ARC Review: The Revenge by Hannah Jayne

9781492647362-300Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo |Chapters | Indiebound

syn

From the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly, The Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

review3/5 Stars 

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the publisher & NetGalley

+++Triggers for stalking, abduction, violence

I hate doing this but let me pull up the podium for a moment. There has been a Twitter drama storm over this book, which honestly, I had no idea about until I saw the Goodreads backlash. All the anger. All the comments about fetishizing doxing (researching and putting personal information about people without their consent on the internet as a form of bullying, revenge, etc.) and stalking, and further, being misogynistic. Some readers have even one starred or completely blacklisted the book because of this commentary. 

Going into this book, I had no knowledge of this and read the story for what it was without specifically looking for these characteristics. Here’s what I thought:

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 1.51.57 PM

My thoughts as I read were (see above) all over the place. At first, I was impressed. I loved the direction the story was taking. You have two characters. Both are flawed, they’re pretty terrible people. Hope, because she completely humiliated a guy-who broke up with her amiably-in front of the entire school, and Tony, because he retaliated by putting all of her info on the internet, signing her up for embarrassing products like diapers and rash cream, etc., and went even further by putting her on adult dating sites and sharing her location. They both are the worst, but what Tony did is not only horrible, it’s extremely dangerous. Initially it seems like the author is going to take that route. That she’s going to show how deadly doxing can be, how people regard it as a joke or a prank and it can have real, horrific consequences (abduction, murder, stalking, etc.). I was internally cheering because we NEED that book. In a time where everything is so easily accessible through social media, privacy is crucial. Doxing is NOT in any way, shape or form, especially as it is portrayed in the book, acceptable. I was pounding through the pages because I had to know what happened to her. She may be a terrible person but no one deserves being abducted or whatever happened to her because her ex was a jerk. The adrenaline was high, I was flipping along and then at around 40% (see above) the author made a choice. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for author’s choice. You want to kill off your main character, go ahead, it’s your story, whatever. But in this case, it absolutely destroyed what was building and how important doxing is as a crime/issue. Totally undermined and pretty much negated. Even by the end of the story, no remorse, no lesson learned, just oh, maybe I shouldn’t have done that ha ha. Not even lemme tell the police about this. NOTHING. Completely infuriating. And I kind of see why people got mad about it. A tool that was only examined at surface value AND dismissed. I don’t get it. But author’s choice. Meh.

So at this point, there’s a POV change that turns the story on its head and IT WILL MAKE YOU RAGE. What a shameful, rude, ruthless person. The level of destruction to get revenge. I mean, too far. But you do see this kind of whacked out stuff in the news so not entirely off base. At first, I hated this POV swapping. I was already irate about the destruction of the doxing didacticism but then it changed. A plot twist. A hard, heavy, terrifying one. But still not deserved. 100% NOT. These sections were terrifying and nauseating and all sorts of wrong. I truly felt scared for Hope. The argument is that it gets a little Gone Girl, but I don’t think so. It definitely diverts from that path. It was not predictable. While some parts were, especially after all the hateful slander about Hope, you kind of expected the initial twist, but by the end, nope, nope, nope. I was absolutely floored by the despicable actions of these people, I mean, seriously. 

I didn’t really like or sympathize with Tony. Nor with Hope until the end. They weren’t likable people. They weren’t even that interesting, but the plot itself was and that’s what kept me reading. 

Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the read. As for the misogyny comments, there were derogatory and degrading comments from both men and women in the story. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on,

Jordan

Blog Tour, Guest Post, & Giveaway: The Revenge by Hannah Jayne

9781492647362-300.jpgAmazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Chapters | Indiebound

syn

From the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly, The Escape, and Twisted, comes another edge of your seat thriller sure to keep you guessing until the last page.

