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 as 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.
“I’ll Meet You There” is Heather Demetrios’ second contemporary young adult (YA) novel, and is a wonderfully written, yet bittersweet love story involving an injured marine who thought he’d left their small town for good, and a girl with dreams of college struggling to keep her family afloat. As the two work together at the Paradise Motel over the summer, a relationship, albeit one fraught with difficulties, slowly blooms.
However you feel about America’s military interventions, there are those who have returned from war either physically or mentally scarred (or in most cases, both), who have seen, done, and experienced things beyond the imaginations of ordinary citizens, and who deserve support and empathy. Many of these veterans are still teenagers, unable to order a beer in the local bar but old enough to die in a desert halfway across the world.
Josh is one such veteran, who had his leg blown off in an IED explosion, and returns home after six months in rehab, unsure about what comes next and suffering from PTSD after his experiences. Nobody quite knows how to treat him – some act as if everything is normal, and others ignore the proverbial elephant in the room.
It’s also important to note, however, that Josh is no angel – he was a destructive hellraiser prior to leaving for the Marines, and while he has matured and tamped down on some of his more dickish behaviour, he still occasionally acts out in a problematic way, especially with our female MC, Skylar. A lot of this stems from his inability to communicate with her, but while understandable, it’s still not justifiable.
Skylar, on the other hand, is one of only two people in their dead-end small town who will be making it out of there to attend college. She’s a talented artist for whom freedom seems tantalizingly out of reach, especially once her mother falls off the wagon and requires care and supervision. I admired her as a character – hard working, ambitious, loyal – and refuses to take anybody’s crap, especially Josh’s.
Skylar’s friends, Chris and Dylan, make for a great supporting cast – while lovely people in their own right, they also pull no punches when it comes to calling Sky out on her own issues – pushing her to leave her mother and attend college, getting her out the house to socialize every once in a while, and warning her away from Josh when things are looking shaky.
Despite their personal obstacles and impending separation, one can’t help root for Skylar and Josh. After all that they’ve been through, they deserve heaps of love and safety and care.
Heather Demetrios perfectly captures that suffocating small-town vibe, and really did her research (as shown in the author acknowledgements) when it comes to the returning experience for young war veterans. The novel also takes a long look at poverty, the lives of those who are perfectly content in a place where many are itching to leave, and the families we make when our blood-ties fail us.
The last line of the author’s note really says it all:
Finally, to all the Joshes out there: I wish you sleep without nightmares, laughter every day, cold beer on warm summer nights, and love – so much love.