Running naked through the woods, Cal flees the sadistic man who abducted and tortured him. When he stumbles upon a convenience store, he breaks in to steal food. A young store clerk, Jake, confronts him, and they get into a fight that ends with Cal being knocked unconscious. He wakes in the home of Jake’s Uncle Gary, the owner of the convenience store. Realizing Cal needs help, Gary tries to communicate with him, but despite Cal’s efforts, he can’t bring himself to speak. Instead, he writes down his experiences. Horrified by the perverse cruelty Cal endured, Gary takes him to the police, who track down his tormentor.
Abandoned by his parents before his abduction, Cal doesn’t have anywhere to go, so Gary and his wife eagerly welcome him into their home. He feels fortunate to be with such caring people—something he’s never had before. Despite their help, he still can’t find his voice, and he wonders if he ever will. And Jake certainly isn’t making things any easier. It’s clear he doesn’t want Cal to be part of their family. But the more Cal gets to know him, the more he realizes Jake might be the very person who can heal the deep wounds left by his horrifying past.
This book starts off with 17 year-old Cal, whose name we haven't been told at this point, running naked through the woods after having escaped from his kidnapper. The writing brilliantly describes his terror and determination and struggle to get away. I was on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, fearing for this young man.
Upon breaking out of the woods at the edge of a small town, Cal manages to steal some clothes from a thrift store, but is then caught stealing a bit of food from the convenience store next-door by 18 year-old Jake, the store's clerk. In the ensuing pursuit and fight, Cal is knocked unconscious.
When he comes to, he's in the home of Gary and Luce, Jake's aunt and uncle, who offer him a place to stay and food.
Jake is understandably upset and distrustful of Cal.
Cal is mute because of the terrors of his experience, of which we know a little by that point.
By this point, the author had me fully vested in the story. When Cal relays his story, of how he came to be homeless and how he was kidnapped and tortured, I cried hot tears.
By this point, I expected this book to relay Cal's struggles to come to terms with being kicked out by his parents, and being kidnapped and abused by a psychopath, but that's not actually what I got.
It seemed that the author dropped that particular subject down to Cal going to a few appointments with a counselor, and spun the story into an entirely different direction - that of the romance between Jake and Cal. I thought that considering the trauma Cal went through at the hands of his kidnapper, not enough time was spent on successfully working through that issue - it became almost a forgotten topic. I also didn't buy that someone who had experienced such horrible torture, as is described early on, would then be able to so quickly embark on a physical relationship without at least experiencing some major flashbacks. This kind of stuff isn't going to simply fall by the wayside, and I don't think the author did Cal any favors by portraying him this way. There was a bit too much telling here for my taste, when I wanted to be shown Cal's struggles. A few sentences do not healing make.
I did like the family Cal has the good fortune to meet, and especially Gary seemed to help Cal quite a bit. Luce struggles for a while when Jake and Cal start dating, but comes around when it counts.
Jake's portrayal was realistic enough when considering that he himself is a product of uncaring parents, and his aunt and uncle took him in, and this explains his actions and attitude toward Cal early on. While I didn't entirely buy the rapidity with which he fell for Cal (and vice versa), I could understand his actions later in the book and explain them with his age.
The author definitely captured the recklessness of youth in this book, and portrayed the characters well for the ages they are. What I didn't like is that Cal and Jake felt the need to get married, and I also didn't appreciate the added drama of Jake's ex-boyfriend's lies. That, while perhaps in character, felt unnecessary, and I had some real concerns for Cal and Jake's future relationship if Cal is still so insecure to have believed the lies so quickly.
If I were still a young adult, I might not have reacted with so much disbelief and critique as I did when reading this book, but at this point in my life I expect a more realistic portrayal of certain issues, especially considering that this book is geared toward young adults, who may be struggling with those issues themselves. In those cases, this book could be considered to set unrealistic expectations, and I don't appreciate that in a YA novel.
There were some really good parts in this book, and some that weren't to my taste, hence the three stars.
** I received a free copy of this book from the author via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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