Author: Gina Linko
Published: October 23, 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Every so often, Emery enters what she calls a loop. Her mind travels to somewhere else. The future, the past, places she's never been in real life. She meets people both familiar and strange. The loops are beautiful, peaceful, and soothing.
Except that while her mind is journeying, her body is having seizures. And after a lifetime of these, Emery's body is starting to fall apart. She's in the hospital 24/7, being studied like a guinea pig by a team of doctors who examine her brain so closely that they can't see her heart. That team includes her own father, who thinks of her as an experiment first and a daughter second. Emery knows that she'll spend the rest of her life here, however long that might be, if she doesn't get herself out.
So she bolts, using a few thin clues to find the places in real life that she's visited in her loops. She finds herself in Esperanza Beach, Michigan, a little town in the Upper Peninsula, and there she meets Ash, a boy a couple of years older that feels awfully familiar somehow. What does he have to do with her loops? Why was she drawn here? Why is she having them? Can she hide from her father as he hunts her down?
Most importantly: can she learn to control her loops--or will they kill her first?
So, this book didn't go quite where I expected. To be honest, I didn't have a good idea where I expected it to go. Aliens? Vampires? Angels? Alien vampire angels? None of those, although I kind of want to read the alien vampire angels book now. (Libba Bray could totally pull that off. Or Sarah Rees Brennan. I'm not picky.) Nope, it's about something entirely different.
Emery is dying. She makes this much clear to us, and also makes it clear that she understands and accepts it. Her body is falling apart, and she feels as if she's wasting what little time she has left. After the escape from the hospital, a strong theme in the novel is Emery trying to live each day as it comes, with a sense of purpose and agency for the first time in her life. She is feeding herself, she's caring for herself, she's seeking out information on a situation that directly impacts her. You can see how this nourishes a soul that's been starved for years.
Ash and Emery's relationship isn't insta-lurve, though they're clearly attracted to each other and just as clearly trying to fight that attraction, for different reasons. Their relationship builds quietly, its pieces set in place as they cautiously open up to each other.
I do have one major quibble, and that's this: Emery's dad is painted as this terrible and ruthless parent who has godlike powers (including heavy pull with national agencies that go by acronyms) and could find her at any time. Really? I had a hard time believing that a teenager's seizures would be a matter of national security, no matter how medically unusual. I found myself believing the much more likely scenario that he was a single father, very worried about his terminally ill daughter, perhaps unable to communicate that worry, and just trying to find her.
That wasn't a huge part of the story, however, and I was able to dive into the rest of it without letting that bug me so much. Was it perfect? No, partly for the dad thing, and partly because the ending seemed a little too perfect and preordained. However, with its themes of life and death and its sweet and understated love story, this book does stand out from the current crop of YA, and for that reason, you should give it a try.