After a bad breakup, Tony’s ex-girlfriend Hope embarrasses him in front of the whole school and spreads vicious rumors. Tony is devastated and in a moment of revenge, he makes the location on her phone public. But a week later, when Hope calls Tony and begs him to stop the prank, he hears a shriek and a car door slamming. Then the call is dropped.

Too late, Tony realizes that he may have put Hope’s life in danger. Can he trace Hope’s movements and save her before times runs out?

author

Hannah Schwartz lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, chick lit, and grocery lists that she never seems to remember to bring to the grocery store. Hannah shares a house with two neurotic, feet-attacking cats and has Kryptonite-like weakness for donuts. Visit www.hannahjschwartz.com.

guest

Top Five Favorite Thrillers

My top five favorite thrillers are never the same, although there are a few that make the list and never go away! Here are my current faves (and a few oldie but goodies!).

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by April Henry

Disclaimer: April Henry and I are great friends. Once you’ve been duct taped, hooded, and thrown in the back of a van with someone, you really bond (note: this was a research project). That aside, this is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s quick paced but heart pounding and April does an amazing job of delivering a great, creepily detailed story without bogging down the mystery and thrill. You really get a sense of the characters and root for them the whole time.

GAME by Barry Lyga

This was the first book I’d ever read by Barry and after I finished it, I wrote him an inappropriate tweet about wanting to have his book babies and went back and read everything he’d ever written. The idea of a teen being brought up by a serial killer—and theoretically molded to become one—was one of the creepiest things I’d ever considered.

CHAIN LETTER by Christopher Pike

This was my first foray into teen thrillers in about the 5th grade. I immediately fell in love with the genre and wrote my own version later that year. It was a terrible mash-up of two things I was obsessed with that summer: teen thrillers and teen dance movies so yes, there was a gruesome kill that ended with a romantic dance scene on the beach. So. Bad.

TEN LITTLE INDIANS by Agatha Christie

I found a copy of this wedged into a cubbyhole of a boat we rented one summer. I had already read everything I had brought so I devoured this and loved the deliciousness of picking off characters and the subtle—but scary—way that Christie turned the screws.

NEVER KNOWING by Chevy Stevens

I love almost everything about this book. I guess I’m a little obsessed with criminals in one’s family tree (a la my own last book, TWISTED) but this is such a brilliantly and beautifully written story that you forget how truly twisted it is until the reaches out and grabs you. Read with the lights on!

giveaway

If you’d like to win a paperback copy of THE REVENGE, just comment on this post to be entered.

US or CANADA ONLY. Entries open until July 11, 2017.

Keep reading and check back on July 8th for my ARC review!!!

Jordan

 

ARC Review & Giveaway: Breaking by Danielle Rollins

BREAKINGbreakingGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/TBD/iBooks

syn

Companion novel to Burning.

Prep school gets a twist of supernatural suspense in this commercial YA thriller.

Charlotte has always been content in the shadow of her two best friends at the prestigious Underhill Preparatory Institute. Ariel is daring and mysterious. Devon is beautiful and brilliant. Although Charlotte never lived up to the standards of the school—or her demanding mother—her two best friends became the family she never had. When Ariel and Devon suddenly commit suicide within a month of each other, Charlotte refuses to accept it as a coincidence. But as the clues point to a dangerous secret about Underhill Prep, Charlotte is suddenly in over her head. There’s a reason the students of Underhill are so exceptional, and the people responsible are willing to kill to protect the truth…

Suspenseful and scintillating, with hints of the supernatural, this fast-paced thriller will keep readers hooked.

review

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Bloomsbury USA Children’s

***Triggers violence and suicide. Animal cruelty.

HERE’S WHAT I LOVED:

