**I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review**
This is going to be one of those books that either people really love or really don’t know how to rate because it fell flat for them. I fall into the latter of those two. I wanted to like this book and I tried really hard to connect with what was happen but I just struggled. It wasn’t in the way the story was presented, although that felt a little odd at times. I’ll explain in a bit. It also wasn’t the characters that kept me at arm’s length. I believe it was the overall story itself. I zoned out the first half of the book, just going through the motions, but started paying attention during the second half when things started happening far too quickly.I did finish the story but it did not spark any type of emotion in me.
Trigger warnings: bullying, homophobia, domestic violence, abuse, grief, underage drinking, underage drug use, sexual encounters without explicit consent, and PTSD.
I wish I could have connected to the MCs, Jo and Kurl, but it did not happen. I felt bad for what they were going through individually but felt their leap from not knowing one another to friendship through letters to a romantic relationship happened way too quickly. It did not feel believable at all. I could not help but be a little flabbergasted at the adult level of events (think private, romantic moments) that were described in painstaking detail. I have read some pretty adult stories before and this had me squirming at times. I was starting to wonder if this was too much for YA readers. Let’s just say it was not for the faint of heart and leave it at that.
I also started to become a little uncomfortable with the lack of consent throughout this entire story. While there was a lot of teenage hormones in this story, the lack of consent seemed to be absent. At times it felt Kurl was taking advantage of Jo and the feelings Jo had for him. Kurl apparently wasn’t ready to deal with this feelings so he went to a party, got drunk and hooked up with a girl. That’s all fine but there was no consent – we were only told that he went to a party, got drunk, hooked up with a girl – who was also drunk – but doesn’t remember anything else but he didn’t see it as a big deal. He was able to brush that off without batting an eye. Jo seemed to be perfectly fine with this and forgave Kurl. For Jo to proclaim to have such deep feelings for Kurl, why did he let him get away with something so hurtful and wrong? It was almost like he was giving Kurl permission to do something like that again because Jo wouldn’t/didn’t get upset or even put up a fight. I did not like that.
The way the story was presented was one thing that stood out to me. The idea of writing letters and feeling a bit anonymous was not a bad idea, I liked that part. It was that the two MCs felt they had to rehash/recap word for word events that took place but the person they were writing to/about was already at those events. That did not make sense to me. Every single time Jo recapped a scene for Kurl, Kurl was the main player but Jo felt the need to tell him everything as if he wasn’t already there but yet he was. I’m sorry but what? I get that it was for the reader’s benefit but it made no sense to me and started to irritate me. I know I shouldn’t have focused on stuff like that but I couldn’t let it go. I could not imagine trying to tell my spouse about an event or thing that happened that he was apart of yet talk to him like he didn’t already know what happened. I would not ever do that.
The ending felt incredibly rushed and not resolved at all. We were left with Kurl and Jo talking about the future and the hint that maybe they will stay friends or even try again at a relationship. Whatever happens, I didn’t care. It was too neatly tied up with a pretty bow and felt unbelievable. If you are hoping this book reads like Ari and Dante, you will probably be disappointed.