Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
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….
For Christian and Clara it really was one of those “from across a crowded room” moments – at a basketball game where their opposing schools were playing, their eyes just happened to meet – and in that single electrified moment, Clara knew he would change her life.
Everything about Christian was perfect – her last boyfriend had been physically abusive and Christian was just so nice to her, it was a relief. He was fastidiously clean, polite and believed sex was for after marriage. If sometimes his feelings got hurt for small things she said or did, Clara blamed it on her own insensitivity or maybe ghosts leftover from the trauma of the way his family broke up in Copenhagen and issues he was still having with his mother. As their relationship enters its second year, his behavior becomes smothering as Christian becomes more and more paranoid, constantly asking Clara if she’ll ever leave him, demanding to know if she’s looking at other boys, checking up on her whereabouts and dissolving into tears whenever Clara confronts him. When she finally sees how unhealthy things have become and that Christian’s fixation on her has turned dangerous, she tries to break things off, which causes him to fracture mentally and forces Clara and her father to flee their home for the summer.
I was thinking about giving an extended synopsis but I’d have ended up going on and on. There are a lot of things that happen once Clara and her father are at the beach house that have nothing to do with Christian and the stalking plot line, which is where about half of my issues with this book lie.
I’ll start with the positives though. When I was in high school, I was in a relationship similar to Clara and Christian’s – in my case, things were actually worse – so I had a fairly good understanding of what sort of things Clara would have felt. Based on my own experiences, for the most part, Caletti did a superb job of portraying the way these kinds of relationships develop, the way the balance of power feels, the feelings of guilt and even the bizarre co-dependent way they seem to drag on at the end.
There’s also a fairly interesting subplot involving Clara’s father, a successful mystery novelist. He’s still grieving the death of Clara’s mother, although it happened quite a few years ago. The beach that they’re staying at is familiar to him and there’s an unexpected romantic interest for him as well as a big family secret revealed. I really loved Clara’s dad – he’s a nice complex character, if not perhaps the best father in the world since he seems lost in his books or research a lot of the time.
Unfortunately, there was enough wrong with the story that it quickly dropped what could have been a highly rated book to just a middlingly-graded one.
The story is told from Clara’s point of view in both a sort of diary/letter form for the flashbacks of her relationship with Christian interspersed with her current story at the beach. Because of the way it’s told, the story of their relationship – which should be the real meat of the story – feels flat. The words are expressive and tell the story, but the emotion and the urgency isn’t there. I didn’t feel Clara’s fear or her love for Christian in the beginning. She said it. I didn’t feel it.
There are also far too many things going on once Clara and her father reach the beach house. Is this a book about Clara and Christian’s relationship and her healing from it? Is this about Clara finding out what happened to her mother? Is it about her father finding love again? Is it about Clara finding love again? The last question really was one of the killer plot points for me. Clara just escaped the city to get away from a stalker boyfriend and one of the first things that happens – from across the sandy beach, her eyes met those of a sailor and her stomach did a flip-flop. She tells herself she has to learn to trust her intuition again when it comes to boys. I really was flabbergasted.
My Summary: The premise and the technical aspects of the flashbacks had so much promise that it was a bit of a letdown to put it together with the rest of the book. Taken out of the context of the stalker boyfriend, the summer at the beach story would have worked on its own. Taken out of the context of the summer at the beach story, the stalker boyfriend story could have worked on its own, but the two did not mesh together here at all. The ending was improbably tidy and left me with a sour taste.
My Rating: C