For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray’s goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now… not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn’t even know what they are?
Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart’s desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.
And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie’s souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them…
Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction’s greatest writers.
I met Lauren Myracle at ALA this past summer, and I was really excited to meet her. She drew a little bird in my book because my last name and Wren’s first name are nearly identical. I loved Shine, and I was feeling worn out by the supernatural after reading Untold, so I thought, why not delve into Myracle’s brand of contemporary YA? There was a lot that I liked about it too, since it seems like it’s a romance novel but there’s a coming-of-age tale buried in there too. Not only is Wren figuring out who she is outside of her parents’ expectations, Charlie also has to learn to forgive himself. Wren is sheltered and Charlie lives with a foster family, so they’re different, but those differences can help the other. The point of view alternates between Charlie and Wren by chapter, and I liked how it was done. I like alternating POV anyway, but it really worked here in particular. There were also things I didn’t like, which is to be expected when it comes to me and contemporary novels, which I’ll detail closer to the end of this review.
Wren’s parents are suffocating and Wren is someone who wants to keep the peace. If this was a Myers-Briggs test, I say Wren is a feeling type. She puts other people’s needs above her own, even to her detriment. That doesn’t make her weak, of course, but it makes it harder for her to find her own way. Wren doesn’t even know if she likes the clothes she wears because her mother likes them or because Wren herself does. Her parents are also a detriment to her, because they don’t let her be herself. They tell her what she wants is foolish and selfish, they make up interests and likes for her like they don’t even know her. They’ve taught Wren that approval equals love, and that’s not only wrong, it’s messed up! They oppress her spirit even though they just want what’s best for their daughter. What Wren’s parents want is for Wren to want what they want, to reflect well on them, and not to argue about it. It’s frustrating for both Wren and the reader. I know people who have parents who treat them as an extension of themselves and it’s hard and can be hurtful for all involved. Luckily, Wren stands up for herself and what she wants.
Charlie comes from a neglectful home followed by years of modern day orphanages and foster homes. When he puts his trust in Starrla, a friend with a violent past of her own, she disappoints him, and the well-intentioned sympathy he gets from his peers and adults around him makes him ashamed. He considers his foster brother his brother, but he can’t bring himself to call his foster parents Mom and Dad. I figured he didn’t think he was worth it. The neglect he suffered living with his biological mother will do that to a kid. I liked him though. He was sweet and gentle and trusting. It was nice to see a boy just head over heels for a girl for once. Charlie’s loved Wren since forever. He’s afraid that he’ll never see her again after they graduate, which, in the age of Facebook, seems unlikely, but the sentiment is clear. Charlie is also a pushover, but in a different way and for a different reason. Where Wren wants to keep the peace, Charlie wants to be needed. Charlie has two real problems: his self-esteem, and Starrla. Starrla is a weird character, shaped by probable molestation into this sexy teenager who can’t afford to form meaningful relationships or feel real feelings. She is also a weird stereotype that I wasn’t sure I liked very much at first.
Wren is so awkward, asking Charlie what I thought were very personal things, but they’re so endearing. They fall for each other really fast, but I forgive them this. They’re young, they’ve just graduated, they’re both about to embark on experiences that can seem both exciting and scary. This is first love stuff. It never makes sense. (Note: I am much less inclined to forgive supernatural YA for instalove, because instalove always seems to put the paranormal love interest at an unfair advantage. See: Edward Cullen and his “dizzying” breath.) And the supporting characters were fantastic. Tessa, Wren’s best friend, and not-so-stereotypical jock PG are hilarious and smart and just feel real. Their relationships felt normal and easy, even if they weren’t very fleshed out. Starrla, on the other hand, was hard to like. She “talks black” (a phrase I dislike), she sleeps around, and she’s manipulative as hell. She is especially possessive of Charlie for some reason.
Charlie and Wren both make mistakes and act like jerks. They’re still figuring things out. Wren has been so sheltered that she wants to run as soon as something hurts, and Charlie is so used to being hurt that he expects it. I had much less patience for Wren because her life was pretty easy and charmed, despite her parents. Her hurt is still real, but to me it seemed less than Charlie’s. Wren had a period of “woe-is-me” and I just rolled my eyes. (Note: I am close to someone who suffered abuse as a child, so some of Charlie’s issues were very familiar and a little upsetting to read about.) There are also some pretty cringeworthy lines about touching souls and just general lovey talk that you never want to hear unless it’s directed at you by someone you love. I felt like I was spying on them, hearing private things. Is it an indicator that I’m getting too old for YA when the sex scenes make me uncomfortable? Perhaps.
So overall, this was a great book. The writing can be simplistic, but still beautiful and it gets the point across very clearly. There were good topic touched on in this novel, like gun safety and racism. Both were left incomplete, but indicative of a conversation between teenagers about topics they’ve just begun to explore. (One thing I did not like was the repeated use of the word “ghetto” to describe old or worn down things. Not cool.) There is also a very realistic party scene that I loved, and the makeouts are sexy and hot. There’s not a whole lot of alarmism about sex. Wren and Charlie are 18, and they have sex eventually. Nothing wrong with that. The only other thing I disliked was at the beginning when Charlie asserts that Wren dresses “classy” compared to “girls in tight jeans and peekaboo thongs.” Why he feels this way is later explained by Starrla, but that’s a problematic thought. Girls in tight jeans and peekaboo thongs are just as worthy as girls in button-downs and knee-length skirts. They are the same.
So I think this is another quality novel from Lauren Myracle, and if you like contemporary, if you like romance, this one could very well be the book for you.