Swankivy's Reviews > When the Stars Lead to You

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis
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it was amazing

Please note this review might discuss some raw issues regarding mental illness, depression, and suicidal ideation!

As a person who has had a romantic relationship with a mentally ill person who attempted suicide while I was in a relationship with him, there was a LOT about this that I related to. I was shocked that that was the case considering how unusual it is for me to relate to a first-person protagonist in a romance book. This story, first and foremost, allows for a realistic exploration of what it's like to care about someone who is always fighting this battle against depression. All of the stuff you'd expect to see is here (lovingly and wrenchingly rendered): the occasional wonder of why nothing is ever enough, the feeling that the other person's life should always come before your own because it's their LIFE, the fear that you will lose the person, the guilt if you just can't do it.

As a personal aside, Ashton was a very different person from the person I was in a relationship with, and even though Ashton messed up a lot and failed Devon in many ways that he could have prevented somewhat unrelated to his depression, I felt like he was not at his heart a manipulative person out to twist Devon into serving his interests or shame her into providing love and attention, and even when she fell down a rabbit hole trying to help him it felt like her awareness of these choices was appropriate even if she sometimes let his issues eclipse her life or took too much responsibility for his problems.

I know what it's like to realize it's always going to be something else, it's never going to permanently "be better"--it can only be managed--and I know what it's like to decide you are, yourself, worth more than what you'd be if you simply stood and waited for the other person to need you, desire you, and come to you. It is okay to choose yourself, and it is not cruel. You aren't rejecting someone as a person if you need to change your relationship with them to continue to survive. You are not a bad person or a failure if you cannot "save" them.

I loved, LOVED that Devon learned this hard, hard lesson, and that she didn't have to pay for it with catastrophic consequences. I love that I wasn't mad at her for her questionable choices because they all felt true, and even when they didn't feel reasoned they never felt like they made no sense.

There were only two things in this book that bothered me a little.

One was how much emphasis there was on the Rich People Life--which Devon is on the outskirts of because she goes to an elite school but isn't a Society Person herself--and even though there was a realistic acknowledgment of how into their weird dynasties these powerful families are, I've never been able to fully digest or appreciate the emphasis some of these types of books have on name brands, status, legacy, and high society. I've read quite a few books in which one of the differences between the romantic leads is moneyed-elite-meets-poor-underprivileged-person, and there's this focus on Glam with a capital G that I never related to.

Ah, and the other thing that bothered me was that Devon continued to wear Ashton's necklace gift after she'd lost him the first time and dubbed him a complete asshole, hiding photos of that summer on her computer so she wouldn't have to look at them and disclosing enough Ugly Ex stories to her best friend that she's dubbed him "The Rat Bastard." I just have a really hard time imagining that someone who feels like that about a boy who hurt her (and legitimately is furious with him upon his reentry into her life, does NOT simply melt and let him back in) would walk around wearing such a symbolic key-to-my-heart necklace every day. It weirded me out. It was certainly clear she wasn't over him, but I wouldn't expect someone who was trying that hard to be over him to carry a reminder of him in the form of an intimate gift at her chest, you know? I would have preferred if she'd kept it somewhere and occasionally chastised herself that she couldn't toss it or pawn it or give it away, and if she'd reclaimed it once he was back in her life in a real way.

Besides those two rather minor details, this book was just a runaway feels trip and it was GOOD. There was very fast attraction between the romantic couple at the beginning, and the slideshow-like light detail on the wonderful summer with the sad ending might have made some people feel like their relationship happened too fast, but I would absolutely disagree that there's any instalove going on. I liked that the summer felt like a dream and I could believe that it felt like a thrilling summer fling that could develop into something deep (if Ashton hadn't abandoned Devon on their last day and left her hanging). I'm not even a romance/relationship person and I had absolutely no problem with believing in their relationship while acknowledging that the attraction was powerful, compelling, tempting, and full of promise while not declaring that all of that is love.

I remember how much faster things happened and how much less patience I had as a teenager. This is the urgency teens feel and this is not a time in a young person's life when they put the brakes on exciting things that feel good. Devon's questioning herself and whether she was moving too fast with the boy who once lost her trust was surprisingly mature and spoke of some walls coming up to protect her.

I liked how present both of these characters' parents were in their lives (to wildly different effects); how Devon's relative poverty was not played up and constantly showed as a stark difference because we get it just fine; how not every rich person in Ashton's family was a gross snob and how his ex-girlfriend was a focus of some jealousy but also wasn't a terrible person; and how both characters were very aware of where they came from and how that had become part of them. I also like the relationship Devon had with her yearbook club rival gal and how she was shown to be more than just an obstacle-slash-terrible-person. She grew too, even though she needs desperately to learn not to make comments about being "ghetto" or touch other people's hair. Sometimes it seemed like she had an Offensive Checklist, damn. (But these experiences included nuance. Because they weren't just thrown in there for authenticity points. They're written by someone who's lived it.)

Anyway, even though the romance is sort of highlighted as a focus of the book, I honestly got more out of Devon's relationship with herself. Her journey toward respecting and understanding herself, her needs, her relationships, her goals, and how to frame all of it inside of something that could become a life.

I cried multiple times on the bus reading this. ;__;
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Reading Progress

September 24, 2018 – Shelved
September 24, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
November 23, 2019 – Started Reading
December 12, 2019 – Finished Reading

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