It’s been almost three weeks since I finished this book and I’m still not over it.  The micro-aggression. The outright aggression. The abuse. The feeling of helplessness.  The isolation. The small ways abusive and possessive relationships grow into something so big and all-encompassing that the world seems to come crashing down on you. Heather Demetrios has created a masterful study of teen abusive relationships that we’ll talking about for a long, long time.

 

From the book flap:

 Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

 

Overall:  Let me be clear. This book will not be your summer beach read.  It will be THE read of your summer–a book that resonates and stays with you for a very long time. 

This story is a beautifully written personal/fictional account of an abusive relationship Heather experienced in her past.  Grace Carter is a girl on a mission–she wants to live the BIG ARTISTIC LIFE in New York or Paris. Heavily involved in the theater program at school, her goal is to study and work in theater in a big city.  No matter where she lands, she wants it to be very far from Birch Grove, California.  Full of self-doubt, surrounded by the best of friends, she is dedicated to her work as an assistant director for her school’s theater program.

One of her other dreams: Gavin Davis, hot rock star senior in a fedora ( please see Just. Why. below). Artistic and full of swagger, Grace has a long-time unrequited crush on him. He hardly knows she exists until he notices her and it’s anything but the special girl trope from there.  I don’t want to ruin anything else for you except to say what follows…well, it made this book impossible to put down. In fact, I read it in one sitting and was at the edge of my seat the entire book.

Poignant and painful, Demetrios tackles topics such as abusive relationships, mental health, poverty, suicide, blended families, self-doubt and friendship.  She explores teen sexuality in a very frank and honest way without all the modesty tropes prevalent in YA. Grace is on the brink so many times in this story and is looped back again and again.  I’ll add that it’s not just Gavin pulling on her emotional strings, which is what makes the complexity of her relationship with him so much more enthralling to read. You feel almost like a fly on the wall, like you shouldn’t be there, but Heather finds an observation or point to make that makes you feel like you should have been a witness. You know the beginning, middle and end, but it’s the handling of the details that captivates the reader.

I have a feeling that this book will be a book that’s hard to hold on to. It will be bought and shared and traded. There are so many lessons so eloquently written. This will be the book that many abuse victims coming forward will be holding in their hands saying that Heather’s story helped them find the courage.  Judging by the Goodreads reviews I’ve read through, many friends in the book community have been in abusive relationships and already shared that reading this book caused them to speak out and acknowledge past abuse in their reviews.

This is not a pretty book, but it is a kernel of hope.

 

Judge a Book by its Cover:  I featured this stunning cover back in our First Half of October Cover Reveals back in November and simply couldn’t get it out of my head, so I added it to my most anticipated of 2017 list.  It’s eye-catching but also hauntingly beautiful and encapsulates this story perfectly. Also, I made a fashion set for it because I’m me.

 

Me Talk Pretty:  Breathtakingly written, this story is told entirely by Grace’s future omnipotent self starting from the beginning.  Heather’s writing is touching, disturbing and all too real. Her words are the seeds of her garden of pain. The poetry of Heather’s words work in stark contrast to the emotional harm inflicted on Grace. I wrote well over 50 quotes in my review notes, but am only giving you a small taste below so as not to ruin the story.  Please keep in mind that I was provided an ARC from the publisher for a review, so the quotes below may not make it to the final book, as presented.

“Some guys are grenades.”

“I blush, pleasure blooming in my chest. I don’t know it now, but there will be a garden inside me soon. And it’ll grow thorns.”

“All the want of the past few weeks washes over us, drenching. That is something else I will learn while I am with you–not now, but later: there are so many ways to drown.”

“Paris at night. Moscow in winter….These are things I can’t find in Birch Grove and so I magic them into being, gathering everything Other around me.”

 

Kick-Ass Factor:  You want this moment to come and you will constantly be disappointed by this book, simultaneously unable to put it down, until you are not.

 

Just. Why.  That. Fedora. That fucking fedora. Never trust anyone who’s trying to bring back a fashion travesty from 15 years ago while dressing like Kurt Cobain. Gavin gave me icky goosebumps from the first mention of that damned fedora.

 

Don’t Believe the Hype:  I couldn’t put this book down. You should pick it up. Right. Now. What are you waiting for?

 

Open tab/Last call:  We usually save this spot for a cocktail/bar combination, but Bad Romance deserves better comfort.  Heather, let’s get together and have some cake instead. I’m ready. Anytime. Any place.

Bad Romance // Publication: June 13th 2017 // Henry Holt and Co // Hardcover // 368 pages
~Carmen

 

 

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