Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Remains - Review

Author: Helene Dunbar
Publication Date:  May 8, 2015
Publisher:  Flux Books
Genre:  Contemporary Young Adult 
Age Recommendation: 16 and up
Rating: 4 Stars

Book Description: 
In less than a second... ... two of the things Cal Ryan cares most about--a promising baseball career and Lizzie, one of his best friends--are gone forever. In the hours that follow... ...Cal's damaged heart is replaced. But his life will never be the same. Everyone expects him to pick up the pieces and move on. But Lizzie is gone, and all that remains for Cal is an overwhelming sense that her death was his fault. And a voice in his head that just...won't...stop. Cal thought he and his friends could overcome any obstacle. But grief might be the one exception. And that might take a lifetime to accept...

My Review:

To say that this book didn't go quite the way I expected it would be an understatement but the journey that we are taken on with Lizzie, Spencer, Cal, and Ally is truly beautiful.

This is a, I want to call it 'heart-breaking' and 'heart-warming' but you will see why those words sound a bit hollow when you read the book, I think a better way to say it is to say it is a soul warming and at times emotionally crushing book.

Cal is an all-American teen with dreams of baseball stardom, a crush on a beautiful girl that he's afraid to talk to, two best friends who support each other, particularly Lizzie whose home life and emotional stability are constantly in flux.  Their world comes crashing down after a tragic accident leaving Cal and Spencer finding their way in the world again.  This is truly Cal's story and I adored Cal, I could really connect with him, ache for him when he hurt, smile when he was happy, and just want the best for him all around.

I love how much these three friends support each other, how nonjudgmental they are with each other.  But, I am going to come right out and say it and probably get the evil eye from every reader out there, I didn't like Lizzie.  There, I said it, I feel both a sense of relief and guilt with that statement but it's true.  I just could not connect with her.  Did I feel bad for her, oh my yes, but I didn't like her.  I think she manipulated Cal.  I think that she truly did love Spencer, but poor Cal, he was just along for the ride in a way.  He came with the package of Spencer for her and that makes me want to rage because Cal, Cal would have given her EVERYTHING to protect her, to be there for her, to (platonically) love her.  Now I know that this is seemingly ironic since in the end Lizzie does end up giving 'everything' to Cal, but I still can't bring myself to like her, even the voice of her Cal is left with never came across as loving toward him.  Now is that because it wasn't really her voice at all, but instead Cals misguided belief that he was the cause of her death and his guilt, we will never truly know because  I can't decide if the voice of Lizzie was truly Lizzie or not.

The fact that I couldn't like Lizzie doesn't diminish this book in anyway however.  It is truly a beautiful story about friendship, love, letting go, (although do we really ever let go?) and moving forward.  Spencer and Cal's relationship is inspiring and real.  Their's is the type of friendship we all crave and want with another person.  The ability to have someone know you so well that nothing else matters.  That they can understand you even when you say no words, they can truly feel your pain, joy, fear, and love.  I have to say for quite a while I really wanted something special to happen with these two, and I will admit (I rarely ever do this) having to skip to the end to see if that happened and while I can say I am in a way sad that it did not I truly feel the story ended how it needed to.

On that note let's talk about Ally, Cal's long admired crush.  I loved her and I loved their relationship.  Their romance is sweet, innocent, (as it should be at that age, what I am old now I can say that, haha) based on true feelings of care and friendship.  I loved that it was this sort of quiet love, that it is mutual and basically uncomplicated.  I love that Ally understands Cal and most importantly that she understands Cal and Spencer.  Their relationship is a beautifully mature relationship for two so young.

Besides my pretty much utter dislike of Lizzie (sorry) the only part that kept me from going a full 5 stars is that I wanted more for them.  I almost need a second book.  I need to know how Cal and Ally continue on.  I need Spencer's story, I need to know that through their last high school year, into college, and onward that they make it and they make it together.  I need Spencer to find his HEA, the one he so deserves because he is truly an amazing character who needs his own time.  Helene does wrap the story up nicely and I am happy for each of the characters, but I think there is still so much more to be had from them and I am hopeful that perhaps Helene's muse will make that known to her and soon.

This is a beautiful story for any Contemporary Romance YA fan.  The romance is light, but the feelings are heavy and you will get them all with this story.  You might want to have a bit of tissue handy although I wouldn't call this book a tear jerker, more a weepy read.  Helene does a beautiful job of tempering out the pain with joyful moments and doesn't leave us drowning in emotion.  This book will give you a slight book hangover and leave you thinking about life, how it is laid out in front of you, and how you live it.  It is a fairly quick read, just over 250 pages, so it would be a lovely afternoon read on the weekend when you can go through it undisturbed and let it flow into you.  It is beautifully written and you can tell the story comes from a true place of love for Helene.  It was a joy to read.  Sidetone: I kinda really love that cover!

~Happy Reading~
Follow The Tour:
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May 11thRadical Reads Book Blog – Guest Post
May 12th ~ Reads All The Books – Review
May 13thJ & J Book Bangers – Guest Post
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May 14th ~ Bookish – Review
May 14th ~ Book Chic Club – Review
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May 15th ~ Lady Reader - Tiffany – Review 
About the Author:
Helene Dunbar usually writes features about fiddles and accordions for an Irish Music Magazine, but she’s also been known to write about court cases, theater, and Native American Indian tribes. She’s amazed that she has a day job that pays her to spend time on Facebook and Twitter, and that, on a good day, gives her time to let the voices in her head out into the world to tell a story.   If she had to put money on it, she’d bet that if music didn’t exist, she wouldn’t be able to write.  She’s lived in two countries, six states, and is currently holed up in Nashville with her husband, daughter, two cats, and the world’s friendliest golden retriever.
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  1. I liked Helene Dunbar's debut, These Gentle Wounds, but I didn't fully love it like I wanted to. What Remains sounds absolutely excellent, so I'll definitely have to pick up a copy very soon! Although after reading your thoughts about Lizzie, I think there's a good chance I won't like her character very much either, haha! But I'm glad it didn't impair your enjoyment of the book. :)

    1. Lizzie is a hard one for me because I feel so guilty about not liking her, and I am not totally sure if I am supposed to like her, but I think I am, haha. I do feel terrible sad for her regardless of anything else. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you read it! This was my first book by Helene Dunbar but I am very interested in picking up These Gentle Wounds, after What Remain's I really need to give it a try. Thank you so much for stopping by the blog!