Title: I’ll Meet You There (2015)
Author: Heather Demetrios
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 388 pages
Release Date: February 3, 2015
If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.
What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to read I’ll Meet You There, but boy, am I kicking myself for it now. This book was emotional, honest, and way more serious, more realistic, than I had been expecting… but only in the best possible ways.
The plot might seem simple at first — Girl and Boy spend time together and falls in love just as their respective lives start falling apart — but it’s so much deeper than that, because this book deals with some very heavy, serious issues such as war, post-military life, PTSD, alcoholism, and poverty.
“It occurred to me that we were the same, in a way. Both of us treading water, pushing against forces we couldn’t control.”
At first glance Skylar, our main character, may seem like a straight-laced, never-do-wrong girl. Underneath the surface, however, her life is pretty much falling apart. Her dad died drunk-driving, her mum is on the verge of becoming an alcoholic, and they are running out of money very, very fast. I’ll Meet You There sees her quickly growing up (mostly because she had never been a child, not really) and tackling these very real, very practical problems head-on.
It’s not very often that I read a YA book with a veteran protagonist (in fact, this might be the first time), and I’m happy to report that I’ll Meet You There treats this with sensitivity. Josh’s PTSD from the war, his grief from the deaths of his friends, his anger and sadness about losing a leg — all of these themes surface over and over again throughout the story. What I found realistic was how various characters relate to Josh: some people decided to treat him as usual and succeeded, others tried and failed.
I wasn’t honestly sure how I would feel if I saw what was left of his leg. Grossed out? Scared? I thought about how everyone at Leo’s had avoided it, as if nothing had changed. […] Their eyes never left his face, and they were always smiling, smiling, smiling. You don’t talk about lost limbs and smile. You don’t talk about war and sacrifice when you’re wearing your Friday-night clothes. And I wondered if that was what Josh really wanted—that pretending.
Skylar and Josh aren’t the only characters that are well-developed; most other characters are like that too. I particularly enjoyed hearing about Chris and Dylan, Skylar’s best friends, and Marge, the owner of the hotel Skylar and Josh work at. All of these characters have their own problems, their own lives, and Demetrios weaves their stories into the book so naturally that it doesn’t overcrowd the plot but serves as a much welcome addition.
The romance between Skylar and Josh was a very well-paced, well-developed slow-burn. They were acquaintances first, and their feelings for each other grew as their friendship did. There is admittedly a bit of the whole “you deserve better than me” attitude coming from Josh’s side, though his angst is really quite understandable given the circumstances.
I’m not usually a fan of multiple perspectives, but with this book, it just works. The majority of the story is told from Skylar’s eyes, but then we also get mini-chapters of Josh’s stream of consciousness-style thoughts. Their narrative sounds different to one another, which is great because not all authors can manage that.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
At the heart of it, I’ll Meet You There is an extremely character-driven book. The characters in this book are flawed — they stumble, they make mistakes, they hurt one another, they make bad decisions — but they also grow and develop as people. The story itself is slow-paced and contains just the right balance of angst and sweetness. Highly recommended for those who love more mature contemporary YA novels. 🙂