  • The dark and gritty, almost fairy tale-like quality of Ariel, Devon, and Charlotte. It almost read like magical realism with a sci-fi twist. I adored the dreamy, twisted idea of them being archetypes of fairy tale princesses whose mothers either abandoned or neglected them and all they had was a sisterhood. Yes, that. Yes. 
  • The characters are imperfect. In fact, they aren’t even really likable for the most part. The more Charlotte reminisces about Devon and Ariel, the more cruel and sadistic they seem. Some scenes are truly horrific and disturbing. Like if you love animals…one scene will give you some serious anxiety. I held my breath through that one. The anticipation and fear are too real. Charlotte is one of those characters that you sort of sympathize with, though she does have quite a bit of self-pity. She thinks she’s less attractive, less intelligent, etc., than everyone at her school. There is a total of one scene that shows where that insecurity comes from-the pretty much abusive mind games her mother forced her to play as a child. I wasn’t entirely sold on her character. She was okay. As the story progressed, she did get better. She became rebellious, angry, and a little vicious. Not everything was so black and white. 
  • Mystery definitely propels the plot forward. What at first seems like a string of suicides becomes suspect. What made two girls who were relatively happy and popular kill themselves? There are all sorts of clues and weird incidents that make you question everything. 
  • The ending. Violent, vengeance-fueled, incendiary 😉 it’s sort of evil, but also justified. It was deeply satisfied with the ending. 

HERE’S WHAT I DISLIKED: 

  • The romance. There is so much build up that makes you think it’s something it’s totally not. Something more. Maybe Charlotte is blinded. Whatever. But the reader can see. There’s chemistry sure. And lust, definitely. But anything else, I wasn’t getting any strong emotions, even before the numbness started to set in. 
  • I read Burning. There were several references to things that happened in this book that it kept throwing me off and I flipping through my memory trying to remember anything that might be relevant to the story. There is SO little about what happened in Burning and as a companion where the events that happened in the first book directly influence major plot points, I felt like there should have been more than a few measly clues. 
  • The pacing was a little slow for me. It did pick up but way, way towards the end. Then it’s just crazy action and violence and all sorts of chaos. 

authorDanielle (1)

Amazon/B&N/TBD/iBooks/Goodreads

Author of the best-selling MERCILESS series, SURVIVE THE NIGHT, BURNING, and BREAKING. I’m currently working on the last installment of the Merciless books, & starting a new series to be announced later this year.

giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a finished copy of Breaking. US ONLY.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read more, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

violet-grenade-coverGoodreads/B&N/Amazon/iBooks

syn

DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind. Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

teaserVioletGrenade4VioletGrenade1review

3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Entangled.

+++Some scenes might be triggers for assault and/or violence

Violet Grenade is unexpected. It’s dark and twisted, sinister and honest and raw. There’s so much going on in here, so much pain and torment, so much that is unfair. 

THINGS I LIKED:

  • Domino believes she’s a monster. She has a past that will make your skin crawl and you’ll feel more than a little sick to your stomach when the truth comes out. There’s just enough to keep you on edge. Throughout the book, there are hints, little flashes of information that are gripping, blunt, and brutal. The need to know becomes a compulsion. I HAD TO KNOW. The scars on her arms, why Wilson manifested, the foreboding and constant allusions to an ugly and unforgivable past. Victoria Scott is an expert at building anticipation. It gets under your skin. 
  • A different portrayal of trafficking and extortion. Many times we think of trafficking as young girls or boys being abducted and forced into servitude/usually sexual in nature. What doesn’t get talked about enough is how people of specific walks of life are targeted and manipulated, they’re sold on an idea of a better life and before they know it, they can’t escape. Domino, like many of the other flowers, was homeless. She was vulnerable and a target. It’s not hard to persuade someone who rarely has a roof over their head or food to eat to go with someone at the prospect of safety, making money, a home, or even love. Madam Karina is the worst kind of villain because she’s real. She’s walking the streets right now. Her, and others like her, are predators. While Madam Karina has her own demons that make her the psychologically messed up person she is, she’s smart, she’s vindictive, and calculated. She makes these decisions, she knows what she’s doing, and that is inexcusable. 
  • The romance. Domino and Cain are beautifully broken but complete each other. They both had monstrous demons like guilt and fear that eat away at their souls, but inside, they’re good people who want nothing more than to be loved. Their romance is a slow-building realization. It’s imperfect and complicated. It’s right for them. 

