This book was not what I expected. There ended up being a story line regarding eating disorders. I thought it was handled well. Not your typical ChrisThis book was not what I expected. There ended up being a story line regarding eating disorders. I thought it was handled well. Not your typical Christian fiction....more
This book had a lot more "sex" than I expect from Libby Oram. Now, to clarify, there was no actual sex in the book or details, but the entire point ofThis book had a lot more "sex" than I expect from Libby Oram. Now, to clarify, there was no actual sex in the book or details, but the entire point of the book is that Libby's last romantic relationship was based entirely on sex rather than respect, love, kindness, etc. So, obviously sex has to be mentioned. There is a lot of discussion of hook-up culture as well.
The main character is in a bad relationship where her boyfriend doesn't want her in his life except as a booty call essentially, and the book is trying to break her addiction of her boyfriend....more
I thought it was interesting how the main character in this one seemed so much younger than in other Dessen novels. I liked that. How her best friendI thought it was interesting how the main character in this one seemed so much younger than in other Dessen novels. I liked that. How her best friend was changing so quickly, growing up too fast.
I had never before realized how hard it must be to be tall before everyone else around you is tall. I've always been short....more
I held off reading this for a long time, even though it popped up a lot, because I thought the premise just sounded silly. Love being a disease, I meaI held off reading this for a long time, even though it popped up a lot, because I thought the premise just sounded silly. Love being a disease, I mean, seriously? But the author did a satisfying job building the case for a society that honestly taught that love was a disease.
I really liked Lena, Hanna, and Alex. They were great characters. Grace's character is so sad.
Being raised by parents incapable of loving you is . . . abusive, honestly.
I'm looking forward to seeing where the series goes from here....more
I liked how much more we learned about the country in this book: meeting more people, getting to know different places in the Wilds, and different citI liked how much more we learned about the country in this book: meeting more people, getting to know different places in the Wilds, and different cities. (Realizing that in the first book when I kept thinking they were in Washington State, but they were actually in the state of Maine.)
It was interesting that the author wrote this book in such a different style. The first book was written with each chapter beginning with a quotation that added a lot of depth into the society and understanding why love could be a disease. This book had no quotations, but it switched back and forth between the present (in New York City) and the past (in the Wilds). I thought the switching was a very effective way to move the story along and slowly add depth.
(view spoiler)[I'm really mad that Alex was still alive. I mean, I don't feel cheated. It makes sense perhaps that he would have been questioned and thrown into the Crypt instead of killed, but the guards did also kill wantonly, and I was pretty sure he was dead. I was actually impressed that the author was willing to kill a beloved main character in the first book, so if the author only brought him back to make a love triangle, then I will be mad, because I really like Julian, too. And I feel like poor Lena shouldn't have to spend time feeling all guilty and brooding and unsure about who she wants. But I really hope Alex somehow managed to bring Grace with him! (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
As I read this book, I kept thinking that the back story sounded interesting enough to be its own story. Then, about halfway through, my sister mentioAs I read this book, I kept thinking that the back story sounded interesting enough to be its own story. Then, about halfway through, my sister mentioned that what I was reading was a sequel, so suddenly it all made sense.
If I had read the first book, perhaps I could have understood why Ginny liked Keith so much, because he seemed like a real jerk to me. A bully....more
If you read this review too far, the book will be spoiled for you. So, reader beware.
This book was interesting for me. I wrote a note to myself that sIf you read this review too far, the book will be spoiled for you. So, reader beware.
This book was interesting for me. I wrote a note to myself that said, "I might already dislike this book. It is not getting off on the right foot with me." That note was written after reading "The cleavage popping out of my scandalously low-cut halter top heralds the beginning of Operation Sex Appeal. I turn sideways and adjust the neckline, alternately slouching and straightening as tall as my five-foot frame can go, but the fidgeting doesn't make a bit of different. After three and a half years covering my horribly disproportionate chest as much as possible, there's just no hiding the girls now."
Immediately after reading that first paragraph, I was kind of like "ehhh, I don't know. But I already paid for it. Maybe I should give it a chance?" So I did.
