BOOK REVIEW: Every Time You Go Away by Abigail Johnson

BOOK REVIEW: Every Time You Go Away by Abigail JohnsonEvery Time You Go Away by Abigail Johnson
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Eight years ago, Ethan and Rebecca met, two troublemaking kids sharing secrets and first kisses in a tree house, until Ethan’s mom returned to take him away. Each and every visit, his only goodbye was a flower on Rebecca’s windowsill.

Four years ago, Ethan left for the last time to take care of his mother, who has struggled with addiction his whole life.

Two years ago, Rebecca was in a car accident that killed her father. She’s been learning to navigate life as a wheelchair user ever since.

Now, they discover if their hardships have torn them apart…or will bring them closer than ever.


Every Time You Go Away was emotionally powerful and a story I won’t ever forget. It was laced with joy and heartache. And was not only about finding yourself, but of forgiveness, forging your own path, and repairing the pieces inside you and the relationships around you too. It is a must read for those that love young adult.

“You used to come every few months. Why didn’t you come back?” And then, in a smaller voice that bleeds with hurt, “Ethan, I waited for you.”

That first chapter was set in the past, and it pulled me right in.  The relationship Rebecca had with her parents as a little kid was complicated and also delicate. That summer while she was bored in her room, and her mom was working, she watched as a boy got dropped off at his grandparents’ house next door. His name was Ethan and his mom was leaving him. The first time of what would be many. Rebecca witnessed Ethan’s whole world explode. And this set the tone for the book. Each moment felt so real, like I was watching a movie. From there we got to alternate between Ethan and Rebecca in the present. With a few chapters in the past, scattered here and there. And our time with Ethan and Rebecca stole the breath from my lungs.

As suddenly as he’d shown up in my life, he’d be gone just as quickly.
And he never said goodbye.

When we jumped into the present, it had been years since Rebecca and Ethan had seen each other. And while they were hesitant at first, the core of their relationship was still there and strong. They had this unbreakable bond that was beautiful. Yet so much had changed. Ethan had grown, and seemed even more jaded. Rebecca was more withdrawn, yet she radiated this beautiful resilience and now used a wheelchair to get around. Both of their lives were so different since the last time they had seen each other years ago. So while they rekindled their friendship so easily, there were still moments were it felt like they were oceans apart from each other. And it left my heart aching.

It’s gonna hurt when I leave her. It’s already there, that feeling like I can’t take a deep enough breath, but what else can I do?

Ethan gutted me. His mother suffered from substance abuse, and he felt as though he had to fight her battles. To protect her from abusive boyfriends and keep her from overdosing. But over the years, his mom would send him to his grandparents. So she could temporarily fix herself. And yet again he found himself at his grandparents’ house. I loved how careful they were around him. How much they wanted to help, even though Ethan wanted no part of it. Ethan was strong willed, determined, and had such a huge heart. I hoped they would help him when his world exploded again. But then there was also Rebecca. And she too was someone who was always there for him too.

I lift a hand from the pool and watch water drip back down into tiny, dissipating ripples on the surface, then let my hand drop with a much more satisfying splash. “I never used to feel like I was just watching my life go by, but that’s all I do now. I barely make ripples, let alone a splash.”

Rebecca’s relationship with her mom hurt. Her mom could be so cold and distant, and she always seemed to keep Rebecca at arm’s length since the accident. Well, if she was even around. The accident had killed Rebecca’s father and she was now in a wheelchair learning to navigate her new world. So it pained me to hear Rebecca’s thoughts about her mom. How she just wanted to have her mom show she cared about her. It cut so deep. And while Ethan was Rebecca’s best friend, she also struggled with him too. He was who she confided in, had fun with, and could simply just be. Yet he proved time and again that he could be gone in the blink of an eye. When his mom came back, he left. So opening to him, since her life had changed so much, was hard. How can you let your whole soul be shown to someone who could just disappear from your life that next day?

He inhales deeply and holds my gaze like a lifeline. “I know better than most people that the real scars, the deep ones, are always on the inside.”
His words pierce through me like an arrow, right where I never want anyone to see. I feel my eyes threaten to well up but blinking fast will only betray that fact, so I try and brush his words -his stare – off.

Rebecca and Ethan both had so much on their shoulders. And they both scarified pieces of themselves, because of others. It was important for them to please others, to make their lives easier. Yet it was at the expense of themselves, and what they wanted. So I loved watching them both grow from that first page to the last. That they both needed to figure out how to fight for what they wanted in life. Because I knew that whenever that happened, I would be so proud of them! I also loved the lighter moments too. That those were filled with laughter and smiles. We got to watch how deeply they cared for one another. And while their transition from friends to more was extremely slow burn, the sexual tension between them was done so well. You could feel it all the way through this story.

“You always acted like you were glad when she came back,” she says softly.
“Yeah, I was. ‘Cause she always came back clean. But I never wanted to go with her. I wanted her to stay with me.” I look away. It feels cowardly but I can’t stare at her face when I add, “So I could stay with you.”

This story ended with beautiful conversations, growth, hope, and finding your happiness. I loved seeing paths open for both of them. Yet, Rebecca and Ethan’s story was extremely emotional and made me cry multiple times. And there were two different twists that I didn’t see coming, they knocked me to the ground. So if you’re looking for a young adult story that is character driven and focuses on personal growth and friendship, then this is your book! While there was romance, it just took a little longer to get there then I’m used to. But it made my heart happy. I closed this book smiling and I can’t wait to discover more books by Abigail Johnson! She is an extremely powerful writer that will invoke all of your emotions.  It was impossible to put down this book!

*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book, provided by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*

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  1. Sam@WLABB

    Sounds like another amazing book from Johnson. I trust her to blend the heavier, more emotional elements well with the romance and joy. I always find her books very hopeful and emotionally satisfying. Great review!

    • Jen

      It definitely was absolutely amazing! That’s the perfect way to describe it, she blended the heavier more emotional elements with the romance and joy beautifully! I can’t wait to read the rest of her books! Thank you, Sam!

  2. Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature)

    I love the cover on this one so much! And it sounds really good. Great review!

    • Jen

      Yes, it’s so gorgeous! It was phenomenal, it’s easily one of my favorites from 2023 ♥!

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