As I write this review, my heart is bursting at the seams from what I can only call ‘book junkie nirvana’. But let me make a little confession first. This is a book that I was reluctant to read for so long, or better, I was terrified of it. I mistakenly perceived it as a predominantly gloomy, even morbid story that would end up affecting me negatively and make me experience the type of emotions I was unwilling to feel. Oh boy, was I wrong! This is one of the most positive, feel-good, emotionally fulfilling stories I have ever read, a story about the light at the end of the tunnel, about finding the courage to live rather than wallow in sorrow, and about the true joy of living. While captivated by this book, I found myself smiling, snickering, laughing out loud, crying, hugging my dog, and kicking myself repeatedly for not reading it sooner.
“I am death. And I bring it to all who love me.”
Aubrey Miller is a girl held captive by the bounds of her own traumatised young mind. Having lived through more loss and suffering than most people of her age, her misplaced sense of guilt has made her believe that she was the cause of every death that has ever touched her, turning her into someone who now lives in constant fear of any further loss. As a desperate defence mechanism, Aubrey has thus created an alter ego of sorts, appropriately named Raven, whose physical appearance is designed to repel others and deter them from wanting to get close to her. All her most distressing memories have been locked in the furthest recesses of her mind, as she fiercely guards herself from re-experiencing the crippling pain associated with those memories. But behind a façade of indifference and emotional detachment, hides a frightened little girl who has never dealt with her demons, a girl who craves to let herself love and be loved. A girl who is silently screaming for help and for someone to pull her out of her self-inflicted prison.
“The simplicity of living astounds me. But it’s the terror of death that devours me.”
On her first day of college, Raven is not only confronted with someone who appears to be her polar opposite—her new perky roommate—but also a blast from her past she never even hoped of crossing paths with again—her childhood best friend, Kaeleb. As she hides her true self behind her many facial piercings, odd contact lenses and dark hair dyes, Raven tries her best to keep her distance from these new intruders in her life, but the more she pushes them away, the more they keep rupturing her defences and reanimating her broken heart.
“You’ve always been my sunshine. Ever since we were kids. I know you’re still in there, Bree. And I will find you.”
As new bonds are forged, old ones rekindled and strengthened, and as her old self starts resurfacing again, we follow our fierce heroine through her college years and through her brave journey of self-realisation. It’s a journey filled with new challenges, new heartbreaks, new milestones in her life, and let me tell you, I literally forgot to breathe at times. Impeccably written and cleverly woven together, a perfect mixture of heart-warming romance and soul-shattering drama, with just the right tinge of humour, this book is a wonderful story of friendship, of the true meaning of family, of love everlasting. It is also a story of hope, the story of a young woman rising from the ashes of her painful past and embracing life in all its beauty. All of Ms Simmons’ stories tend to fill the reader with joy and positivity, but this book stands in a category of its own as I can only describe it as the complete package. Do as I say and not as I did and do your heart a favour by reading this story as soon as you can.
“You call me your moon, well, I call you my soul mate.”