Rating: 4 stars
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Dresden is 18-years old and definitely still finding his way. He is flunking out of high school and emotionally is kind of mess. After losing his father six years ago, and dealing with an abusive brother, most of the time Dresden is barely hanging on. He is at times depressed, anxious, hopeful, and overwhelmed, and just can’t quite fully focus or figure out how to get himself back on track.
When Dresden meets Caleb at a farmer’s market, he finds an unexpected connection. Caleb is so different from Dresden; he’s someone calm and steady and a bit older with more life experience. Not that Caleb doesn’t have his own issues, but he manages to see Dresden in a way no one else really does. Just the idea that Caleb cares enough to want to be with him, to actually take the time to see him, does wonders for Dresden.
Dresden begins to make slow steps to sort himself out, to make peace with some of his demons and to figure out how to move forward. But it is definitely a winding journey and his path is not so straightforward. Conflicts with Caleb and his family threaten to derail Dresden’s progress. Dresden must figure out how to move on from the past, sort himself out, and determine what he wants from the future.
So this book is definitely like nothing I have ever read, mostly because Dresden is such an unusual POV character. The story is told in first person, present tense, which isn’t always a style I like, but I think really works here. It gives us some immediacy and really places us right in middle of Dresden’s kind of crazy brain. He is just all over the place with more thoughts than he can handle, more issues than he can deal with, and never quite sure what to with it all. I mean, honestly, Dresden is a mess. And as much as he grows and changes throughout the book, he ends up still pretty much a mess. Just one with a better handle on his feelings and a little more direction and a slightly improved ability to deal with the all the enormous amount of feelings he has. But this isn’t a story where it all ties up in a bow at the end, not romantically for Caleb and Dresden, and not emotionally for him either. It is a story about a journey, and we see progress, but that journey isn’t over for him yet and it may never be.
In fact, while this is definitely Dresden’s book without question, everyone here is on kind of a journey and attempting just to do their best. Dresden’s mother struggles with the loss of her husband and no real idea how to give her kids what they need. Dresden’s brother Gunner sexually and physically abused him and pretty much terrorized everyone in their family for years. Caleb deals with the loss of his beloved grandparents and the guilt of trying to maintain their legacy when he is not sure that is what he really wants. Everyone here is floundering and while we see improvements on all fronts, everyone is a work in progress.
I am probably making this book sound totally depressing. And yes, it some ways it is a hard read. Dresden is just in so much emotional pain that it spills all over. But at the same time, he is entertaining. Following along as his brain jumps around, watching him find small pleasures that just make him bloom, seeing his happiness with Caleb are all such treats. There are elements of humor and lightness that are mixed in with all the rest.
I will admit that I had a hard time getting into the story at first. Dresden is just a lot to handle and the tone here is just so different than your traditional romance. I mean, yes, there are definitely romantic elements here between Caleb and Dresden and that relationship is what helps Dresden starting making progress. But being inside Dresden’s head takes some getting used to. However, once I got further into the book and hit my stride, I found myself really enjoying the journey. I wanted to see Dresden get himself figured out, and I was rooting for him and Caleb, and the story ends in a way that felt uplifting and really hard won. No, things aren’t all neatly resolved, but it still felt like victory and I really enjoyed that.
So like I said, this is not your typical romance, but there is a lot to like in this story. Dresden is not a character I will easily forget.