THINGS I DISLIKED:

  • The pacing. This book felt a good hundred pages longer than it actually was because of how slow it read. It took time to really get into. The introduction to Domino and her life on the streets was intriguing, but kind of dull. The only things that save this section are the potential love interest with Dizzy and the hints at her past, that this horrible life is so much better than the one she escaped from. Then the shift happens. After Domino enters Madam Karina’s household, despite all of Domino’s plans, ambitions, and woes, it drags. Not much is going on. Each shift to the next flower level felt pretty much the same despite different dynamics and different girls. 
  • The lack of back story. Here’s the thing: the back story is there, sure. You get bare bones glimpses of what Domino’s life was like as a child and sure, it’s understandable because Wilson has blocked those memories from her so that she can live her life without constantly being haunted by the guilt and gore. That’s fine. When things are revealed about the seriously twisted and disgusting actions that Domino was coerced into doing, I mean, wow. MESSED UP. However, why her mother went off the handle, what her relationship was like with her mother that made the manipulation work so well, any moments with her father…it’s missing. There’s like this gaping black hole of stuff that the reader can fill in or guess about but it’s not enough to 100% embrace the emotions Domino felt towards her mother or even the anger. She blames herself, but what about her mother? What happened? There are so many unanswered questions. 

THINGS I’M TORN OVER:

  • How dissociative identity disorder was presented. Domino’s other identity-Wilson-is the result of PTSD and a coping mechanism for all of the horrific (truly, messed up scary stuff) she was forced to participate in as a child. Wilson is a protector, he’s loving and defensive, and flips out, goes off the handle and is way prone to violence. Domino is scared of him. She tries to keep him under lock and key because when he comes out, bad things happen and sometimes he takes total control. At the same time, Wilson is a friend. He’s been there for her, he never leaves like everyone else has in her life, and at the end, there’s a bittersweet moment that really makes you feel torn about Wilson. Ultimately for me, despite the insane and sadistic choices he makes, he’s a sort of savior for Domino that helps her realize that she is enough, that she can get through anything on her own. I wasn’t necessarily happy with this relationship between the two, but I didn’t hate it either. Wilson grows on you. And when he takes over, well, it’s definitely memorable and a little sickening. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

missingGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Crown Books for Young Readers

+++Potential triggers for animal abuse/mutilation, abduction, violence, suicide, and physical abuse

Creepy, chilling, and all sorts of sinister, Missing is the kind of mystery that hits hard because of just how possible the situation is. 

This mystery is a challenge. There are so many clues that lead you in several directions. The reader, just like Winter, doesn’t know who to trust and what’s more, there are hints that suggest Winter is not psychologically sound or an entirely reliable narrator. I loved that the possibilities were endless and kept me guessing throughout, up until the very end. 

There are some seriously nightmare-inducing scenes. Some material may be triggering for readers, especially when it comes to animal abuse/mutilation. The adrenaline is high. Every snap of a twig, every laugh in the dark, every moment that makes you doubt, it’s a rush that will leave you breathless with anticipation. I could not put it down. 

In Reeve’s End the poverty is so profound that people can’t afford food and hunting is a necessary means of survival for some. The story begins with the main character setting traps, hunting for her dinner, resting in her personal shack in the woods. As the world building picked up, it was a huge revelation. Reeve’s End is one sketchy and messed up place. The cops are a joke. They arrest people on whim, they dismiss actual tips, and are full of prejudice that prevents them from doing real police work. And the sexism. Wow. There are several pointed comments about a woman’s position in society, victim blaming, and intelligence as something snobby and indecent. Sometimes the rage was pretty strong and the frustration that no one would listen to Winter and Jude, it’s enough to put anyone on edge. 

