Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Me on Places No One Knows

Title: Places No One Knows
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press (Random House imprint)

Waverly Camdenmar is perfect. She is straight As, most likely to take over the world. She has the best cross-country times, the most popular friends. And she hasn't slept in days. She spends her nights running until she can't even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tune, nagging sensation that there's more to life that student council and GPAs. Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he is does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly's world. But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall's bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly's dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she'll have to decide if it's worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists, in a place no one knows.

Places No One Knows is honest, raw, and emotional. It's a realistic look at the thoughts teens have, the worries and stresses that they mask with smiles and bury in recreational drug use. The pieces of themselves that they keep secret, the pieces that they wish they could reveal to someone.

Waverly is driven, focused, and intelligent. She keeps her life in order, follows a set plan. Goes to school, hangs out with friends, does homework, competes in cross-country. Wonders why she's friends with Maribeth. Says yes to an invitation to the dance because it was easier than saying no. Runs through the night when she can't sleep. She lives a life of lies, pretending she cares about what Maribeth says about anything, pretending that she's completely normal instead of a trainwreck with a great mask on. Then the dreams start. Marshall is lost and alone, on the edge of giving up. He's sick of school, sick of the unspoken words that circle his parents in their home, sick of escaping by getting drunk or high at his brother's place. He's withdrawn, mulling things over in his head so much, not caring about much of anything. Then Waverly appears next to him.

I do think this book is about the places no one knows, the secret places inside ourselves. The raw, fragile, meaningful places that we keep hidden because we know they'll be trampled on the second someone looking for a weakness finds it. They're tucked away, in pockets and shoes, in closets and lockers, so we can both keep them safe and ignore them. But they do appear from time to time. In secret messages on bathroom walls. In unsigned notes. In dreams.

This book wasn't what I expected. Did I like it, enjoy it? Yes. As with past Brenna Yovanoff books, it delivers an emotional punch. An honest look at what we put ourselves through, what we lie about to ourselves and to others, and what we wish we could say out loud. Both Waverly and Marshall hide from the world, hide the parts that have been hurt and scarred, covering them with masks and scarves in order to appear normal. But what is normal? Being normal is being insecure, is being worried and uncomfortable. Being normal is doing what you want and not what your friend constantly nags you into doing. Being normal is being you, flaws and all. Revealing those hidden places when you find someone willing to share theirs with you. This is the harsh reality of high school, of being human, and somehow surviving.

(I borrowed a copy of this book from the library.)

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