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.
Tell Me More: In my experience, the hardest books to write about aren’t the ones you develop an overwhelming love for, nor are they the books you hate. They’re the books that are objectively well-written, with interesting themes, that don’t quite manage to pull you in completely. As much as I wanted to love I’ll Meet You There, my reading experience logged it in as one of those books.
Skylar and Josh’s story begins in a dusty California town, a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of town. It’s an interesting shift from many YA novels set in suburbs or big cities, and Demetrios sketches the details well, making it easy to picture Creek View as you read. Sky’s frustration with her life is palpable, as she strives to metaphorically run instead of walk, as most people in Creek View do. She wants to make something of herself, a sentiment readers will understand without difficulty.
Sky was as easy to understand as Josh was challenging, and I do attribute some of that to the lack of experience I have with the military and military families. That said, I would have liked to see more of who Josh was before he joined the Marines. His short chapters were powerful, but their impact on me was lessened by the casual homo/transphobia that he expresses throughout the novel. Was there a reason why he thought those offensive expressions were okay? Was it something he’d grown up hearing? The answers to those questions wouldn’t excuse the homo/transphobia, but it would provide a baseline for Josh’s development.
What development does happen is tied mostly to the romance between Skylar and Josh, a relationship that felt more lackluster than exciting to me. I understand on an objective level why they might work as a couple, but I just didn’t feel that connection between them. If anything, I felt more passion from Skylar when she was thinking about leaving Creek View than when she was with Josh. They do seem to find something in each other
The Final Say: As much as I wanted to love I’ll Meet You There, the story wasn’t compelling enough to convince me to meet it halfway. I wouldn’t rule out trying Heather Demetrios’ debut novel, but this wasn’t the novel for me.
When she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real.