✰ ✰ 1/2
I was surprised by how dark and gritty this YA contemporary read was. I mean, the synopsis had hinted toward a darker tone and yet I still felt like it was going to be (mostly) a happy tale of young love, music and the pursuit of dreams.
These elements were present however, a much darker tone was placed upon the book with the frequent (and quite graphically written) domestic violence that was occurring in young Beck’s life. This is a story for those seeking a darker YA contemporary that bares all and ultimately inspires hope for a better future. Despite this, I had a lot of difficulty figuring out my overall feelings on this book. Unfortunately, the ending really altered my rating of this book from a 4 star to a 2 star.
Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.
When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?
BECK – was a character that I found very hard to dislike. He had a rough exterior, hardened from years of abuse, that had formed to preserve his softer core that was intrinsically good and kind and wonderful. I adored him to bits. The suffering we had to endure, and it felt like we as the reader had to endure it too, was brutal and uncalled for.
JOEY – Beck’s younger sister, was a fire cracker that reminded me of a younger cousin. Full of energy, spirit and a will to overcome any obstacle. Beck’s suffering in a vain attempt to protect Joey broke my heart. He was a child that had been forced in to an adult role too early in life. The support between the siblings was the most heart-warming aspect of this book. Together they could survive.
AUGUST – Beck’s ‘saviour’ and love interest was a good intentioned, whimsical character that was hard not to like. Her endless support of Beck gained my respect. However, she felt like the least developed character. Even toward the end, there wasn’t much to her two dimensional character other than stereotype. It seemed almost naive to assume that a young woman with an inclination for saving wounded animals was the answer to fixing Beck’s years of abuse. When she was given pure evidence of Beck’s abuse at the hands of his mother, she did nothing. I know this is what he wanted but it still didn’t sit right with me. Their relationship felt a bit stale and stretched for my liking.
Why I only gave it 2 stars:
By just analysing the bare grit and bones of this book, it’s hands down a 3 star. The pace, characters and setting were done (mostly) well. The writing was beautifully descriptive, flowed well and kept me intrigued until the end. Unfortunately my emotional connection to Beck meant that I was deeply unsatisfied with the ending. This had all the hallmarks of what should have been a great YA contemporary. Unfortunately, I was left deeply disappointed and almost angry with the negligent ending that assumed everything was going to be okay if things appeared so, when the whole book had been preaching the opposite.
The brutal nature of the abuse in this book was quite harrowing to read about. It wasn’t always the detailed description of physical violence that got me emotional. Rather, it was the obvious neglect these kids carried around like neon signs that I found hard to read. Nobody seemed to care. They weren’t unaware, they just didn’t care. It’s frightening how similar this can be to the real events that take place so often in the world.
I also felt, in connection to the abuse Beck and Joey suffered, that an exploration of how their mother deteriorated into such a violent, abusive individual should have been further explored. At the very least, Beck and Joey’s future without their mother should have been explored further. Rather, the ending felt more like the beginning of a new story. There was so much that wasn’t quite answered or resolved. I would have liked more peace of mind in this regard considering the extensive emotional abuse we had just read. How can we be expected, as a reader, to take an outside appearance of normality as a sign of good will or intention? The book had taught us that appearances could be deceiving. After all, Beck’s mother was a ‘perfectly fine’ woman in the public eye. It felt as if the author had told us to just have blind faith that Beck and Joey’s new home situation would be a better scenario. I’m all for hoping for the best, but I would have liked some more clarity in this area considering what we had just read.
Overall, it was a good book with an ending that should have been extended and a lot of naive assumptions on the author’s part. I’ll be reading Drews’ other book, The Boy Who Steals Houses because I enjoyed the writing style.
// have you read this book? what were your thoughts on it? //