I continued to read and quickly came upon this exchange from the main character's best friend: "She stands on tiptoe, scans my outfit, and smiles in approval. 'That's hot. Who would've believed you were hiding such a killer body under all those hideous man-shirts and baggy pants?'" This led me to write another note to myself: "Can't there ben an in between option for these extremes? And shouldn't she want a guy who thought she was pretty regardless of her clothes??"
I continued reading, and the other best friend joins the conversation.
"'I just don't get why you're letting Kara do this. You worry too much about what other people think.'
My hands clench around the foreign material. Her words, as truthful as they may be, cut just the same. I draw a deep breath and meet her reflected gaze as I try and find a way to explain something I'm still trying to figure out myself.
'Gab, I'm not doing this to get Kara off my back or to get her to shut up about my clothes. I'm doing this for me.' I look at the strange vision of myself decked out in a dress, of all things. 'This is something I have to do. I've spent the last three years feeling like I'm watching life from the sidelines, Gab. Don't get me wrong, you guys rock, my grades are good, and my family's amazing, but isn't high school supposed to be the best years of our lives? I thought I'd have scrapbooks filled with pictures of boys and kissing and mementos from dates. But I don't have that stuff. I have volleyball trophies and pictures from training camps and group pictures at dances with the girls.'
The space between Gabi's eyebrows scrunches together. I'm not surprised she doesn't understand. Gabi never gives a flip what other people think of her. But then, she doesn't need to because I care enough for the both of us."
Reading that, I thought, oh goodness, I certainly hope high school wasn't supposed to be the best years of my life. It was great and all that, but there's a lot of life left after high school!!
I kept on and discovered that the book is written switching between two viewpoints: Aly and Brandon.
Then this excerpt happened.
"I know, call me a traitor to my gender, but while the chauvinistic ranking system sucks, that's not what annoys me the most. What does is being lumped into the Commitment group.
On some level—like deep, deep, deep down—I get that it's probably a good thing. If a great guy came around who wanted me to be his girlfriend, I'd be all for it. And it's sweet that the guys supposedly think I deserve a relationship, whatever that means. But really, what I hear Brandon saying is that they all think I'm boring. Unattractive. Not worth the effort.
Casuals are obviously the confident, exciting, sexy ones. The kind of girl I wish I were."
So in this book, Casuals are for hooking up and Commitments deserve more than just hooking up, which really makes me wonder what hooking up means. Because it can mean making out or having sex, right? Because Aly talks about being proud of being virgin, which wouldn't make sense with her Casual goal if hooking up means having sex. Anyway, whichever definition, Aly was making me very frustrated, but at this point I started to wonder how many girls feel the same way as her and maybe my daughters will have friends like her someday, so it might be a good idea to try to understand where they are coming from since I might deal with girls like this in the future.
And then Brandon had this thought, which I liked: "Aly bites her lip in excitement, and I groan. Yep, she totally missed the point. She was supposed to see that her lack of exes isn't a bad thing. It boils down to respect. Some guys know she deserves more effort than they are willing to give." And then later: "Why can't she see what I do? She's a Commitment girl, and that's not a bad thing. I just need to help her realize it."
There is swearing in the book and at least two F words.
I did appreciate this quote about Gabi: "We've been trying for the last six months to get her to admit she likes Carlos. It's obvious they're into each other, and they flirt constantly. Unfortunately for Carlos, there's the pesky detail of Gabi refusing to date high-school boys. She says it's too expected. But she doesn't date that many college guys either. Gabi's comfortable being on her own—a concept that boggles my mind."
More nice thoughts from Brandon: "Everything about it feels wrong when it comes to Aly. She wants more, deserves more, than a casual hookup. I know it; now I just need to get her to realize it."
"Aly may think she wants to be a Casual, but she's wrong. Really, this whole thing seems to be about people seeing her differently, but she can get the same results without the sexy clothes. They are messing with my head, and they're just not her. If I can get her to realize that, maybe things can go back to normal."
"Aly deserves better. Whether she'll admit it or not, she's a Commitment all the way, and hooking up for real will only hurt her."
The book continues, and then this excerpt happens, which is cruel to Aly but it kind of encapsulates all of my feelings about "Operation Sex Appeal."
