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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: The Story of You and Me by Pamela Dumond

Sophie is a Minnesota girl with a mission. Her grandmother has advanced MS, and her time is running out. Sophie, too has been diagnosed with MS. A trip to LA for the summer to take a genetics course at UCLA - and to seek out every kind of available treatment, from mystic to medical seems to be her best hope.

Alejandro is a self-appointed designated driver. Just hours after Sophie's arrival in LA, Alejandro is driving her to the ER. After a few failed attempts at using public transportation - and because Sophie secretly wants to spend more time with Alejandro - she offers to hire him as her driver.

He hopes to convince her to stay, but they both have painful secrets. Sophie knows she needs to do everything she can to help her grandmother, and she's afraid that sharing her secret with Alejandro will drive him away. But how long can she keep it a secret when her symptoms start to show?

"Now's the time to tell me what you really want. Because if you don't want anything from me? Now's also the time I need to move on."

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Story of You and Me is a young adult romance with heavy subject matter. While there is a gently wry humor to it, it's not laugh-out-loud funny. As it's written in first person from Sophie's point of view, the mood has a hesitant self-consciousness that reflects her age of 19.

Sophie's character follows several YA tropes; she's pretty but doesn't know it, reluctant to believe she's "worthy" of the young man showing her attention, and self-conscious about her body. She's a serious, studious, organized person. What keeps her from being a completely angst-y character is her occasional flashes of temper, her wit, and the lengths she's willing to go to find a possible treatment for her and her grandmother.

Alejandro follows tropes much more closely. He's the good-looking boy with a moneyed family, trying to right a wrong from his past. He thinks she's beautiful, and he saves her from herself and others more than once, in true hero form.

The secondary characters have range, and except for a few of the other drivers, are easily discernible from each other. A couple of them have a bit more depth, like her grandmother, and her neighbor, Cole.

There is a constant weight to the story that Sophie's illness brings. It's not a light-hearted romance. Her illness will likely mean disability and maybe, an early death. There are moments of excitement, when Sophie's quest to investigate a treatment leads to her being in danger. These scenes are not heart-poundingly intense, but they do carry the weight of the situation and the reader does feel concern for her character. This is especially true in light of how her illness might be affected.

The quality of writing is very good. The plot flow is steady, there isn't much drudge or filler. The common thread of secrets flows between Alejandro and Sophie quite well. Where the trust grows, so does their knowledge of each other. There is a love scene, and it fits the mood of the story very well. It's not crude or explicit, but rather has the rose-colored haze of the memory of making love for the first time while in love. The character development also maintains a steady arc from beginning to end. The climax is partially predictable due to foreshadowing by the author, but that is balanced by the point of the story. That predictability is offset by its end result. It's the crisis that will either ruin the relationship or strengthen it.

Personally, this is not a book I'd normally pick up and read, as the mood of a book tends to linger in my psyche and affect my daily behavior. However, it did remind me of my first love, the obstacles we had, and the depths of the loss I felt when it didn't work out. After a few relationships, I began to realize that risking that pain could mean feeling more love. Like the first time a woman has a child, there's no description or warning of the pain that will ever prepare you for it. And like just about any mother will tell you, every minute of that pain is worth it.

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