Thursday, April 11, 2013

REVIEW BOMB: In the Stillness by Andrea Randall

Natalie is a wife.
Natalie is a mother.
Natalie is a cutter.

Clawing at walls built by resentment, regret, and guilt, Natalie cuts as an escape from a life she never planned.

Staying present is only possible when you let go of the past. But, what if the past won’t let go?

*ARC provided by author in exchange for honest review*

I liked this book, but I just didn’t love the main characters. And I didn’t not like them because they were broken – I love angst – I didn’t love them because they didn’t seem to own up to their own faults.

Natalie meets Ryker and shortly after they start dating, he gets deployed to Afghanistan. While he’s away, Natalie turns to cutting as a means of masking the emotional pain she has dealt with since he left. When he gets shot and sent back home, Natalie is excited that her boyfriend is finally coming home to her. The only problem is that the Ryker she knew isn’t the one coming back; the Ryker she fell in love with is back in Afghanistan. While he suffers with a severe case of PTSD, Natalie starts to question whether or not she’s made out to be a military girlfriend. When their relationship crumbles, she meets a new guy who gives her a life she never wanted; now she’s stuck in a loveless marriage, she has kids she never planned for, and a life she hates. Her only release is cutting, but just how long can she keep that secret and just how long can she live a life that she doesn’t want?

Okay – I know firsthand how it feels to have a loved one deployed; to have to say goodbye and pray to God it’s not goodbye forever; to hope every day that they are okay, and to tell yourself over and over to remain optimistic that they’ll come back home eventually. Chris and I have been best friends since 3rd grade – he punched some douche kid for lifting up my skirt at recess and he’s been looking out for me ever since that day. Years later, he took me to dinner and told me he was being deployed to Iraq for at least 12 months. Sure, he wasn’t my boyfriend and we never had a romantic relationship, but he has been one of my best friends for 17 years – I was beyond devastated. I felt sick to my stomach, I wanted to wake up and realize it was just a dream. But it wasn’t. My oldest friend was leaving me and I didn’t know if he was coming back. (For the record, he came home in one piece after 14 months and it was one of the greatest days of my life). I know how much it hurts, and that’s why I’m torn on how I feel about Natalie. I understand her pain. Everyone copes differently – she chose to self-mutilate, and while the thought of cutting myself makes my skin crawl, I felt for “College Natalie.” It was “Present Day Natalie” that I didn’t care really care for.

I didn’t like that she constantly placed the blame on Eric for the life she never planned – it takes two to get pregnant; if she didn’t want kids, perhaps she should have been a little more careful. (I know, I know, accidents happen – but I don’t believe it ever said that they took all precautions to avoid pregnancy.) She never took a look in the mirror and thought, “Maybe I’m part of the problem.”  For the record – she was part of the problem. While she did kind of redeem herself towards the end, she still wasn’t one of my favorite characters.

I applaud Andrea for tackling the sensitive issues of PTSD and self-mutilation, and honestly, she handled them both very well in my opinion; not to mention, the story line was original, and very well written. I liked the changes between past and present, and thought they were necessary to show just how deep Natalie’s problem went…and how much she really ever moved on from Ryker. I thought the ending was pretty predictable, but it was good nonetheless. This wasn’t a bad book by any means, and I did enjoy it – just not as much as I hoped I would. If Natalie had taken a little more responsibility for her own actions, and her destructive behavior, I probably would have liked her character a little. I just don’t like characters that place all the blame for their problems on other people, and that is exactly what Natalie does. All in all, not bad but not great – it was just barely above average for me. 

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