Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
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Hadley St. Clair's life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing the ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-her dad most of all-to leave her alone.
Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably "feels like home" to Hadley. Hadley and Sam's connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret about his family that could ruin everything.
Funny and passionate, Suffer Love is a story about first love, family dysfunction, and the fickle hand of fate.
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
My heart is crushed within me, Here is the truth: You made me love you-your eyes and mouth and voice. You pulled me into your heart. You don’t want me there and I don’t want to be there, but it’s where I will always live.
You know those books that just pop out at you when you see them? The covers that are beautiful, yet you know that by looking at the synopsis, this isn’t going to be one of those flops where the cover is better than anything possible in the book?? Yeah, well, this is one of those instances. This book, despite it’s absolutely fucking gorgeous cover, doesn’t lack in depth. Whether this will be for everyone?? I have no clue. But what I do know?? Those of you looking for a YA book that isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, but still like the warm fuzzies and bouts of butterflies that are likely to choke you with their frequency….will love this story.
I kneel to help, accepting a thank-you from the boy’s harried-looking mother. When we finish, I edge Sam’s hard stomach with my elbow, trying to play off his sudden nervousness. “Don’t get any ideas, Sam Bennett. I just want to hang out.”
Pink splashes over his cheekbones as he throws up his hands in surrender. He smiles that lopsided grin. “I wouldn’t dream of getting any ideas.”
“Okay, I would dream of getting ideas.”
Or maybe you won’t-that’s just the way of it, and I am hardly a person who picks on each and every flaw within a story. But there was just something so sweet, yet heartbreaking, about this story. Something that reached into my soul and latched onto it, making it hard for me to breathe long after I had put it down. I adore YA realistic fiction, but lately it’s hard to find those winners that really stick with you. I don’t know what it was about this story that made me so happy-Whether it be the not so easy romance or the flawed family relationships or even the hilarious banter that I found so life-like and tangible and authentic…no matter what it was, it really resonated with me, and that’s not so easy to do lately.
As I adjust the temperature on the oven and listen to Mom as she finally trudges up the stairs, I think about what Hadley said about wanting something you don’t even believe is possible. I wonder now whether she was really talking about a happy ending or whether she was just talking about the kind of life where you don’t have to fight so hard to feel at home with your own family.
For years I was caught in an inferno of insta-love, lust, and easy-fix relationships when it came to romance novels. It wasn’t until I got onto Goodreads that I really started to find the books that touched me in ways I never imagined possible. YA is a genre I latched onto quickly, using the idea that, after reading a few fantastic novels, YA writers have a little more difficult time writing a truly engrossing story because they can’t use sex as a crutch or raunchy conversations to make time pass quickly-fade to black may not be for everyone, but it happens frequently in these YA novels. And it has became something that doesn’t bother me, but makes me appreciate how wonderful everything is that surrounds the intimate moments.
My arms go around her and she sort of melts into me. I rest my cheek on her head and we just stand there, wordless. I let myself imagine a different life with her, free of knots and lies and little slips of paper. I let myself believe what feels true-that she’s just a girl and I’m just a boy and we want to be together. We couldn’t not be together, because being together was the only thing that made sense. The only thing that kept us from both disappearing.
My point in all that was simple: YA is such an underappreciated genre because people feel they outgrow it or can’t relate to something that happened so long ago for them…but for some reason it’s the opposite for me. When I read a story like this, it helps me embrace the moments from long ago where I fell in love with my husband in the hallways of our high school. It helps me reminisce about the carefree days and nights and how we fell in love despite what people said about our completely different lifestyles, how we would never make it because we had nothing in common-But look who’s laughing now, hmm? And you know what they say…opposites attract.
Her movement startles me out of my fog, and I turn to look at her. A lawnmower cranks up next door and we sit in its rumble as I try to figure out why the hell I’m so furious with Josh, want to slash Sloane’s tires, want to crush every guy who even looks at Hadley below the neck.
Again, back to my point-this story wasn’t about two opposites. In fact, it was about two people living the same lonely life, connected in a way no one in their right mind would ever wish to be. Her father cheated, causing tension and strife in what was an otherwise stable household. His mother cheated, breaking up a family that wasn’t perfect, but was whole. These horrible instances brought these two together….but they don’t realize it until it’s too late. Didn’t you wonder why this was called Suffer Love? Well…that’s a piece of it.
And everything slows down.
In Romeo and Juliet, stars didn’t cross. They collided.
Hadley slides the paper across the table.
I don’t need to look at it.
I know what it is.
Sam and Hadley were two characters I just absolutely adored. Sam, for his broken soul, his unwavering loyalty that changed the way his family looked at him forever, the way he takes care of his little sister, Livy, and the fact that he was real. He wasn’t a cardboard boy in a cardboard story-He had real feelings and real anger and real angst and he did some things wrong (I won’t mention one that made me cross my arms and humph, even though he wasn’t really in the wrong). And then the way he slowly fell for Hadley, despite the devastating consequences of such a heartbreaking connection. He knew what it would mean, what it would cost, and who it would hurt to fall in love with the beautiful Hadley…but he couldn’t help falling. I mean…come on. Of course I fell in love with him and with this story.
And that’s when I know I’ve finally lost this battle with myself. I don’t care who I am. I don’t care what our parents did or how I’ll explain everything to her. I only care about being with her, right now up on this hill. I feel her in my gut and in my bones and that deep, hollow place in my chest.
And then Hadley-Going through a phase to help numb the pain, she’s dealing with things in the only way she knows how. But when she meets Sam, all of that changes. Instead of seeking solace in stolen kisses in dark rooms and utility closets, she finds that simply talking to Sam, spending time with Sam, falling in love with Sam….is the only distraction she needs. She starts to see that she doesn’t have to feel alone, that he understands and can relate in ways no one else can-And that when things start to crumble, he’s the one she wants to run to.
Relief pours through me, and suddenly I need him closer. Unlike with josh or any other guy, it’s not about filling some void or only having fun. It’s about Sam. It’s about me. It’s an overflow of whatever this unspoken unseen thing is between us, and I realize that I do want it. I want him.
An authentic ending, a beautiful portrayal of families in turmoil who are just trying to make it work again, and a wonderful look at a relationship that is built from broken hearts and closet betrayals, even as the world continues to crumble around them. Hadley’s relationship with Sam’s sister, Livy, warmed my heart in ways I didn’t think existed. The familial ties that, no matter what they’ve gone through, don’t sever, but stay frayed as everyone tries to hold on as best they can. These people are real, and real people have flaws, make mistakes, and don’t handle themselves like they should. Maybe everyone wouldn’t agree, but I found that every little step felt right, like this would really happen if this story actually did exist. And because of this, unexpected tears coursed down my face without me even realizing as the book came to a close, causing me to hug my iPad to my chest and cradle these characters close as they held onto the hope, longing, and sacrifice that would mold their tentative new relationship. Not all HEA’s are clean cut and care-free….and HEA’s don’t exist for everyone. I hope that all of you will give this one a try, but if you aren’t convinced, ask yourself this-Can you really resist his charms? Can you?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashley Herring Blake is a poet, teacher, and YA novelist. Her debut novel, SUFFER LOVE, follows two teens as they attempt to wade through an intense relationship complicated by their parents’ infidelities. Ashley lives in Nashville, TN.
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