You’d think I’d be used to reacting to Christina Lauren’s novels this way by now, but I still find myself utterly overwhelmed by all the ways their beautiful storytelling affects me, and by how deeply I grow to care about their characters. I went into this story blind, wanting to experience every detail for the very first time, and even though it only took me a few pages to recognise this would be both a friends-to-lovers romance and a second chance romance, I now know this magnificent book is so much more than the sum of those labels. By weaving continuously past and present together to unfold the story slowly, gently, we become part of a young woman’s emotional journey through her most formative years, a journey marked by loss, friendship, love, heartbreak, but we also watch two young hearts claim one another before either of them knew how to recognise true love. And eventually, we see them find their way back to one another. It left me brimming with emotion, still feeling warm every time I think of this story, because have no doubt—this story will move you.
It never occurred to me that love could be anything other than all-consuming. Even as a child, I knew I never wanted anything less.
Macy Lea Sorensen and Elliot Petropoulos met when they were only thirteen years old, their shared love of reading bringing a gangly nerd into the life of a motherless young girl, and a book-lined closet becoming the very backdrop of a tender friendship that would change their lives forever. Inseparable from the start, we watch them enter young adulthood together, supporting, confiding, and learning from one another, and finally, becoming each other’s everything. But their young love is suddenly cut short, and for the next eleven years, their lives go on with zero contact between them, both trying to move on emotionally without the other. When they suddenly meet again, however, it’s as if no time has passed at all, their hearts recognising one another in the flash of an eye, and stirring memories of much happier years.
“I’m not prepared for this.”
“Do you have to prepare for me?”
“If there’s anyone I have to prepare for, it’s you.”
As the story alternates between their past and present, we witness all their firsts, all their lasts, and every important moment in between, watching their young love blossom and grow. We also get to see all the ways they’ve changed over the past eleven years, how much their happiness has always depended on their friendship, and how that friendship would forever shape them as people. But even as their feelings reawaken, one moment in time still has the power to take it all away from them once again.
“Are you happy?” I ask him.
The question is so abrupt, I expect him to balk a little, but he doesn’t. “I’ve had moments of it, yeah.”
I don’t like this answer. I want him to be joyful, loved, adored, full of everything, all the time.
“I’ll admit,” he adds, “I feel more of it being near you.”
It’s heady, knowing I have the power to deliver that.
“Are you happy?” he asks. “I haven’t been,” I tell him, and feel him turn to look at the side of my face. “And being near you again has made me realize it.”
This is the kind of book that goes straight for your heart, and in true Christina Lauren fashion, it’s intimate, affecting, and full of honesty. In many ways, it is one of the most emotional books I’ve ever read, and once I finished it, I felt as enamoured with the characters as with the authors’ ever-changing prose. It’s the kind of book you’ll push into the hands of your friends any chance you get. You’ll see.
“Why can’t everyone be like you?”
“I can be enough of your world that it feels like everyone is.”