Winter and Jude. Steamy. Profound. Beautiful. The way they confide in each other. They see beneath the surface and fronts they put on for outsiders and they’re so cautious. Winter recognizes Jude has deep resentment, issues, and has put up a wall because she has the same feelings within herself. Their relationship isn’t angsty or particularly sexual like a lot of YA lately, it builds and grows and is rooted in understanding and compassion. 

While there were tidbits and clues throughout, I don’t think there were enough of them. The ending is so twisted that there’s really no way to see it coming and there wasn’t enough given to the reader to make a guess until a chapter or two before the reveal. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Exclusive Interview with Victoria Scott on Violet Grenade

violet-grenade-coverGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/Book Depository/Indie Bound

Release Date: May 16, 2017

syn

DOMINO: A girl with blue hair and a demon in her mind.

CAIN: A stone giant on the brink of exploding.

MADAM KARINA: A woman who demands obedience.

WILSON: The one who will destroy them all.

When Madam Karina discovers Domino in an alleyway, she offers her a position inside her home for entertainers in secluded West Texas. Left with few alternatives and an agenda of her own, Domino accepts. It isn’t long before she is fighting her way up the ranks to gain the madam’s approval. But after suffering weeks of bullying and unearthing the madam’s secrets, Domino decides to leave. It’ll be harder than she thinks, though, because the madam doesn’t like to lose inventory. But then, Madam Karina doesn’t know about the person living inside Domino’s mind.

Madam Karina doesn’t know about Wilson.

int

YABM: Violet Grenade is a little different than your other books, what inspired this story? 

Victoria: I kept thinking about girls who get attacked, and what it would look like if someone targeted a girl who was capable of killing a man. How glorious that scene would be to watch in a movie. This idea of a small girl with a deadly secret wouldn’t leave my mind until I put her on paper. 

YABM: How would you describe Violet Grenade to a reader in 3 or less sentences? 

Victoria: I’d simply say it’s a story about manipulation, revenge, damaged characters, and love found in unlikely places. Oh, and multiple personalities (Dissociative Identity Disorder).

YABM: What do you want the reader to take away from Violet Grenade?

Victoria: Always, always…entertainment. I never seek to achieve anything besides giving readers an escape from reality. What they find outside of that is unique to their own journey and experiences.

YABM: Give me a brief rundown of Madam Karina’s Home for Burgeoning Entertainers? What is it like?


Victoria: The girls who live there are sorted by silk flowers they wear on their dresses or blouses. It ranks them, and signifies how much of their earnings they actually keep. Those flowers keep the girls competitive. And of course it’s symbolic of losing a certain something. *wink*

YABM: Is there any romance brewing between characters?

Victoria: Oh, yes. Domino and Cain have chemistry, but mostly they share past wounds.

YABM: Which character would be most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Victoria: Cain. Those zombies wouldn’t stand a chance.

YABM: How do you balance home, life, and writing (and your adorable little girl)?

Victoria: With great difficulty! Even as I finish this interview I’m thinking how I didn’t get enough time with my little girl tonight. Le sigh.

YABM: What would you tell aspiring writers? What’s your best advice for completing that draft?

Victoria: To just power through! Trust me, we all think our first drafts stink. If you do too, then you just might be a published author one day. Ha!

authorVictoria Scott Author Photo copyWebsite/Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Goodreads

Victoria Scott is the acclaimed author of eight books for young adults. Her most recent release, Titans, received two starred reviews, and Fire & Flood is a 2017 Spirit of Texas Reading Program book. Victoria’s novels are sold in fourteen different countries, and she loves receiving reader emails from across the world. You can find her online at VictoriaScott.com.

Check back closer to release date for my review. 

As always, happy reading!

