Author: Lorie Ann Grover
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Published: October 7, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2 out of 5
After receiving a full-ride scholarship to Mills College for Girls, it appears Sarah's future is all laid out before her that is until she walks into a poetry class led by Mr. Haddings, a student teacher from the nearby University of Washington. Suddenly, life on the UW campus seems very appealing, and Sarah finds herself using her poetry journal to subtly declare her feelings for Haddings. Convinced Mr. Haddings is flirting back, she sets off for school in the rain with a poem in her back pocket one that will declare her feelings once and for all.
Mr. Haddings has noticed Sarah's attention; the fallout from any perceived relationship with a student is too great a risk, and he has decided to end all speculation that morning.
But everything changes when Mr. Haddings feels a thud on his front bumper when he glances away from the road, and finds Sarah in the street with blood pooling beneath her.
Hit is a combination of If I Stay and a Lifetime original movie about student teacher relationships. The premise sounded intriguing, and I think it has promise, but unfortunately the execution is lacking. The prose didn’t resonate with me because it was marred by sophomoric writing. Metaphors were mixed, dialogue was stilted, and scenes were hard to visualize due to clunky descriptors. (“Her wild black bun bobs around her head like a boxer’s fist”.) Characters in this book say each other's names more in one scene than I say my husband's in a month.
“It’s going to be all right, Luke, …Oh, Cydni and her mother, Chantelle are here?... Sarah is going to be fine, Janet,” …
“Mark, listen --”
“Have you seen Sarah or the doctor?”
“Yes, Mark. … Sarah’s having brain surgery.”
Not only is that lazy exposition, regarding Chantelle, it’s all redundant and boring to read. There are instances of characters licking their own cheeks and American characters using “flat” for apartment. I could forgive some of these issues, but not all of them, not from an author publishing for ten years.
I wanted some mystery to Sarah and Haddings’ relationship, but the dual POVs very quickly remove any suspense. Haddings is an unreliable narrator, but stalking the girl, sending her red roses, being disappointed at her ultimate choice, all point to his true feelings. If it had only been Sarah’s point of view, especially with the false memories from her trauma, it might have lent the book some depth. Or not, considering how little their relationship actually plays into their lives.
I also think the book takes place on too small a scale. There are no legal ramifications, no real emotional struggles. The book only takes place over three days. Everything happens too fast, too neatly. There’s too much emphasis is placed on how hideous Sarah looks after her surgery, but not enough on her possible brain damage. I would say 90% of her and her mother’s interactions are about Sarah’s ruined beauty.
The end was the biggest disappointment. As I said, it’s too neat. Characters undergo insane amounts of growth and discover forgiveness through faith in an unnatural way. And then there’s the paragraph where Sarah actually sums up all of the literary ideas in the story. Well it’ll make it easy for anyone who’s writing a book report. Highlight for spoiler:
"A thousand thoughts flood my brain. University of Washington. Mills College. Guilt versus attraction. Duty versus love. Friendship wit Haddings or being alone, at least for the foreseeable future. School versus guy relationships. Forgiveness versus anger. Me versus us, when there never really was an “us”, although I won’t give up that I caught his eye. Finding out who I am now versus trying to return to who I was. Good versus bad. Right versus wrong. Ultimately, what’s best for me solely."
In the end, the book doesn’t work for me at all. I wish it did, but unfortunately I recommend a pass.