When Hanley Helton discovers a boy living in her garage, she knows she should kick him out. But Nate is too charming to be dangerous. He just needs a place to get away, which Hanley understands. Her own escape methods (vodka, black hair dye, and pretending the past didn’t happen) are more traditional, but who is she to judge?
Nate doesn’t tell her why he’s in her garage, and she doesn’t tell him what she’s running from. Soon, Hanley’s trading her late-night escapades for all-night conversations and stolen kisses. But when Nate’s recognized as the missing teen from the news, Hanley isn’t sure which is worse: that she’s harboring a fugitive, or that she’s in love with one.
(re: Goodreads @ Where You’ll Find Me by Erin Fletcher)
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:
– Provides different perspectives in coping with guilt although it is likely that Nate’s story is of greater intrigue than Hanley’s.
– Considers sensitive issues relevant to young adults without extreme depth.
– Written with good pacing but with some skepticism, the plotting twists are underwhelming.
Okay so I picked this up and read it in a few hours while watching the Olympics. The thought train goes like this: Roswell (T.V. series) relating to CW’s Star Crossed (T.V. series) relating to the idea of discovering a kid in your shed/garage (per this books synopsis) minus the alien antics. Perplexing, I know.
I’ll be upfront in saying that this book may be for you and it just wasn’t for me.
Engage the rant mode:
Disclaimer: Potential spoilers inherent to this review from here onward.
I don’t usually start off with overall book comments but it involves the use of the synopsis in laying out what’s ahead. The narrative could have been more impactful if it wasn’t immediately known that he was a fugitive. When you’re reading with the slightest sense of skepticism, there are evident tells in the progression that hint at the cloud of mystery. So instead of engaging the story with a ponderous mindset, everything seemed very cookie-cutter to me as pacing was concerned.
If you reached into the grab-bag of everyday and controversial issues, challenges, and tendencies surrounding teenagers and pull out a topic – there’s a high chance of its inclusion within this narrative. This is a hit and a miss depending on one’s tolerance to such sensitive issues. Of course, I won’t divulge what these are but you can take my word for it. From one perspective, these elements wrap up quite conveniently, not explored in extreme depth and end up feeling more-often-than-not too good to be true. On the other hand, as realism and moral compasses are concerned, there’s a lack of definitive conviction with these contemporary elements that aren’t explored to its potential. So what does this mean? I’d like to think that there’s a certain imaginary benchmark that needs to be met in writing a compelling narrative. But the baseline is that even if the character(s) are not all too relatable, it has to be somewhat believable in all facets of setting, time, and place as these themes are interwoven with the characters – and it falls somewhat flat in that regards.
[It’s time to break out the big guns. I can only use this excuse once a month. It works best on a morning like this, when Mom is already on her way to the office. I groan for added affect. “I’m on my period. I have cramps. I can’t go.” The tapping stops. My dad’s squirming is audible from here. Even though he has a wife and two daughters, any mention of “female problems” sends him into a tailspin. He clears his throat. “Didn’t you just…didn’t you say…a week or two ago…”]
The narrative follows Hanley Helton, a self-destructive and selfish teenager who gives no care to life because the world basically owes her an explanation for her guilt-ridden past. She internalizes everything and seeks salvation through lying and avoidance, substance abuse, and superficial relationships. Prior to a party escapade (where she has to sneak out in the dead of night), she discovers a boy conveniently taking shelter in her garage and manages to get him out so she can proceed to party away. When she returns after some bad decisions of intoxication, the garage boy is back, helping her get on her feet. Although she feels instant-attraction (i.e. crooked tooth smile), she basically plays it off like he’s someone she can confide in during their late-night talks. Rinse and repeat and you have their relationship in a nutshell. Wait, what?
Of all the homes Nate Bradford (garage boy) could have chosen in the state of Detroit, he happened to be there…conveniently in her garage…during the bleak midwinter. Okay. In many scenes, there’s a sense of uncertainty surrounding the creepy looming presence in her garage. That’s right: stalker antics that could rival Evan Walker of The 5th Wave. Was he a serial killer? No. Could he have been? Maybe (but I guess we’ll never really know). And yet despite less than a month of knowing each other, she’s gravitated to his crooked smile and he’s gravitated to her problems (and I guess the fact that he can come and go her home as he pleases. Breaking and entering is what cool kids do nowadays). No really, huh?
[I roll over and close my eyes because in order to wake up from a nightmare, you have to be asleep.]
From their mutual bonding, Hanley begins to open her narrow perspective of the world and learns to extend her understanding of pain to those around her. Or at least she tries to…because in the end, everything has to come full circle back to her problems and feelings. She does get better at this throughout the narrative but her perception of relieving her guilty conscience from the past to present (involving Nate) is really a matter of apples and oranges – although to her, they’re the same. What comes off as her needing to help in Nate’s predicament doesn’t actually treat the root problem of her past but rather just alleviates the symptom. So while she can’t necessarily fix what has happened, she makes it her goal to help Nate so she doesn’t end up in the same emotional-wreck she has been facing. The narrative is essentially premised around breaking free from a haunting past while experiencing comfort in the present. It’s driven by individuals who share a common experience of loss and find each other at the right time when needing someone to confide in.
[This feels like a turning point, not just for my friendship with Rosalinda but for me. The choice is clear: keep lying and keep our friendship at its superficial level, or open up and give it a chance.]
From a character standpoint, I’m sure most readers will continue with this book because of Nate; his blue eyes, crooked smile, and witty bantering despite his unfortunate situation overlooking his actual character development. For Hanley, she’s kind of an emotional mess who emphasizes her past dictating how she acts in the present. The unfortunate thing is that this ‘past’ wasn’t particularly emphasized, as if it was just there for reference. Yet despite her internalizing the guilt and faulting herself due to her past, a major developmental standpoint was through her relationships with family and friends; which I found to be haphazard in delivery. While it tries to develop in an honest way to challenge her character growth, it does so at the mercy of what Hanley wants. By not fully exploring pivotal characters (concerning the parents of both main characters) and their outward action-oriented reasons, it writes off a would-be a compelling read (re: considering relevant issues) and tackles it in a superficial manner. To further this dialogue, the romance between Hanley and Nate two is kind of a doozy for me. Yes they have hangout sessions. Yes she divulges information about her past. Yes she is basically enamoured by his gestures. But Nate hardly opens up to her until the end and boom happily-ever-after; essentially force feeding an underdeveloped relationship that readers more-often than not try to accept due to wishful thinking.
Overall, Where You’ll Find Me has the layers necessary in engaging controversial topics. While it was written with decent pacing, I think it was a combination of the (lacking) story length and character depth that made this story hard to digest for me. It certainly had its moments but I wished it was longer so that certain topics and relationships could have been engaged further in order to really provoke the heartstrings in a deeper and meaningful way. And also, is “crooked tooth smile” a new attractive quality fetish or something? That term was definitely used more than a dozen times.
So again, this book could be for you and it just wasn’t for me.
Although it feels like I ranted quite a bit, I’m surprised that this review is much shorter than others… so that’s cool. I’m just glad I read this while watching the summation of Olympic events because I didn’t have to put on my thinking-hat or my feels-cap on.