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Maybe I’d once dreamed of a perfect Gardnerville too, but I’m older now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s always a price to be paid.
There really really really isn’t a way to express how I feel about this book and there is literally no shelf to place this on because I can’t even explain it without spoilers galore. It was unique, engaging, confusing as hell and altogether heartbreaking. I don’t quite know when I started to feel for this main character or even her elusive sister, Piper, but at the end of it all…I had tears in my eyes and a deep ache in my heart. I didn’t expect it, either. All of a sudden the conclusion came about and I was completely fine, then out of nowhere I felt this tingling sensation in my eyes and an ache in my gut. And I think that’s where my respect for this book really started to settle in.
Going out onto the trestle bridge is forbidden, and it isn’t a law that needs a whole lot of enforcing. There is enough danger in this town that nobody goes looking for it. Except you, Piper. You were the exception.
Are the exception. Are.
Throughout the entirety of this novel, I felt a bone-deep connection that kept me engrossed in this story and invested with what happens with our main character, Skylar. It reminds me of another book I read earlier this year, but I feel like this one was better. There was a wholly dark undertone and while I knew it was leading somewhere we could never turn away from, I never felt the devastating heartache with each passing page like I did with the other. This book was messed up on so many levels I can’t even count, and even more messed up was the mind-fuck of an ending. The whole story is this way, and maybe that’s why I couldn’t give that final star-I knew this wasn’t going to be a normal mystery type of book and therefore, no matter the ending, I wasn’t going to be shocked in any way, shape, or form. I knew, with absolute certainty, that something wasn’t right and that there would be hell to pay, but I marched right along beside Skylar, right along to the inevitable conclusion the whole book was leading us towards.
If I froze that moment, and cut the train from the picture, you might be long-separated lovers, running toward each other, arms outstretched, everything forgiven, and only seconds away from a happy ending.
But this was a fourth year in Gardnerville, and there were no happy endings.
My absolute favorite thing about this story was the writing. It was beautiful, intoxicating, and alluring. I must admit I was a little shocked. This book could have so easily been written poorly alongside a confusing and unconvincing plot-but not once did I ever feel like this wasn’t expertly woven and eloquent beyond my wildest imagination. There was a haunting quality in the way the words were dispersed to us, making the already eerie situation even more spine-tingling. You know that tingly feeling you get when you feel like you are being watched but you can’t physically see them? That’s how I felt while reading this novel. More than once I got chills running down my spine and the creepy crawlies shivering up and down my arm….even with just a single look from one of the characters I could feel myself beginning to slightly panic.
Despite everything, not many people leave this town. The train station doesn’t even have a ticket booth. It’s free to leave. The only people this town makes pay are those who decide to stay.
The characters are likely what will either make or break your opinion of this story. If you don’t mind not knowing what’s going on for 80% of the book outside of your own speculations, then it all depends on if the characters grab or enthrall you. Now, while I don’t stand for all that is solid or correct or right in this world, I must say I felt a deep connection with these characters, especially Skylar. And it really doesn’t make sense, even to me, how I could connect with characters that the author clearly tried to keep vague so we could victimize them as we damn well pleased, but I just felt this magnetic pull to each of them, trying to delve deeper and unravel the mystery of each story and how it connected to Skylar’s devastating life. She lives every day in a haze, not remembering sometimes how to get home or walk to school, all because she binges on forget-me-nots (known and focused on as the purple pills) so she can block out and ‘forget’ what happened on the last fourth year after her sister led a bunch of students to their demise. We get the story ourselves through her hazy recollection of events both leading up to that day and present day accounts of how she will break her sister out of the reformatory. But this is where it all circles back-after the tragedy of that fourth year, her sister just….is nowhere to be found. But when people have ‘their fourth year’, they are taken to the reformatory to be locked up and atoned for their sins. So, naturally, that’s where her sister went….right?
Your words sounded like the worst kind of secret, the sort that I wished wasn’t true. The thing is, secrets are awful in lots of ways, but they almost never lie.
Skylar became a favorite for me very quickly. While at the beginning we can’t possibly say what her personality is like because she is always doped up and trying to forget, we get a recount and visualization of the way she used to be on the flashback chapters and they help us to see where Skylar is trying to go-what she’s trying to accomplish. These flashbacks have a neat little twist to them, though-they are written in second person. Omgahh that confused me at first, but then as we got deeper into the story, I started to become OBSESSED with the flashbacks because these chilling recollections spoken to Piper through the form of ‘You’ touched me far deeper than any of the present day story did-they brought the temperature down about ten degrees. As Skylar begins to realize time is running out and she needs to remember, she stops taking the pills and slowly comes back to us in pieces. I loved the growth of her character. It was addicting to see how strongly she wanted to save her sister and what she was willing to do to accomplish that….but as the memories progressively returned and she begins to find things out….the urge to forget again is strong. And that feeling, paired with the flashbacks spoken to Piper, made for a thrilling duo that had me pushing to finish even at the cost of no sleep.
I nodded and agreed, but all the time I couldn’t help finding the new stories unsatisfactory in a slightly different way. In our Gardnerville story, we were born into the magical and dangerous place, and that left us with a new problem and no easy solution that I could see.
Maybe it was all those funerals, but our predicament seemed much worse than anything that Alice faced. How could we ever have a happy ending, Piper, when the mysterious and deadly land is where we’ve grown up, and there is never any hope of finding a safe place to call home?
Even now I have thoughts begging to be splashed onto this review, but I have literally so many that I keep forgetting (ironic) and am forced to wrap this up. There is no way for me to get everything I feel or felt on this review and it’s probably for the best anyway-This book is so twisty and turny that the more I say, the more likely you’ll figure things out. So I need to zip my lips and move on….but just know: No amount of words can or will explain the complexity that is this novel. None.