Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 4, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
West is a high school senior who has everything going for him until an accident leaves him paralyzed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness, West is terrified and alone. Until he meets Olivia.
She’s the girl next door-sort of. A patient in the room next to his, only Olivia can tell what West is thinking, and only Olivia seems to know that the terrible dreams he’s been having are not just a result of his medication. Yet as West comes to rely on Olivia – to love her, even – certain questions pull at him: why has Olivia been in the hospital for so long? And what does it mean that she is at the center of his nightmares? But the biggest question of all comes when West begins to recover and learns that the mysterious girl he’s fallen in love with has a secret he could never have seen coming.
I love/hate it when I start a book knowing it’s going to break my heart somewhere along the way. Love, because if it’s a good book, I know I’m in for a rollercoaster ride and I’ll be glued to the pages. Hate, because I’ll be in for a rollercoaster ride and I’ll be glued to the pages and most likely feeling a little sick when I’m done. Blink Once flung me around, twisted me up and left me in a puddle, but I never wanted to let go for a moment.
Imagine being completely strapped down in a bed, unable to move so much as a finger or speak. Seventeen-year-old West wakes up to that reality, with no memory of where he is, how he got there or what’s wrong. He drifts in and out of wakefulness, facing up, facing down, listening to the voice of a nurse and seeing and hearing his mother talk to him, but it’s the girl in the room next to his who slips over and tells him the truth – he’s paralyzed and can’t even speak. Eventually things start to come back to him. Good things, painful things and very bad and scary things that may or may not be real. Without the power to speak, it’s all locked inside West’s mind with only the girl in the bed next door to try to tell.
West’s returning memories, first steps toward recovery and bizarre nightmares are all tangled with his growing friendship with Olivia, who sneaks in to see him every day. She has a way of knowing what West needs or how to interpret what he’s trying to tell her and her chatter is something he looks forward to. I’m so, so glad that the story was told from West’s perspective. Letting the narrative lapse when he was in and out of consciousness, being just as clueless as he was about what had happened when he was gone, and not having all of his memories made the story more suspenseful and interesting than if it had been told any other way.
The characters and feel of the story were just amazing. Amazing. Because all of the stuff was stripped off of West – the discussion of his clothes, his hotness level, which chick he was going after – the simplest actions had great meaning and every emotion was suspended and drawn out so beautifully. I loved that each scene had a feeling of isolation to it, like it was one waking moment of West’s, blending into the next. His relationships all blinked in and out like that too, since everyone seemed to come at different times. His friend Mike was great, the perfect blend of uncertainty and male bravado, his parents pitch perfect with their brittle exhaustion. I liked that the West in his memories was the kind of imperfect guy that I’d have wanted to read about in any kind of story; I could see the boy he was with the girl who came into his room every night.
Olivia was a sweet and giving but ultimately child-like character. I can’t say it was that hard to unravel her mystery but she wasn’t the big reveal anyway. She was West’s light, his reason to try to get stronger and learn to communicate. Their love for each other was all the sweeter for them not being able to do anything about it because of what West was and where he was.
My Summary: I’m going to try not to spoil anything, but if you like Hitchcock, Stephen King and The Sixth Sense blended with YA, I think you’ll really enjoy this. West and Olivia are wonderful characters; from the moment they meet, you’ll root for them to find a happy ending even if you suspect circumstances won’t let it happen. West’s awareness levels alone provide all of the suspense needed throughout the story, but Busby finishes it off with a nice stylish little bang anyway. Yes, I was wrung out by this book, but it felt so, so good.