Jordan

 

Spotlight & Giveaway: Pretty Fierce by Kieran Scott

prettyAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Kobo | iTunes | Indiebound

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

syn

An action-packed, edge-of-your-seat novel about a teen who, when backed into a corner, fights back, from the author of What Waits in the Woods

Kaia has been on the run her whole life. The daughter of professional assassins, she knows danger—and she’ll do anything to survive. After her parents vanished during a job gone bad, Kaia’s spent the last year in hiding, trying to blend in as an ordinary teenager, and there’s no one who makes her feel more normal, more special, than her boyfriend, Oliver.

But when she’s attacked by someone from her mother’s past and Oliver catches her fighting back, Kaia’s secret is exposed. In a split-second decision, she flees the small town, taking Oliver with her. Stalked at every turn, Oliver and Kaia must protect each other…or die trying.

authorKIERAN SCOTT is the author of several acclaimed young adult novels, including the Non-Blonde Cheerleader trilogy, the He’s So/She’s So trilogy, and Geek Magnet. She also wrote the New York Times and USA Today bestselling Private and Privilege series under the pen name Kate Brian. She is a senior editor at Disney/Hyperion and resides in New Jersey with her family. Visit kieranscott.net.

giveaway

Enter for your chance to win a copy of Pretty Fierce 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
guest

One of my favorite things about writing PRETTY FIERCE was trying to figure out what Kaia would do next. I don’t consider myself to be particularly brave—except for the fact that I don’t mind public speaking which is one of those things that keeps people awake at night. But I imagine that if I were ever in a situation like Kaia is in—being pursued by bad guys, hunted down at every turn, forced to try to protect the man I loved—I’d probably end up a ball of blubbering mush in a corner. So when I was writing her, I would try to imagine the exact opposite of what I would do in a given situation, and then write that. More often than not, it ended up being the thing that I wish I would have the guts to do, but really just couldn’t imagine myself doing. And that’s what I think makes a great kick-butt heroine—someone who allows us to see the possibilities of what we could do—what we could be—if we could find that deep well of courage within ourselves.

Here is one of my favorite kick-butt heroines:

Laia, An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir

This book is just one of those reads that completely blew me away. It’s not only full of action and emotion and suspense and a ridiculously well-realized world, but the characters are so believable and realistically flawed. Laia, though an orphan, lives a relatively peaceful life in the military state of the Martial Empire, but when her grandparents are slain right in front of her and her brother, Darin—her only living relative—taken to prison, she rises to the occasion. Though Laia is almost always afraid, she takes on the role of spy/slave under basically the scariest woman in all of literature—the Commandant of Blackcliff Academy—in an attempt to save her brother. Laia’s fierceness is a quiet, but incredibly powerful kind. Sometimes the greatest strength lies where you least expect it.

Excerpt

KAIA

Oliver was bartering with the cab driver, trying to tip him with cans of soup, when we pulled up in front of my house, and their conversation faded into the background. A lump the size of a soccer ball formed in my throat. The house was exactly the same.

Same olive-green siding, same intricate white trim, same yellow and purple flowers bursting from the flower boxes. My parents’ rocking chairs sat on the porch, angled toward each other as if waiting for them to walk out the front door with glasses of lemonade. Next to them was the wicker couch that I’d always laid out on, my knees crooked over the arm, my bare feet dangling down the side closest to my father, so he could tickle them. The door was the same burgundy color and looked freshly painted. The lawn was recently mowed.

Was someone living here?

My heart seized.

Was my mother living here?

What if I walked through the door, and she was sitting on the couch in her old, fluffy pink slippers, waiting for me? What if, all along, all I’d needed to do was come home? The idea made me queasy with excitement and dread.

The taxi’s door opened, and Oliver was there, right in front of me. I blinked up at him. I hadn’t even heard him get out of the car. He offered his hand, but I ignored it and shoved myself out, feeling silly. I walked to the end of the driveway and looked at the garage. I could see the top of my father’s silver SUV through the garage door window. I felt disoriented, as if I’d stepped into a time warp.

“What?” Oliver asked. “What is it?”

“My dad’s car. It’s still here.”

If anyone was living here, it wasn’t a new family.

My pulse raced. I bounded up the porch steps and over to the fourth shingle under the second window, jabbing my fingers up under the crease. A key fell into my hand and the lump in my throat widened.

“You okay?” Oliver asked.

All I could do was nod. Tears were threatening to spill over. I shoved the key into the lock, turned it, and pushed open the door, quaking with pent-up emotions—anticipation battling it out with hope and anger and fear.

No one was home. That was obvious the second I stepped inside. The air was stale with the scent of too many hot days with windows locked tight. A thin layer of dust had accumulated on the table next to the stairs, where my mother’s favorite, framed picture of our family sat. I ran a finger through the dust and swallowed.

Oliver squeezed my shoulders. “So,” he said lightly. “This is where you grew up.”

“Sort of. I mean, we were hardly ever here, but…we were here more than any other place. My parents called it ‘home base.’”

Oliver kissed my cheek and squeezed my shoulders again, grounding me. Reminding me that even though my parents weren’t here, he was. He headed toward the foot of the stairs.

“What’re you doing?” I asked, swiping a hand across my cheek.

His fingers curled around the top of the newel post and he grinned. “I’m going to go see your room.”

Oh crap.

“Oliver! Oliver, no!”

But he’d gotten a lead on me. By the time I made it to the second floor he was already throwing open doors. To the bathroom, the linen closet, the spare room, and then—

“Don’t,” I said, eyeing his hand on the doorknob.

“Oh, but I have to,” he replied playfully.

He opened the door, and a shaft of pink light engulfed him.

“Oh. My. God. It’s like a My Little Pony shrine in here!”

My love of pink had come from my mother. But while she had used the color as a mere accent—a bag strap here, a beaded bracelet there, the occasional stripe on a headband—I had embraced the color with every fiber of my being. When I was four.

“You cannot judge me by this room!” I said, arriving at the door as he flung himself, face up, onto my canopy bed.

Damn. It was even pinker than I remembered. A light pink rug, pink and hot pink striped walls, a pink flowered canopy and pink plaid sheets. There were pink stuffed animals, a pink-framed mirror, pink bookshelves filled with pink and purple and white books and toys and knickknacks. There was no color in the room other than pink and white and purple. Except for Oliver. He was all gray T-shirt and tan skin and blond hair.

“I never had you pegged for a Disney Princess,” Oliver said, pushing himself up on his elbows.

I walked over and sat next to him. The bed gave a familiar squeak. “I thought about changing it when I was thirteen, but we never got around to it. We were rarely here, so it didn’t seem to matter. I never even thought about the fact that a guy might see it one day.”

“Are you saying I’m the first guy you ever invited into your Barbie Dreamhouse?”

“I didn’t exactly invite you,” I pointed out, shoving his chest. “You barreled right in.”

Oliver reached an arm around my waist. He got that look in his eye he only got when we were entirely alone. It made my heart catch.

“Just like the day we met.”

I smiled. The day we met. Probably the single best day of my life.

Now, an entire year of kisses and phone calls and texts and adventures and secrets and whispers and near-death experiences between us, we were sitting in my pink explosion of a room, and I was overwhelmed by the sheer luck I felt at finding him. I leaned down and kissed him. He pulled me to him, pressing the whole length of his body against mine, and slid his hand under my short hair, around the back of my neck. We kissed for a long time, legs intertwining, chests bumping, hands exploring. For those few spare minutes, there was only Oliver.

Then he rolled me onto my back, and I winced as one particular bruise on my spine ached. I sat up, remembering why we were here. Oliver almost fell off the bed.

“What? What’s wrong?” he said.

“Oliver,” I replied, gasping for air. “I have to show you something.”

Fierce reading,

Jordan