Nineteen-year old Lysander has just had the best night partying. However, waking up naked and hungover on the floor when his father arrives home early was not the best plan. Lysander thinks his father will just briefly talk to him and the spending and partying will continue on as usual, just like every other time. But this time, Lysander finds himself on the road to a retreat for troubled teens. His first stop is his Aunt’s house, as his cousin Finn is going to the same retreat. Once arriving at his final destination, Lysander’s full social calendar and designer clothes are traded for team therapy sessions and tie dye shirts.
Lysander is now surrounded by a group of teens all having their own issues and hiding their own secrets. This includes good looking Cai who seems to direct his anger at Lysander. When their anger ignites a spark between them, Lysander and Cai find refuge and temporary safety in each other’s arms. On a path he never sought out, Lysander has to overcome lies as well as self revelations that he never intended to make. But when those lies catch up to him, he may take down more than himself and the trust Cai has put into him may be irrevocably broken.
This book opens right in the thick of it with Lysander’s father standing over his naked and hungover form, surrounded by five other guys in a similar state. Despite the circumstances, their initial exchange was entertaining as Lysander tells his father he can’t sit down because, well, it hurts. Lysander’s personality comes through immediately, as he wears designer clothes, has plenty of money at his disposal, and wants for nothing. Well, almost nothing. Lysander has always been looking for his father’s approval and all of his antics have never resulted in the one thing he truly wanted, his father’s attention. He does get his attention finally when his father tells him in no uncertain terms that the retreat is his only option.
And on we go until we got to chapter three, and I will admit I was annoyed at the direction the story was taking when Lysander and his cousin are en route to the retreat. But, it didn’t completely go off the rails and that part of the story I will let you discover for yourself. Once settled into the retreat, Lysander is less confrontational than initially expected and he tries to blend. When he has a confrontation with Cai, his non-dishwashing persona rears up, and the heated exchange does not end as either of them had planned. They then can’t keep their hands off of each other and every time they are together it just fuels their intensity to be together again. But, they can’t even decide if the like each other as Cai says to Lysander, “I still haven’t decided if you’re okay or if you’re an asshole….” To which Lysander replies, “That’s fine. If it comes down to it, we can hate-fuck.”
There were some real and tragic issues discussed throughout the book coming from many directions. While the majority of the time was spent on Lysander, Cai, and Finn, there were a host of secondary characters all with troubling issues. We get a taste of all of their stories, but with so many of them there was not enough time to go into depth with them all and then several characters started to blend together. Cai is especially broken, his story is heartfelt and sad, and wanting to take care of him surprises and begins to ground Lysander. Lysander and Cai fall in love within their own bubble within a matter of days and their shift from hating each other to loving each other is remarkably quick, but there was something about them together that just worked as they clicked in place together. When Lysander really has a chance to show some growth, he continues to not think things through. Only two weeks had passed at that point, it was not reasonable to expect that much growth, yet the story was sort of demanding it from him.
The retreat itself was somewhat troubling as residents were changing rooms without approval, personal files were left carelessly in view, and fights were erupting without a staff member in sight. Lysander’s father was not a fully formed character, he appears and disappears throughout the story, and in the nineteen years of Lysander’s life, his father really needed to get a clue.
My thoughts on this story were that it wavered between just digging deep enough in some areas to not digging deep enough in others. There were parts that were predictable and parts that weren’t. Overall, I was completely invested, and hanging out with Lysander, as well as Cai, held my attention and was enjoyable to read.