"Lauren laughs. 'Tell me—how does it feel knowing the only way you were able to get him was to change everything about yourself? Your clothes, your hair . . . Heck, you actually look like a girl.'
At that, I lift my head. The crowd around us quiets. Peyton, a sweet, quiet senior, meets my eye across the locker room and gives a sympathetic smile.
'It's pretty sad that after three years you had to resort to all that.' Touching her heart, Lauren sighs. She turns to address her audience and raises her voice an octave, clearly enjoying the attention. 'Well, at least she knows what he's interested in. No delusions he wants Aly for her mind.'"
The story furthers, and Aly finally learns what Brandon hoped she would realize:
"Walking the hallways alone, I feel every stare, hear every whisper. Girls regard me with a mixture of pity and triumph, and guys wink and leer as I pass. I'm back on the market again, and their reaction is what I said I wanted when I devised Operation Sex Appeal. Getting attention, being noticed—I thought it would be fun.
This is decidedly not."
"Adam leans back to appraise the outfit. 'Can I ask what was wrong with the old Aly?'
I bite back my first response: Wouldn't you know? Instead I ask, 'The truth?' He nods, and I take a breath. 'I got tired of being that girl. You know, the one everyone thinks of as a friend and whose own boyfriend ends up feeling the same way.' I shoot him a look, and Adam winces. 'I guess I wanted to see how the other half lives for once. Be popular, have adventures, get noticed. Surge with confidence.'
His kind eyes study my hunched shoulders plastered against the wall. 'And how's that working?'
'It's not.' I roll my eyes and release a breath. 'I mean, sure, I'm not invisible anymore. I nearly flashed the entire senior class fifteen minutes ago in the belt of a skirt Kara insisted I wear. If that and feeling completely awkward and uncomfortable in your own living room while people size you up like a slab of beef counts, then yeah. I'm rocking this.' I hang my head and pretend-sob. 'Do I not look as though I'm surging with confidence?'
The soft smile on his face says no for him. 'Listen, I know I'm the last person you want to hear this from [. . .] but there was nothing wrong with the old Aly.'"
"'We've hung around the same circle for years, and we're friends with the same people, but you and I hardly ever talked. You've barely even looked at me in the three years I've known you. [. . .] Why now? It is because of the new clothes? The hair and makeup? Or is it because I went out with Brandon?'
[. . .] 'It has nothing to do with your clothes,' he says, his full lips hinting at a smile. 'Or Brandon. Not exactly. It's you. Aly, you changed this summer. He just managed to notice it first.'
I shake my head. 'You mean my wardrobe changed,' I stupidly persist. [. . .]
'No, you did.' Gently placing his hands on either side of my neck, Justin tilts my chin up so he can look into my eyes. His warm brown eyes seem determined. 'There's a sexy confidence about you now that was missing before.'"
'I did change. The version of my who did karaoke and strutted around the campground had a brighter smile, a bounce to her step, and strangely enough, a certain confidence. It had nothing to do with what clothes I wrote or how I did my hair and everything to do with the guy I was with—and the girl I let myself be when I was with him.
Even in the midst of monumental discomfort and overwhelming confusion, Brandon helped me feel comfortable with who I was on the inside. He believed in me, and that faith gave me the confidence to step out and try some crazy things. At least, crazy for me."
So I began this book thinking I might not finish it or that it would only get one star, but now I'm trying to decide between two or three, because Aly really grew (and Brandon also grew from thinking he was only interested in Casuals!), and I like that she realized that confidence is what makes her attractive, not the clothes she wears. She grew to be comfortable with herself.
Here are some more excerpts.
"With a grateful grin and renewed passion for the mission, I stand and strip, ready to throw on whatever offending item Kara placed next for me on the rack. The sea of colors in the room makes me feel like I'm playing dress-up in an Easter egg and none of this stuff is me, but I guess that's the point. To be different. Shake things up. At this point, it certainly can't hurt."
"My reflection looks like a stranger, and I feel like an impostor. Clearly, this isn't going to be as easy as I originally anticipated."
"Hiking the jeans up my short legs, I silently lament designers' inability to realize women with butts can also have a slim waistline."
