Another surprise? Skylar’s family situation. Unlike many YA books, her struggle wasn’t in getting the college scholarship or the funds to go out of town, but her struggle focused mainly on what she would leave behind. Her mother, still stricken by the death of her father, was destined to work at the neighborhood Taco Bell. But when circumstances rose against Skylar, one of her main focuses was her mom’s situation and how sharp their arguments became. The level of detail – and the mixture of pain and affection – behind each encounter was well done to say the least.
In writing this, I’m struck with how much I could talk about: her best friend Dylan. The enigmatic nature of the Paradise Motel, and the stories lingering there. The characterization of the places. The thoughtful, gritty observations about her small-town culture. The war memories. The development.
I hesitate to write about the romance just because this book is so beautiful that I don’t want that to be the only focal point – and it’s not, in the book. But both characters have such fascinating narratives and reputations that their intersection is really lovely.
Josh and Skylar have known each other; from the beginning of the book, that’s clear. Everybody knows everybody. Skylar’s been working at the Paradise Motel graveyard shift just as long as Josh, and Josh gets around town with the girls. Both had their own demons and both didn’t bring them out lightly. Their conflict was both exciting and realistic. Their instant familiarity was indeed magnetic – no awkwardness, except in moments where their relationship was really called into question – which lent the romance this conversational, casual tone that made it really accessible. It was warm, difficult, and touching.
The overall arc of the book, and the way it’s all put together, just pulled me in right away. It’s tense at all the right moments, this endearing mix of gritty and romantic, and had characters that truly affected me. I’m in awe of this book. It has life within it – a quality that makes it soar to the top of my 2015 Favorites. I highly recommend it to any contemporary fan, or somebody who wants a book that stays with them.