Author: Deb Caletti
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
Source: Galley Grab
Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.
Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....
Clara is a normal girl. She's not an idiot. She doesn't have self esteem issues. She isn't desperately seeking attention or approval from others. She's none of these things that might come to mind when one is trying to picture a girl who would put up with an emotionally abusive relationship. I feel like this is really important. It could happen to anyone and he/she may not even notice that it's happening. She's an easily sympathetic character, telling us her story. Her voice makes you want to listen.
Clara's friends reside mostly on the periphery in this story, but from what we do see of them they are quality friends who are really supportive and defensive of Clara. Her father is mostly awesome. Though he is not without his flaws, he is a good parent to Clara. He recognizes her needs and gives them to her. He has a real relationship with her. He's protective of her without being over protective. It's good to see a quality father-daughter relationship. Finn, the boy that Clara meets while in hiding from Christian, helps to remind Clara what normal looks like and what it is to be able to talk to a person without having to censor what you say or do around him. It is refreshing to see a nice, normal guy portrayed in such a positive light.
The novel takes place as Clara and her father leave town for the summer without telling anyone where they're going. And, though it is clear from the beginning that they are leaving with the purpose of getting Clara away from Christian's stalker-like behavior, the reader doesn't know the details of what happened between Clara and Christian right away. Chapters alternate between the summer beach trip and flashbacks that explain the course of Clara's relationship with Christian. I thought it was particularly smart to do it this way. The events and red flags of their relationship carry more weight when the reader knows that the result is that Clara had to leave town without letting anyone know where she went and that she basically must hide from this guy. It works to point out all of the places that Clara should have accepted that something was off, which can be particularly beneficial to anyone who might find themselves in a similar predicament. That juxtaposition of the development of an unhealthy relationship vs. a healthy one is effective here as a reinforcement of the things that Clara has learned.
There are books about physically abusive relationships, drug abuse, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy, cutting, suicide, rape, and a vast assortment of other issues. There aren't a lot of books about how easy it is to fall happily into a relationship that becomes a cage in which one must walk on eggshells to avoid being battered with unreasonable guilt and shame. This is one of those books that should be a must-read, particularly for teenage girls.