"If I learned anything from Dad's death, it's that life's short. Our senior year should be spent having fun and hanging out."
"'Our nail appointment is in twenty minutes,' Kara says, setting down her tray of highly nutritious and tasteless salad. 'So better eat quickly, girls.'
Circling a finger over her tray, I say, 'I hate to tell you this, Kar, but that's not food. That's what food eats.'
I smile to show I'm teasing, and she glances at the pink Cartier watch on her slender wrist. 'Nineteen minutes,' she says, looking back up with a wicked grin.
I lift my hands in surrender. 'Hey, as the daughter of a caterer and a lover of all things yummy, I'm just trying to do my civic duty.' She rolls her eyes, and I pop a chunk of cheese-coated chicken into my mouth."
"A sudden rap on the door makes the wand skitter across my cheek, leaving a zigzag stripe of Blackberry Bloom in its wake.
'Lovely,' I mutter, yanking a handful of tissues out of a crochet-covered box. Regardless of how often I've watched Gabi and Kara do this, obviously makeup application skills cannot be obtained through osmosis."
"'When I added this picture the other night,' I say, 'I had an epiphany.'
Brandon scratches the back of his neck and squints. 'An epiphany?'
'Yes, an epiphany. Look again. Do you not notice a demoralizing theme to the dance pictures?' I pause for him to inspect the evidence and sigh when he shrugs.
'All my dates are friends, Brandon. Every Homecoming, Winter Formal, and Spring Fling picture shows me with a bunch of girlfriends, an ex-boyfriend pity date, or a just-a-friend guy date."
"'Once I documented proof of how embarrassing my high-school experience had been, I speed-dialed Kara. As you can imagine, she was more than eager to offer her services.'
He plops across from me on the bed and tosses me Mr. Sniffles, my beloved stuffed penguin. Brandon shakes his head and pierces me with his grass-green eyes. 'Aly, it's not been embarrassing. You're the star of the girls' volleyball team. You're smart and fun to be around. And,' he adds with a waggle of his eyebrows, 'you're best friends with me.' I roll my eyes, and he smiles, 'So what's the problem? It's not like you've never had a boyfriend before.'"
"After my dad died and I saw what that did to my mom, I vowed I'd never fall in love or lose myself in a girl."
"Kara stomps on her brake twenty feet before the stop sign. 'I freaking knew it! Didn't I tell you? Guys and girls can't be friends. The sex part always gets in the way.'
When Harry Met Sally logic aside, a shiver rolls down my spine at the image those words put in my mind. I'm a proud, card-carrying virgin, but I'd be lying (and I've already had enough of that today) if I said I never thought about what it would be like to make out with Brandon. According to the rumor mill, he's quite talented in that department.
"A small grin twitches her lips as she worries the bottom one between her teeth.
I swallow hard.
When did that happen?
It's not the new clothes, although seeing she actually has a body is a nice change of pace. It's more than that. It's the whole package. Aly's always been hot, but now it's like she's starting to believe it. And her confidence is sexy."
"Aly leans back on an elbow and adjusts her bikini top. I avert my eyes, noticing Drew and Carlos do the same."
"Sketching is a trick a counselor suggested after Dad got sick and I became the man of the house at thirteen. I do it to deal with feelings I can't or won't talk about. If I were in a self-analytical mood, I'd find it interesting I took out the pad tonight, but something tells me that kind of thinking can only lead to more problems."
"This sketch is of Aly. Two different Alys to be exact, a sort of before-and-after morphing into one girl. The first Aly doesn't have on any makeup, her hair is in a messy ponytail, and she has on track pants and her ratty Block This! T-shirt. The second Aly's hair falls around her shoulders, her eyes are smoky, and she's in cut-off shorts and a bikini top, her daily uniform on the camping trip.
Staring at one makes me feel happy and relaxed. The other confuses me. She's the same girl with the same cute nose and sassy smiles in both pictures, so the answer is obvious.
The makeover is the problem."
"After months of watching Mom cry in that hospital room and a year seeing her battle being a widow, I learned what love really does—it leads to misery. Friendships last. Relationships end. Three years ago, I refused to screw up the one good thing I had going. And I still won't. My friendship with Aly is way too important to mess with."
