One of the goals I gave myself for this year was to get out of my reading comfort zone. I prefer dark, fast-paced, violent books. If you threw a dystopian or horror story at me, I’d be all over that thing in a second.
So, to get out of my comfort zone, I thought I’d pick up I’ll Meet You There, which is a . . .
(*Gulp* *deep breath*)
That’s right. Romance. Romance is really not my thing. I have a hard time making myself care about people’s relationship drama. However, I’ll Meet You There is supposed to be a war romance, so I thought it might have enough blood and guts to get me through. One of the characters is missing a leg. That seems pretty dark, right? I thought I could handle a romance if there is more than just love-related angst going on.
There are two narrators in this story, but the main one is Skylar, a recent high school graduate who is working at a motel for the summer. The other narrator is Josh, Skylar’s former coworker. He joined the military, went to Afghanistan, lost his leg, and came home. Now he is working with Skylar at the motel again. Before Josh joined the military, he and Skylar didn’t get along, but the military has changed him—for better and for worse. If Skylar and Josh want their relationship to work, they have a lot of challenges to overcome.
The characters are brilliant. I love that they are all underprivileged kids who are doing whatever it takes to survive. It would have been so easy for the author to write stereotypes, such as the “irresponsible teen mom” and the “flawless war hero.” Luckily, there are no stereotypes in this book. Dylan is an awesome teen mom, and Josh is a jerk. I kind of love that I hate Josh. I would never date a party boy who casually calls people “faggot,” but he has enough redeeming qualities that I can understand why Skylar loves him. All of the characters are realistically flawed.
“. . . 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.” – I’ll Meet You There
“Why is it that some people in the world get to wake up in beautiful houses with fairly normal parents and enough food in the fridge while the rest of us have to get by on the scraps the universe throws at us? And we gobble them up, so grateful. What the hell are we grateful for?” – I’ll Meet You There
Even though I like the complex characters, this book reconfirmed why I don’t read romance. The main emotion I felt while reading was boredom. Josh and Skylar’s makeups and breakups didn’t hold my attention at all. The book was very flat for me. I kept waiting for something big to happen, and nothing did. The climax of the story occurs when the characters fail to have sex at the ideal moment. The reasons behind their sex-failure are interesting, but I just couldn’t make myself care about their relationship and the ramifications of their unsuccessful sex attempt.
“But my life had suddenly become a Taylor Swift song: breakups and heartache and other girls.” – I’ll Meet You There
(I dislike Taylor Swift songs just as much as I dislike romance novels.)
Getting back to the positive, one part of the book that I really appreciate is that Josh’s mental illness isn’t a “get out of jail free card.” As someone who has a mental illness, I can’t stress how important this is. An illness does not give you license to hurt somebody. If your illness is causing you to be a jerk, then it’s your responsibility to fix it. Immediately. It’s not other people’s job to put up with your horrible behavior. I was cheering every time Skylar stood up to Josh. No matter what he’s been through, he’s not allowed to hurt her.
One of the biggest themes in this book is making peace with the past. Sometimes bad things happen, and you just have to work with what you have. That’s a valuable lesson for young readers to learn.
For me, this book was pretty underwhelming, but if you’re a romance fan, you might get a lot more out of it than I did.