I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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Fair warning - reading this book requires a large box of tissues, massive amounts of chocolate, and possibly alcohol. Definitely the tissues and chocolate.
There is so much heartache in this book. When I read the blurb, I thought/hoped that I wouldn't have to see Ollie losing Sam, that this was something that had recently happened, but that the actual event wasn't in the book.
First, we get to see Oliver and Samuel happy, oh so happy, and oh so in love. They are perfect for each other, and you can tell how much they love each other, having been together since they were sixteen, best friends since they were ten, and you just know it's them against the rest of the world, and neither can wait to finally get married. Their life together is beautiful, like a fairy-tale, and you cannot imagine either without the other.
But then Samuel dies, in a horrible tragedy late one night, and you get to experience every nuance of Ollie's grief and pain.
It's heavy. It's heart-breaking. There is grief on top of grief, guilt, and anger, denial and fear, and Ollie has no idea how to go on. He's pulled under the water, into the dark, numb with shock, grief, and pain.
If it weren't for his friends, I don't think he would have made it, but they stick around, and when Ollie finally emerges from the darkness, they're there to prop him up.
Ollie tries dating, but feels like he's betraying Sam, and that is one of the themes that carry through most of the book. Every step Ollie takes to find life after death has him wondering if he's betraying Sam's memory, if Sam would have wanted him to do what he's doing, if he's doing what's right by Sam.
It's an exploration of how to live after the one you thought you'd spend your life with is gone, it's about learning to find yourself again, and figure out who you are without that person in your life. It's one step forward, two steps back, it's not being sure of your own feelings, of seeing someone with new eyes, of being oblivious to certain truths, and finding your path.
There is so much pain and heartache in this book, it was at times difficult to see the words on the screen because my tears had made them so blurry. I don't usually read angst-heavy books, but something called me to this one, and I can't find it in me to regret the experience.
There's hope, too, and humor, and anger (especially with Sam's father, whose treatment of Ollie is abysmal), and love, such enduring love.
I wanted to hug Ollie so many times, and I loved Thomas, and how steadfast he was, even when I could see how he was hurting too. His path isn't easy either, and he tries oh so hard to do what's right, even if it may cost him the person he's wanted for most of his adult life.
Indra Vaughn wrote realistic characters with realistic emotions, actions, and reactions, and I cannot thank her enough for letting me experience this book.
Yes, it's heavy and heart-breaking, but oh so worth it. Please, I beg you, read this.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **