Together is somewhere they long to be.
Ash Gupta has a life full of possibility. His senior year is going exactly as he’s always wanted– he’s admired by his peers, enjoying his classes and getting the kind of grades that his wealthy, immigrant parents expect. There’s only one obstacle in Ash’s path: Eden Moore—the senior most likely to become class valedictorian. How could this unpopular, sharp-tongued girl from the wrong side of the tracks stand in his way?
All Eden’s ever wanted was a way out. Her perfect GPA should be enough to guarantee her a free ride to college — and an exit from her trailer-park existence for good. The last thing she needs is a bitter rivalry with Ash, who wants a prized scholarship for his own selfish reasons. Or so she thinks. . . When Eden ends up working with Ash on a class project, she discovers that the two have more in common than either of them could have imagined. They’re both in pursuit of a dream — one that feels within reach thanks to their new connection. But what does the future hold for two passionate souls from totally different worlds?
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & St. Martin’s Griffin
I was torn on how to rate this story because I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had to get up early this morning and stayed up until 3AM to finish. If you’re a follower of this blog, you may have noticed that I am not the biggest fan of contemporaries. Coming of age stories typically bore me to death and so when I found myself plowing through these pages, it was a shock to my system. What is it about this book that made me a contemporary convert?
Eden is not always likable. She’s pushy, indignant, a snob, she pushes people away and has no room for anything but her dreams. She makes judgments as harsh as those hanging over her head and doesn’t think before she speaks…and yet, there’s something about her. She’s rude half the time, but patient, intelligent, kind, and thoughtful with some. She let’s public opinions tarnish her shine. Anyone who has ever felt like they had a past they couldn’t shake and that they are their parents’ mistakes (because no one can see past the prejudice and assumption), you’ll get Eden on a personal level.
This is a modern Romeo & Juliet spin with Jane Austen odes. Class distinctions, racism, and Southern prejudice all combine to form a heartbreaking adversary for these young lovers. Everyone is against this match. He’s Indian, Hindu, rich, she’s white, on food stamps, lives in a trailer park, and Christian. Everyone in this small town sticks to their racial group cliques and stepping outside of the lines invites retaliation in the form of rumors, bullying, and even abuse.
Ash and Eden’s relationship is refreshing, you’ll hope against all odds that they can slay the prejudice and small-minded stereotypes and profiling of their town, but somehow are certain that it’s impossible. And that is the problem.
This is a story about recognizing that there are parts of everyone’s lives that will limit and diminish them; that there will always be someone who disapproves your choices, and that forces greater than you will always think they know better. So much in this world is working against you, but it takes perspective, fresh, creative, and honest to find what’s working FOR you. Opening your eyes, recognizing the hate, the prejudice, and those who only put you down when they should be lifting you up is half the battle.
The romance is fast. It happens late, really late in the story. The first half, maybe 3/4 of the book are pretty much everyday high school scenes with commentary on social class, didacticism, etc. I don’t know how she did it. Actually, that’s not true. Very much in the vein of Pride and Prejudice the explosive fighting, the nitpicking, the anger, through it all, only Ash and Eden have the ability to hurt each other because they care so deeply-you realize that the love has always been there. Always. It’s that sudden realization-that soft and comforting warmth like a ray of sunlight shining on your face right after a rainstorm-that fills you with certainty that Eden and Ash can do anything if they’re together.
Autism also plays a part in this story. How some teachers can be dismissive of difference and push the child away as disruptive instead of making the effort to understand. While a little reductive, these scenes were poignant and memorable.
The jealous popular girl was a familiar and disappointing aspect. Also the perverse and sexually aggressive jock who starts rumors.
Ash has some serious swoon lines. He has a way with words that will have you dropping your defenses as quickly as Eden does. Holy sincerity and adoration.
Mundy. Harsh. Crazy harsh and brutally honest. No filter on that girl and boy is it painful. Her words are like a slap to the face but a revelation. They force Eden to look at herself and be honest. It also bypasses on the awkward. There are no secrets and there is relief in that. Spontaneous, a little weird, Mundy is a unique bff.
If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this: