my thoughts in a few sentences: Despite the summary, I honestly didn't know what to expect with Here. The cover led me to believe that I'd be reading something horror or paranormal with ghosts and murder mysteries. The story I got instead was a surprise and, if I'm honest despite my crushed hopes, the unexpected turned out to be much more entertaining, fascinating, and likable. Death, strange and mysterious boys, and a sucker punch of a plot, Here by Denise Grover Swank delivers something astonishing and unforeseen that worked with the overall story, and gives it a nice punch of sci-fi thrills and adrenaline.
hooking first lines: "The wail of sirens pierced the air, jerking ten-year-old Tom Phillips from a deep sleep. He bolted upright, his heart racing."
Denise Grover Swank
Sixteen year old Julia Phillips buries herself in guilt after killing her best friend Monica in a car accident. Julia awoke in the hospital with a broken leg, a new talent for drawing and false memories of the accident, in which she dies and Monica lives. The doctors attribute this to her head injury, but no one can explain how a bracelet engraved with her name ended up at the scene of the accident. A bracelet no one has ever seen before.What began with an interesting and alarming opening in which what, at first glance, appears to be an average citizen caught in the throes of panic produced by the Cuban Missile Crisis, Here by Denise Grover Swank drives a fist of fear into our guts as we wait for a sign that will help us understand what's happening even as we pray for a solution. Quickly following that, we are thrust back into the present and into the miserable mind of Julia Phillips, a teenage girl with no fight left after the tragic accident that killed her best friend even as she rode in the driver's seat. With no memory of the incident, and strange clues that strike us with little logic—like a bracelet engraved with her name and a symbol of someone else's deep love for the person it's meant for, Julia is in for a whirlwind of surprises that will defy normality and have her waver in her beliefs about the world and, what she soon discovers, it's many hidden pockets.
Classmate Evan Whittaker paid Julia no attention before the accident, let alone after. Now suddenly he’s volunteering to tutor her and offering to drive her home. She can't ignore that his new obsession started after his two-day disappearance last week and that he wears a pendant she’s been drawing for months. When the police show up one night looking for Evan, he begs Julia to run with him, convincing her that Monica is still alive. Julia agrees to go, never guessing where he’s really from.
At first, sympathy seems like a small and inconsequential comfort to offer the poor girl weighed down by so much guilt and despair. The accident that's dug such a hole in her life happened not too long ago and yet the people around her insist she move on, try harder to let go and achieve better things. Her personality is buried deep, although her innate sarcasm remains and is only sharpened by her loss, and the disappointment from her parents and teachers she works to ignore are inflicting even more pain onto her. She wishes to throw the life she shouldn't have away, and that is deeply frightening and wrenching. Initially. But, when Evan Whittaker, the popular boy at school who suddenly captures her attention and appears captured by her, rolls into the picture, I couldn't help but lose a little respect for her.
The romance strikes as puzzling and, frankly, a little creepy. It begins with stares that don't coincide with Evan's usual behavior, and when he begins cropping up in random instances, seeming to know things about her, habits and thoughts that she's never shared, my first impression and initial suspicion was his being a stalker. And a clever one at that, to appear normal everywhere else besides his strange interest in Julia. Really, every moment they are together it's difficult not to be wary and cast suspicion onto this guy, who, although he has been in the background of Julia's life for so long, virtually appears out of nowhere. The mystery behind this unusual interest is explained and well-done later in the story, but it didn't relieve me of my lack of attraction to his character. And Julia's hastily given trust and swiftly growing feelings could be irritating for some. Their chemistry wasn't all that believable, and Evan never truly felt like real.
The most fascinating, and inventive, element of the Here is the plot and the developments that lead to a startling revelation that I would have never suspected. And the ensuing threat to Julia's way of life and her actual existence adds enough tension and fear and anticipation to give this story an edge, sucking us in further. Her fast friendship with Reece is well-welcomed as he is a character I could dig. Guarded and full of attitude, our connection with him is nearly as quick, as Reece seems to have much more personality than the other boy creeping into Julia's heart.
While I'm not sure I'd set out to read any sequels to this book, I wouldn't mind picking up another book written by Swank. Her writing is pleasantly simple and straightforward, her characters are likable enough, but it's the plot and whatever else she plans to do to expand and twist it that would draw me back for more. In Julia's relatively normal life, so much action and adrenaline dashes through the story line, and that was enough to hold my attention. A nice surprise, Here by Denise Grover Swank is mellow one moment and exciting the next, and I enjoyed the story for it.
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