"It's dinnertime, which means Aly is grumpy. The movies are slammed on weekend nights, and she rarely has time to grab anything to eat after practice. As I walk up, Gabi lifts her head behind the ticket counter, and I wave the McDonald's bag in the air. She motions me through the door with a smirk, one that becomes an actual smile when I hand over a chicken sandwich. Say all you want about guys, but I've learned that the way to a girl's heart is through her stomach. Especially when French fries or chocolate are involved."
"This is nice. Dad grilling steaks. Mom forcing us to taste-test her latest creation—a kicked-up Cajun spinach and artichoke dip. Kaitie and I pigging out and pretending we're both traumatized by our parents' flirting. This feels normal."
"And I saw it in my father's hospital room.
My eyes close as the memories of my mom's scream ring in my head. When I open them again, she's staring off at my wall 'Loving someone, being loved . . . It's worth the pain of losing them.'
I shake my head in disbelief. 'How can you say that? I see how hard it is for you, being a single parent and missing Dad. You'd honestly put yourself through all that again?'
She looks me in the eye and nods. 'In a heartbeat.'...more
I checked this book out a few years ago with a bunch of other books and ended up returning it without having read it. I meant to but just kept readingI checked this book out a few years ago with a bunch of other books and ended up returning it without having read it. I meant to but just kept reading the other ones ahead of it and then didn't have time. I didn't think about it again until the movie came out. I watched it on Netflix the other day and wondered what might have changed between the book and movie, so I checked it out from the library again.
Well, for one, the movie had significantly less swearing. I was surprised by the amount of foul language in the book. It wasn't outrageous, like on every page or something, but it was a lot more than in the movie.
I also thought that Sarah was given a lot more depth in the book; perhaps there wasn't enough time for it in the movie.
A critique would be that there seemed to be a lot more describing of events rather than actual events in the book. I don't know if I am describing that well. Sometimes John just talked about something that happened rather than the author actually writing us through what happened. Do you know what I'm trying to say?
It was an okay book, and I had decided that I wasn't curious enough to go on, but then my library automatically delivered the second book. Apparently I had already put it on hold. So now I think I actually will read the second book and see what happens.
I do think the back plot of Lorien and the Mogadorians is interesting.
Here are some excerpts.
"I like the alien war and space games best. I pretend I'm back on Lorien, fighting Mogadorians, cutting them down, turning them to ash. Henri thinks it's weird and tries to discourage me from doing it. He says we need to live in the real world, where war and death are a reality, not pretend."
"I rush up and twist in the air, then torpedo down and speed along the river's surface. The animals lift their heads and watch with curiosity, but not with fear. Lorien in its prime, covered with growth, inhabited by animals. In a way, it looks like what I imagine Earth looked like millions of years ago, when the land ruled the lives of its creatures, before humans arrived and started ruling the land."
"Sam runs into his room and comes back with a backpack. He sets it on the kitchen counter and comes out with a backpack. He sets it on the kitchen counter and goes to change his clothes. I peer inside of it. There is a crucifix, a few cloves of garlic, a wooden stake, a hammer, a blob of Silly Putty, and a pocketknife.
'You do realize these people aren't vampires, right?' I say when Sam walks back in.
'Yeah, but you never know. They're probably crazy like you said.'
'And even if we were hunting vampires, what [in the world] is the Silly Putty for?'
He shrugs. 'Just want to be prepared.'"
"'Who cares about her past? Besides, look at Alex,' I say, and not to him standing in the kitchen. His head is slumped against the kitchen counter, his eyes aflutter, a thin layer of sweat glistening on his forehead. 'Do you really think she misses being with that?'
Sam looks at him, shrugs.
'You're a good dude, Sam Goode. Don't get down on yourself.'
'I'm not down on myself.'
'Well then, don't worry about Emily's past. We don't have to be defined by the things we did or didn't do in our past. Some people allow themselves to be controlled by regret. Maybe it's a regret, maybe it's not. It's merely something that happened. Get over it.'"
"'It's a healing stone,' says Henri.
'Stuff like that really exists?'
