Synopsis: You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…
Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.
Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
Content Warnings: Assumed suicide, alcohol use, depression, drowning, grief, on page sex, undiagnosed physical illness.
This story is heavy. It’s dripping with emotion, honesty, and reality. The book itself is only 256 pages, but it still took me almost a month to finish it because I had to put it down several times just to take a breath and detach myself for a bit.
Since the synopsis is rather vague, I’ll go into some background first. Marin is our main character who left her home in San Francisco to attend college in New York City. She tells her story rotating between scenes in the present and memories from her years growing up under her grandfather’s care. As we go through the story, we discover that Marin’s life hasn’t at all been what she used to think it was. After her grandfather’s death, she finds out family secrets that send her into a depressive episode that leaves her barely functioning and causes her to cut all ties with San Francisco and everyone she knew there.
From the very beginning, we know that Marin’s childhood best friend, Mabel, (who’s later revealed to have been a past lover as well) is on her way to visit Marin at her dorm. It’s winter break, yet Marin’s still living in the dorms. That’s when you first know something’s not quite right. I love this opening scene because it’s so raw and has a sense of urgency, but you can feel Marin lose energy to care to do anything about how her dorm will look to Mabel as the scene goes on.
LaCour’s ability to capture emotions this deep and dark on the page. There are so many moments in her present that she’s in a conversation with Mabel and just can’t say anything. It’s so frustrating because talking should be so easy, but that’s how depression and intense grief control you. Instead of making you do impulsive things, it makes it impossible to do nearly anything.
Onto the plot: It was one of many curveballs. If I went back and read it again, I’m sure I’d see all the signs that point to the grand reveal, but leading up to it, I had no idea what was going to happen. The mix between scenes of Marin’s past and present is a great tool to hold information from the reader until just the right time. While I loved the scenes that told of Marin’s past when she was in high school and much more optimistic about things, there was also an itch to get back to the present to see when Marin would tell Mabel that everything was not okay.
Speaking of those two, Marin and Mabel’s relationship is so intricate. Marin is super close with Mabel’s parents and older brother, and Mabel was loved by Marin’s grandfather. They’ve been close friends since elementary school and spent high school exploring that relationship more, dipping into more of a romantic tone. However, now December, Marin hasn’t contacted Mabel since she left for NYC in August. Since starting at a college in California, Mabel has started talking to a boy and seems to have moved on and grown into herself more than Marin has. This difference in both girls is stark from their first encounter in Marin’s present. There is a palpable strain on their relationship now, and a lot of the book is them relearning who the other is now and strengthening their friendship all over again.
Final Thought: If you have the spoons for it, definitely read this book! If not, I’ve heard LaCour’s other books are a lot fluffier, and I would totally recommend trying those out instead.