Top positive review
It was just me and Clara, no author between us.
Reviewed in the United States on April 2, 2011
How to start. How to start. Perhaps with what made me unable to put this book down when I got it last evening. First paragraph-
" First off, I've never told this story to anyone. Not the entire thing anyway, and not entirely truthfully. I'm only telling it now for one reason, and that's because an untold story has a weight that can submerge you, sure as a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. I learned that. This kind of story, those kind of things kept secret- they have the power to keep you hidden forever, and most of all from yourself. The ghosts from that drowned ship, they keep haunting."
That first paragraph resonated with me so much that I had to dive in with my head and for once, open up that little place I allow to feel, my heart. I knew Clara from the minute she met Christian and knew exactly why she did every action she did. I'd once held the power Clara felt of having someone love her so much that they'd do anything to keep her. It's powerful and wonderful and scary to be the one that loves less. But it's all consuming and Clara learns that there is a dark side to the power and Christian. And his jealousies and walking on eggshells and having to lie about her past becomes too much. It's emotionally draining. And dangerous in a way Clara can't even imagine. She and Christian were perfect and then Christian, perfect, beautiful, foreign Christian let his insecurities begin to show and there was no forgetting. And there is accommodating and adjusting for certain things in a relationship and then there is what Clara did for Christian.
But this is not one of those stories where you can say "Oh stupid girl." and want to shake her because Clara has brought us into the story with her. We are Clara for lack of a better way to explain it. She put little asterisks in her story. Example- She lets us know her mother is dead.* Then at the bottom of the page
"*Yes this story has a dead mother. Mine. She had a sudden aneurysm when I was barely four. Died before she could even get to a hospital. Dead mother's have become a story cliche thanks to Disney movies and novel writers. All the dead mothers in books, you'd think it was a common occurrence. Even Dad's books have them. But mine was real. She was no cliche and neither am I." It's Clara's story and she's writing it not Deb Caletti. The author is not between us and Clara. She's removed herself and I kept checking the description of the book to make sure this was fiction and not Deb Caletti's real story.
Because the author removed herself from the story, I felt very close to Clara. I identified with her, understood her trying to spare Christian's feelings, trying time and time to remove the hurt. She was a nice girl. She was nice to people and breaking up with someone, well it makes her feel not nice. And she's sure that Christian's reactions are her fault, for that first giddy feeling of power. The one she can't admit to at first but then tells her Dad, her Dad the writer who seems less like a Dad and more like an adult friend that takes care of Clara. He respects her way more than any parent I've ever seen to be called a parent. Yet he is parental when necessary, he doesn't tell Clara "no" when he doesn't like Christian. But when he sees warning signs, danger, he takes action. But if Clara feels shame and can't forgive herself, her father feels even worse. This stalwart man who plays metaphor games and would rather use clues to guess who's house they are renting than google him, the one that insists on protecting his daughter has a big secret. One that changes everything for Clara. She keeps us with her throughout the novel, with her asterisks as if she's sitting beside us letting us know the secret thoughts she had while putting her story down. While unburdening her of the ghosts. More than one passage made me stop and I had to read it over and over sinking into what it really was saying, not just the words on the top layer, but the deeper meaning.
I felt so many emotions reading this novel and when I finished it, I wanted to pick it up and start again. And I will. I'll learn something new that I didn't catch the first time as I ate it up. It isn't a light read or easy. It's philosophical and deep with emotion and thought. It is definitely character driven. Clara brings us along through every emotion dragging us through the dirty self doubt and self incrimination to the final triumph of anger. Does she grow in this book? We're sitting here while she tells her story aren't we? Dad is a big character in this novel and I like the relationship he and Clara have. Does Dad grow? From a famous author to a human being, at least for Clara. There is of course Christian. And if you don't know a Christian in male or female form, then you're lucky. I have a magnet for these type of people. There are other secondary characters that bring some much needed relief to the tension in Clara's life.
If I had a rating system, stars, hearts, rabbits, hats, gold coins any of the creative things I've seen other reviewers use I'd throw all the things I had into a pot and make the biggest star, heart, rabbit, hat, gold coin and make it dance, sing, shoot fire works whatever. This is the best realistic fiction I have ever read. This is the best YA I have read. This is the best book I have read. Never have I felt more a part of a story, never have I been so involved, so unsure of the outcome, so tentative as Clara moved ahead with her/my life. I wouldn't have Deb Caletti change even one word in this novel. It isn't entertaining. It's more than realistic. It's real.