'On Lorien it does, but the pain of healing is double that of the original pain caused by whatever has happened, and the stone only works when the injury was done with the intent to harm or kill. And the healing stone has to be used right away.'"
"Those things that are most obvious are the very things we're most likely to overlook."...more
This was a great book. Clean content (a few mild swear words). Lots of character development. No major plot discrepancies. Just a really good contempoThis was a great book. Clean content (a few mild swear words). Lots of character development. No major plot discrepancies. Just a really good contemporary novel about two teenagers, growing up and falling in love. I enjoyed the author's writing style and watching the story unfold.
Some of the content in the book revolves around moving internationally with your parents as a teenager and also building a life again after the death of a parent. I liked the relationships the characters had with their parents. (Well, not the initial relationship Lucy had when the book began, but how it developed.) Really, it's just nice to have parents exist at all in a young adult novel.
Here are some excerpts that stood out to me.
"Her first thought wasn't to worry about the violent jolt that had brought them up short between the tenth and eleventh floors, making the whole compartment rattle like a ride at an amusement park. And it wasn't concern for their escape, because if there was anything that could be depended on in this world—far more, even, than her parents—it was the building's small army of doormen, who had never failed to greet her after school, or remind her to bring an umbrella when it was rainy, who were always happy to run upstairs and kill a spider or help unclog the shower drain."
"'I think it would be more accurate to stay I live under this building,' he joked. 'But I'm betting you go to some fancy private school where everyone wears uniforms and worries about the difference between an A and an A-minus.'"
"'Once you get to know [the city] more, I have a feeling you'll like it here.'
'Is this the part where you insist on taking me on a tour of the city, and we laugh and point out all the famous sights, and then I buy an I [heart] NY T-shirt and live happily ever after?'
'The T-shirt is optional,' she told him."
"Lucy thought of all the other times she'd been crammed in [this elevator] over the years: with women in fur coats and men in expensive suits; with little white dogs on pink leashes and doormen wheeling heavy boxes on luggage carts. She'd once spilled an entire container of orange juice on the carpet right where Owen was sitting, which had made the whole place stink for days, and another time, when she was little, she'd drawn her name in green marker on the wall, much to her moths' dismay.
She'd read the last pages of her favorite books here, cried the whole way up and laughed the whole way down, made small talk to a thousand different neighbors on a thousand different days. She'd fought with her two older brothers, kicking and clawing, until the door dinged open and they all walked out into the lobby like perfect angels. She'd ridden down to greet her dad when he arrived home from every single business trip, and had even once fallen asleep in the corner as she waited for her parents to come home from a charity auction."
"Across the elevator, Owen rested his head against the wall. 'It is what it is . . . ' he murmured, letting the words trail off at the end.
'I hate that expression,' Lucy said, a bit more forcefully than intended. 'Nothing is what it is. Things are always changing. They can always get better.'"
"'Aren't you at all worried that nobody's coming to get us?'
'It won't help anything,' she said. 'Worrying.'
'Exactly,' he said. 'It is what it is.'
'Nope,' she said. 'Nothing is what it is.'
'Fine,' he said. 'It's no what it isn't.'
Lucy gave him a long look. 'I have no idea what your'e saying.'
'Or maybe you'd just prefer not to,' he said, sitting forward, and they both laughed."
"His new room was less than half the size of his old one in their sprawling, sun-drenched house in rural Pennsylvania, where he'd been woken each morning by the sparrows just outside his window. Now he listened to a couple of pigeons squabbling against the narrow panel of glass near the ceiling, where the protective metal bars made what little light there was fall across his bed in slats."
"Whenever Owen used to complain about cleaning his room or having to do the dishes the moment they were finished with dinner, Mom would cuff him playfully on the head. 'Our home is a reflection of who we are,' she'd say in a singsong voice.
'Right,' Owen would shoot back. 'And I'm a mess.'
'You are not,' she'd say, laughing. 'You're perfect.'
'Perfectly messy,' Dad would say."
