The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani, Mindi Scott
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 3rd 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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In this witty, heart-tugging novel, two teens take a spontaneous road trip across the Southwest to meet three strangers who received the life-saving organs of their late best friend—charting a journey of loss, hope, and love along the way.
Six months ago, Ashlyn Montiel died in a bike accident.
Her best friend Cloudy is keeping it together, at least on the outside.
Cloudy’s insides are a different story: tangled, confused, heartbroken.
Kyle is falling apart, and everyone can tell. Ashlyn was his girlfriend, and when she died, a part of him went with her. Maybe the only part he cares about anymore.
As the two people who loved Ashlyn best, Cloudy and Kyle should be able to lean on each other. But after a terrible mistake last year, they're barely speaking. So when Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s organs were donated after her death and the Montiel family has been in touch with three of the recipients, she does something a little bit crazy and a lot of out character: she steals the letters and convinces Kyle to go on a winter break road trip with her, from Oregon to California to Arizona to Nevada. Maybe if they see the recipients—the people whose lives were saved by Ashlyn’s death—the world will open up again. Or maybe it will be a huge mistake.
With hundreds of miles in front of them, a stowaway kitten, and a list of people who are alive because of Ashlyn, Cloudy and Kyle just may find their way to back to her…and to each other.
♥ Quick Thoughts and Rating: 4 stars! I knew that certain aspects of this novel would hurt my heart a little, but I think I mostly expected it to be a fun, road-tripping friends-to-more love story with sad moments tossed in here and there. I know I certainly never anticipated for my heart to be in my throat almost the entire time, and for the times that it wasn’t lodged in my windpipe, it’d be the source of a hollow ache in my chest that caused my eyes to tear up.
The Way Back to You is more than a love story or tale of loss, it’s the journey of two young teens who have to find out who they are and what they need after a devastating tragedy so they can learn to live their fullest lives to its best potential. It’s about those secret and sometimes public moments of grief and learning to adjust your life to make room for the heartache and allowing joy to creep back in. Even more, it’s also about all the friends and family that work behind the scenes to pick you up, build you stronger, and hold your hand while your world falls apart around you.
♥ Review: The Way Back to You is delivered in alternating POVs of our two main characters, Claudia (aka Cloudy) and Kyle, and each character portrays how we’re all affected by grief differently. Cloudy has lost her best friend, and she’s dealing with the loss the only way she can: by not dealing with it. She fills her life with constant distractions and boxes her feelings of the tragic, sudden loss of her BFF in tidy, compartmentalized boxes in her brain where they’re not allowed to come out and hurt her. She knows that Ashlyn is dead, but as long as she doesn’t obsess over that fact–or really think about it at all, ever–then the emotional turmoil of it can never touch her. It’s a thing that exists without existing, close enough to know it happened without ever having to look the ugliness of it in the face. But wearing her “everything is peachy!” mask is starting to take it’s toll, and she’s finding it more and more difficult to keep up the charade.
Quite her opposite is Kyle, who was Ashlyn’s boyfriend, and he has completely fallen apart. Neither he nor his family, friends, or the community can identify him as the guy he was before Ashlyn’s death. He’d love nothing more than to be the back-to-normal Kyle, but he doesn’t know how to pull himself out of the funk that has a death-grip on him. He was never exactly the social butterfly type, but when people are surprised to see him out and about, but always quick to offer a pitying look, his cave of gloom always sounds more appealing. Besides, being a shut-in recluse blasting emo music totally has its perks, like not having to meet anyone’s expectations or being forced to look “fine” or “not depressed” because it makes others feel uncomfortable.
I really identified with both characters in this novel, and related to how people handle tragedy so differently. I’ve took on my fair share and each situation I tackled differently, so I appreciated that the authors chose to tell this story in alternating, dual perspectives to better showcase that there’s no exact science, right, wrong, or formulaic way to express and/or handle something so tragic, especially when it happens so unexpectedly, as often times younger deaths do. People accept and deal with things on their own timeline, in different manners, but it doesn’t make their experiences or how they choose to do so any more right or wrong, but this book shows that you do have to take it, to feel that hurt and devastation, or it will swallow you because you can only ignore it for so long.
I could spend forever on grief management and how realistically it was portrayed in this novel, however that’s not all that this book encompasses. I really enjoyed the aspect of the road trip and the plot of these two teens connecting more and more to one another and learning to move on by going in search of Ashlyn’s recipients of her donated organs, even though it is so illegal. I like how each patient brought on different emotions for these two teens, and though I won’t disclose exactly how complicated their love story is long before it ever began, I will say that I enjoyed how it progressed at a natural pace and never came across as rushed or contrived. I also enjoyed that unlike other road trip books, this one did a beautiful job of incorporating all these different locations without letting the descriptions of the locale weigh down the text. It was more about the experiences they had and the people they met in these places than the actual travel elements themselves. There were also other side-stories and ideals threaded throughout the storyline, and I liked that the authors found that balance of giving it just enough depth to add to the realness of their characters without giving it too much attention to where it convoluted the major plot of the book. Lastly, I don’t feel like I could close out this review section without mentioning that there was some really great secondary characters. I felt like that really supported our MC’s and the story as a whole, and that they weren’t stereotyped or cardboard fill-ins to fluff up the story or to add any unnecessary drama. Furthermore, I appreciated the major roles they had in helping Cloudy and Kyle to deal with Ashlyn’s loss and to accept the things they couldn’t change and act on the things they could.
♥ Teaser Quote: There were many quotable moments, but this one really stuck out when I went back through all my highlights and really seemed to stick to the heart of the book.
“You can’t bottle everything up, Cloudy,” she says. “If you do, you’ll never move on.”
I swallow hard. The school counselor, my parents, they all said the same thing. If I didn’t talk about Ashlyn’s death, how it made me feel, I’d never get past it. But here’s the thing about talking: every conversation ends the same way, with Ashlyn still dead and me missing her so much that it’s overwhelming, excruciating, and relentless. And when you talk enough about something, you give it a shape. You make it real.
Why doesn’t anyone get that?
~quote taken from the e-ARC of The Way Back to You, Cloudy’s POV at 46%
|Book Rating Breakdown|
|General Book Feels|
|Degree my heart was ripped out|
♥ Rec It? Yes! The Way Back to You summarizes the brightest and worst spots about losing someone important. It captures the beauty of friendship, life, and family, and rolls it so easily into one complicated, yet heartwarming story of triumph over a tragic loss. Always emotional and sometimes messy, these authors made me feel all the feels within the space of three hundred plus pages, and I won’t soon forget the journey they took my heart on.
And there’s so much to wish for.
But only one thing I want: the chance to get it right. To live without all the heaviness and guilt I’ve been carrying since Ashlyn died. To make sure her memory is a comfort I keep nearby, not something I hide from.
~quote taken from the e-ARC of The Way Back to You, Cloudy’s POV at 96%
♥ A very special thanks to Katherine Tegen Books and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy of this title.
*Disclaimer: An eARC of these title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.
Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.
I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥
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