New York Times bestselling author J.A. Redmerski brings us a stunning and heart-wrenching new novel about a couple who find each other in their darkest moment.
Since they were kids, Elias Kline and Brayelle Bates have been inseparable. When Bray moves to South Carolina, separating the two for the first time, they both at last realize that their innocent childhood friendship has developed into something much more. So when Bray finally returns to Georgia—and to Elias—things between them couldn’t be more perfect…until one fateful night changes everything. Desperate not to go to prison for a terrible accident, Elias and Bray decide to run. As they try to make the most of their freedom, the two find themselves relying on a rebellious group of people who tempt the duo into a wild and daring new life. But they can’t run from their troubles forever.
As the consequences of their past catch up to them, the couple must finally face reality. Even if they can make it through the unimaginable, Elias knows the truth about Bray’s painful history, and in the end he may not be able to save Bray from herself…
I'm still at a bit of a loss for how to review this book. The writing was excellent. The story was well-paced and included twists and turns along the way. The main characters experienced growth throughout this book. However, this story left me with a vacant feeling. It made me sad and a whole other range of emotions. I'm not sure that I "got" what I was supposed to get from this book, but it definitely made me feel something.
Brayelle and Elias have been friends since they were in elementary school. They remained best friends their entire lives. Bray felt very worthy around Elias - a feeling she didn't get from her family at home. Elias became everything to her - her entire world revolved around him. As they grew up, it became an extremely unhealthy relationship. Bray and Elias are the absolute definition of co-dependent. After fighting through miscommunications and heartache, this couple gets on track for a happy life until they make a mistake and go to a river party. Their lives are changed forever by a series of mistakes than begin that night.
Brayelle has a serious mental illness. It is not apparent in the beginning of this story but become abundantly clear as the plot progresses. Bray has many demons she is fighting, and this illness causes her to make very ill informed decisions. Elias is smart and healthy enough to understand that Bray isn't completely stable, but he is powerless to do anything about it. He promises to never leave her side and believes that he would rather die than be without her.
Bray and Elias go on the run, hiding from very serious problems. They inject themselves into an even unhealthier lifestyle - they fall in with a group of people who drink, do drugs and party all the time. I mean...All. The. Time. Bray and Elias follow around a group of people who travel from town to town, staying in motels or crashing at friends' houses. This lifestyle puts them in bad situations that only decline as the novel progresses.
One day, the jig is up and Bray and Elias have to make a painful decision to face the mess they are running from. There is an extremely tense stand off where Bray's mental state is seen in full. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what decision Bray makes and how it affects Elias. Everything Elias or Bray does affects the other. They are a true two halves to their collective whole.
I thought Radmerski wrote Brayelle and her illness very well. Bray's actions were very believeable and I felt so bad for this broken girl. Elias was a love sick fool at times, feeling the need to protect Bray since no one else in her life had ever taken care of her. I thought they both made terrible decisions, but I thought that Elias should have known better. He should have righted the wrong much earlier than he did. I ended up liking Brayelle and the place where she ended up. The best thing I took away from this novel was the unconditional love and hope that this couple emitted.
One thing I didn't like was the maturity level of these characters. This novel is billed as "new adult" but the characters are a bit old for me to truly fit in that genre. For example, Elias is 27 when he takes a 26-year-old Brayelle to the river party. I'm sorry - I could see people in their early 20s attending a party like this, but not folks that are closer to 30. It just seemed off to me. Elias and Bray seemed emotional stunted - drinking and doing drugs out by the lake, having sex in a lake while others were near by and sleeping in a tent near several other couples - it just felt like something college kids would do. Not grown ups that have real jobs.
My other problem with this book was the side characters. I didn't like any of them. Bray's and Elias' childhood friend, Mitchell, was an ass. I know he was a meth addict, but I still couldn't stand him. Jana, an acquaintance of Elias that plays a huge role in this book, was superficial, whiny and bitchy. Tate, Jen, Caleb and Grace gave me this heebie-jeebies from the minute they were introduced. Tate, Jen and Grace ended up being okay people, but they came off as skeezy low lifes. I never connected with any of them.
This wasn't my favorite novel, but what can I say? It made me feel something. I think feeling despondent over a situation in a books is a hell of a lot better than feeling indifferent. I haven't read Radmerski's other work, and this book will not shy me away from her other novels. Again, I think this is a well-written and well-paced book. It has a light at the end of the hopeless tunnel, and I think there are a lot of readers who will enjoy this book very much.