"But in spite of all the stories he'd heard of their years on the road, Owen had never been much of anywhere. His parents seemed to have gotten it out of their system by the time he came along, and they were content to be in one place. They had a house with a porch and a yard with an apple tree; there was a swing set around the side and a neighboring field of grazing horses. They had a round kitchen table just big enough for three, a door the perfect size of a wreath at Christmastime, and enough nooks and crannies for long and drawn-out games of hide-and-seek. There was nowhere else they ever wanted to be."
"'Post cards are overrated anyway.'
'Oh yeah?' she asked, raising your eyebrows/
'Yeah, I mean, what's the worst thing you can say to someone who isn't on some beautiful beach with you?'
' "Wish you were here." ' He rapped his knuckles against a scene from Greece, which was handing near the bottom. 'I mean, come on. If they really wished you were there, they'd have invited you in the first place, right? It's kind of mean, if you really thing about it. It should say: "Greece: Where nobody's all that upset you're not here." ' "
"'If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?' Lucy asked, and Owen felt a flash of recognition; it was a question that was always on his mind, and the first thing he usually wondered about other people, even if he never got around to asking.
'Everywhere,' he said, and she laughed, the sound light and musical.
'That's not an answer.'
'Sure it is,' he said, because it was true, possibly the truest thing about him. Sometimes it seemed as if his whole life was an exercise in waiting; not waiting to leave, exactly, but simply waiting to go. He felt like one of those fish that had the capacity to grow in unimaginable ways if only the tank were big enough. But his tank had always been small, and as much as he loved his home—as much as he loved his family—he'd always felt himself bumping up against the edges of his own life."
"'What about your dad?'
'What about him?' Owen asked, but he knew what she meant, and he felt something go cold in his chest at the thought. There were so many parts of this—this lonely next chapter—that he dreaded now, most of them having to do with his mother: that she wouldn't be there to watch him walk across the stage at graduation, or to help him pack, or to make the bed in his new dorm room the way she always did at home. But the worst of it was actually this: that, after dropping off his only son, his dad would have to come back to this miserable basement apartment on his own."
"Lucy, on the other hand, had always drifted along unseen at her school; she had a knack for making herself invisible that had always felt like a kind of superpower, something that belonged only to her. Being on her own had never been a burden. Instead of weighing her down, it buoyed her up; when she was alone, she was lighted. When she was by herself, she felt untethered and free."
"It was true. Too much had changed. His mother was gone, and the house didn't feel like theirs anymore. Even his two best friends were different. At the funeral, Owen had watched the pair of them—who said all the right things and been nothing but supportive—begin to laugh helplessly when one tripped over nothing at all, his arms windmilling before he managed to right himself again. They were trying their best to hold it together, their laughter threatening to bubble over, and from across the lawn, Owen just stood there—alone and apart, solemn and heartbroken and hopelessly, endlessly, miserably sad—and it was then that he felt the first pinpricks of doubt that things would ever be normal again.
It had always been the three of them: Owen, Casey, and Josh: a steadfast team, a solid unit. They'd grown up playing hide-and-seek and then tag, soccer and then football; they'd studied together a thousand times and found a thousand ways to avoid studying at all; they'd talked about girls and sports and their futures; they'd teased each other mercilessly and had been there for one another in the most surprising of ways. But in that moment, everything was different. They were over there, and he was over here, the space between them already too big to cross."
"'It seems your daughter has fallen for a traveling salesman,' she said to Dad, who was too busy with his copy of The Guardian to respond.
'He's just a friend,' Lucy said a bit too quickly, sliding the postcard toward the edge of the table and then lifting the corner to take a quick peek, like a poker player guarding his cards.
'Well, I think it's romantic,' Mom said. 'Nobody writes each other anymore. It's all just e-mails and faxes.'
Dad glanced up. 'Nobody faxes anymore, either.'
'Another lost art,' Mom said with an exaggerated sigh, and he winked at her.
'I'll fax you anytime.'
Lucy groaned. 'Please stop.'"
"Standing there alone in the hallway, she couldn't help smiling. For the first time in her life, she realized there was no hope of blending in. Here, she was the one who was different. She was the one with the accent. The new girl. The object of curiosity. And to her surprise, she found she didn't mind. Maybe this was why Owen had been so desperate to travel, why she'd longed for it herself without ever really knowing why. It wasn't just that you got to be somewhere else entirely. It was that you got to be someone else entirely, too."
