I heard a lot of buzz about I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios months before it came out. Bloggers who have read early review copies were raving about how good it is. I was pretty excited to read it and started on it when I was in the mood for a contemporary YA novel. It’s been a few months since I finished reading this and I feel bad that I haven’t posted a review of this wonderful book until now but I’m trying to do my best to catch up on blog stuff, especially on reviews for books that I loved. I made the mistake of starting this book on a Sunday, which led to me staying up all night to finish reading it and I was a zombie at work the next day.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.
Wow, this is the first book by Heather Demetrios that I’ve read but it definitely won’t be the last! I’ll Meet You There is beautifully written and captures a slice of California that most people won’t be familiar with. For someone like me who has countless friends and relatives who have migrated to the US because it gives people better opportunities than the Philippines, it’s interesting to read about Americans who struggle to attain what others take for granted. Yes, it’s true that most Filipinos who move to the States do get an improved quality of life than what they’d get back home (actually that’s true for me as well – I’m in Singapore for the same reasons) but the US is huge and there are places like Creek View where the inhabitants are in pretty bleak situations. The small town setting and the daily struggles of the characters in I’ll Meet You There all felt unapologetically real. The kind of life that Sky, Josh and their friends lead make your heart ache for them. I could see why Sky and her best friend Chris have always had this dream and vision of going beyond the confines of their small town, to go to places where they would have better lives. The book describes the setting as “the armpit of California” and I think it’s such a fitting description. It’s no wonder that Josh escapes from Creek View by joining the Marines but his military career is unexpectedly cut short by a life-changing injury and he has no choice but to go back to the town he desperately wanted to leave. While I know next to nothing about situations similar to what Josh went through, I felt that his experience is portrayed realistically.
“In my essay for San Fran, I’d written about how I’d always felt like there was something magical about taking bits and pieces of the world around me and creating something whole. It gave me hope: if you could make a beautiful piece of art from discarded newspapers and old matchbooks, then it meant that everything had potential. And maybe people were like collages – no matter how broken or useless we felt, we were an essential part of the whole. We mattered.”
What I loved about I’ll Meet You There is that even though there’s a lot of sadness and emotional weight in the story, it never becomes overwhelming. I loved the balance between despair and hope, something which only the very best of authors are able to create. There’s a strong and beautiful friendship between Sky, Chris and Dylan – they understand each other so well and do their best to support each other even if they don’t always agree with what the other person is thinking or feeling. They have their way of coping with their problems like reminding each other of the vision, getting crazy on the dance floor or focusing on art by doing collages. Sky also finds refuge in her job at the Paradise Hotel where she has a great boss who is like a second mother to her. I think it’s pretty obvious from the book’s description that there’s a romance in this one. It was a very swoon-worthy, slow burn romance which I gobbled right up. So good! There was a point that had me worried for the two lovebirds, because I had no idea how things will unfold – I didn’t want the story to go in a direction where I wouldn’t be able to forgive one of the characters. But I’m happy to say that I was more than satisfied with what happened. A realistic YA novel reminiscent of Something Like Normal by Trish Doller and Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols, I’ll Meet You There was worth all the hype that it generated.