By: Amy Fellner Dominy
“I thought, how could it be bad—it’s love and love is good. Love is supposed to be good, isn’t it?”
This was one crazy, emotional, frustrating rollercoaster ride of a novel.
Emma Lorde and Dillon Hobbs seem like the perfect high school couple… until they aren’t anymore. It’s a story about the passion of first loves, high school sweethearts, and the measures that each one will take to keep their relationship alive and functional.
As a reader removed from the story, I could see all the red flags SOOOOO clearly, it was frustrating to watch Emma fall under Dillon’s spell and succumb to his manipulation. It was especially hard to read through the moments where Dillon would harm himself in order to force Emma to give up her potential internship in Rome – something she’s wanted and dreamed of for basically her entire life!
In saying that, the novel was excellent in the way that it allowed me to understand where Emma was coming from, to understand all the rationalisations she made for Dillon’s actions, as well as why she couldn’t just leave him – part of which was because of Dillon’s mother, whom I absolutely hated.
*mini rant* Yes, I understood that she was his mother, therefore had an obligation to love him unconditionally, but it still doesn’t justify her actions, and the way she placed pressure and guilt on Emma to stay with Dillon despite their obviously broken and harmful relationship! You can already see how hard it was for Emma to convince herself that Dillon’s actions were wrong, much less vocalise her thoughts to an adult. And when she finally attempts to find her for Dillon, she gets shut down and told to stay with him because he needs her, she stabilises him, and blah blah blah!! It was absolutely ughghgfadjflkd *okay, rant over, sorry…*
Another really annoying character was Hannah, who was sooo clearly in love with Dillon, she defended all of his actions, going so far as to condemn Emma for wanting to leave. Which, I guess was the whole point of her character – to demonstrate how love (or putting people on a pedestal and convincing ourselves that we’re in love), perhaps blinds us to even the most obvious signs. Like Lauren (Emma’s sister) says, we’ve all “watched too many bullshit movies that romanticize sacrifice” and this novel presents a thoughtful insight into the truth behind dysfunctional relationships.
Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like there were two messages in the novel. Of course the story of abuse and manipulation took precedence, which, let me just say, as infuriating as it was to read, it was beautifully done. Absolutely gorgeous, and so thoughtfully written. But on another level, and in a more subtle manner, Amy Fellner Dominy also manages to convey the notion that you should never succumb to pressure to change your dream, or sacrifice who you are for another person, much less for a boy from high school.