"'I like astronomy best.'
'Like horoscopes and stuff?' she asked, raising her eyebrows.
'No, that's astrology.'
'So what's your sign?'
'I have no idea,' he said. 'That's not—'
She grinned. 'We should find out.'
'Astrology is totally different,' he said, glancing up to see if she was embarrassed by the mistake, but that was something he hadn't known about her yet: There was nothing in the world that embarrassed Paisley."
"Every once in a while, in moments like this, she found herself startled by the very fact of him. It was all so unlikely: those rugby shirts and that accent, the easy confidence and the heart-stopping smile. Sometimes, she thought she would detect a similar sense of surprise in him, too: when she declined an invitation to a party, or when she was so caught up in a book that it took her ages to notice him standing right in front of her. They were just so different, and she kept wondering if he'd realize this was a mistake at some point; if, once she stopped being the novelty, the random American, he would recognize who she really was—a nerdy bookworm, a happy loner—and move on.
But somehow, it worked. If not for their differences, they probably wouldn't have noticed each other in the first place. That there were only more differences waiting beneath the surface made it all the more interesting."
"She was watching him with a gaze a mile deep, her muddy eyes sizing him up, and neither of them said anything for what felt like a very long time."
"'It's a film,' he was correcting her as they walked in.
'A movie,' she persisted. 'Which you see at a moooooovie theater.'
He rolled his eyes. 'A cinema,' he said, then pointed to the counter. 'Would you like some sweets?'
'I'd like some candy,' she said with a grin, and he threw his hands up in defeat."
"Now she turned back to her book. She'd read it in school last year, and though her classmates had found it boring, Lucy was riveted by the political drama, pulled right out of Roman history. But it was different, somehow, to be reading it here, where the actual events had taken place all those hundreds of thousands of years ago. That was the thing about books, she was realizing; they could take you somewhere else entirely, it was true. But it wasn't the same thing as actually going there yourself."
"When they arrived, they both stopped a few feet short of her headstone, which was simple, her name written in block letters across the top. Owen looked at it for a long time, waiting for his lump of a heart to do some sort of trick, something appropriate to the moment: He waited for it to leap or bound or sink or skip; he waited for it to be extraordinarily heavy or unexpectedly light; he waited for it to seize up or slow down. But it just kept ticking the way it always did, the way it was meant to, as well-behaved and predictable as its owner."
"'Heart problems,' he muttered.
'Maybe you should sit down,' Lucy suggested, trying not to sound too panicky, but he shook his head.
'Not mine,' he said. 'My wife's.'
Lucy exchanged a look with the other woman, who only shrugged.
'I snuck off to buy her some perfume,' he explained, his eyes swimming. 'She's downstairs looking at fabrics. She'll be worried when she can't find me, and her heart . . . '
Lucy put a hand on his shoulder. 'She'll be fine,' she said, surprised by the emotion in her voice. 'I'm sure they'll have us out soon.'
There was a lump in her throat as she watched him fidget with the buttons on his vest, and it struck her as the truest form of kindness, the most basic sort of love: to be worried about the one was was worrying about you."
"She even liked her classmates at school, who were not just from England or even American but from all over the world: India and South Africa and Australia and Dubai. In New York, she's stood apart, and in Edinburgh, she'd stood out; but here, she just stood alongside everyone else, and there was a comfort in that, in fitting in for once."
"A part of her would always love New York, but she'd loved Edinburgh, too, and now London. And if you were to set her down in Paris or Rome or Prague or any of the other places they'd visit, she was certain she'd find a way to fall in love with those, too."
"All these years, she'd imagined her parents were out there in the world trying to take in as much as possible: photos and stories and memories, check marks on a list of countries and pins on a globe. But what she didn't understand until now was that they'd left pieces of themselves in all those places, too. They'd made a little home for themselves wherever they went, and now Lucy would do the same."
"When there is nothing but space between you, everything felt like a leap."
"'Something like that,' he said, his eyes shining, and she realized just how much there was she didn't know about him. He was like one of her novels, still unfinished and best understood in the right place and at the right time.