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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I'll Meet You There, by Heather Demetrios. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50 ages 14 and up

" ... all came down to who Josh laughed with and who he laughed at. He was never cruel, not the kind of bully they warn you about in school assemblies. He was just the final answer to whether or not you belonged. Josh and I had never been what you'd call friends, but I'd worked with him at the Paradise since I was fourteen, and that counted for something."

Creek View, California is a town you would rather be from, than living in. Skylar cannot wait for graduation and the chance to move to San Francisco where she will pursue her love of art. Josh Mitchell, a hometown 'hottie', has just returned from Afghanistan, missing a leg and dealing with the trauma of war and the loss of  friends while there. The two work together part-time at  the Paradise Motel.

Sky's mother is in a spiral of alcohol abuse and without a job. Skylar spends a good deal of her time trying to keep her dream of leaving alive, all the while knowing she cannot leave her mother alone in her present state. Her attraction to Josh is evident, as is his to her. But, he is dealing with far more that he is willing to share. Highs are followed by lows for both, neither able to completely share their true feelings.

Told well in both voices, the author pens a believable romance, meant to keep readers moving forward as they connect with these memorable young people. Secondary characters are well-drawn and add impact to the story. They support Sky as she tries to come to grips with her worry about her mother, her growing attraction to Josh, her angst when she feels that he is rejecting her. Both have much on their own plates; their own personal stories will have readers wondering what might happen to them all until the final page is read.

Emotional and real, this is a book that has sadness and great joy. The descriptions of Creek View and the Paradise Motel allow a different perspective. Skylar and Josh are people to admire; you will harbor hope for their future. They are not without their flaws, but those flaws are what make them so real. We want to cheer them on, and hope that their courage and ability to overcome adversity will lead them a happier future.  It is an important story to tell for its focus on the effects of war and poverty, and how lives are affected by both.

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