Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him-at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl-she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.
This is an unusual book because it’s a romance that is painful and difficult and maybe a little toxic. Despite being love, it forces the characters to take a hard look at how they feel and what they have and recognize that it’s not always good, to be in love the way they are. It’s a love that hurts as much as it elevates. One where the highs feel so good, but the lows are nigh unbearable. The expectations they put on each other and the way they struggle under the weight of them frankly just hurt to read about. This was one where it felt like there was never going to be an easy answer.
What shocks me is that this is a book about teenagers. The emotions and situations in it are some of the cruelest the world has to offer, and I wonder how it would differ if it were told about adults. Teenagers have their own complexities, and to have such extremes thrown at them in addition is just incredibly painful. The end of this book just felt like one stab after another with each scene.
While Grace and Henry orbiting each other is the crux of the novel, the friendships shown throughout gave me something to cling to for hope. The way they support each other is something I want to have for myself. They might judge, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still love and endlessly show up. The true love story is that of their crew of friends.
► Spoiler about one thing I felt was unrealistic a bit:
Dom’s parents have Grace living with them, but at no point when we see them do they seem emotional or grieving. Considering their son died apparently just a few months back, I would expect them to be having some of their own struggles visible as well. And having their son’s girlfriend — well, fiance, but it’s not clear if they knew that — living with them and doing her damnedest to halfway become him seems like it would stir up some unhealthy or at least volatile emotions for them, as well.