I’m not even sure where to start this post. This book. Oh, this book!
Here is my review I posted on Audible.
****This is the first book I’ve “read” by A.M. Johnson, and it was amazing. Declan, sweet Declan. He is now one of my favorite characters ever. It took me some time to warm up to Paige, but I ended up loving her as well.
I hate reviews that give too much away, so I can’t really go into detail how A.M. broke me. This is such an important story to be told, and she did it beautifully. It was gritty and rough, and so bright. I can not say enough good things. I can not wait to read the rest of the series!
Aaron Shedlock was spectacular as Declan. I was really immersed in him. The personality that he gave for all the voices (again, don’t want to give anything away) was amazing!
Some of Tracy Marks’ parts as Paige were somehow a little off, and I think it was a speed issue. Every time her chapters came on, I had to change the speed to 0.75x or the cadence was too fast and had almost robotic feels in some places. I had to put it back to 1.0 when Declan’s chapters returned. To me it sounded like a production issue, not a narrator issue. I haven’t heard anything else that Tracy has done, so I can’t be sure on that. It does not stop me from recommending the audiobook, nor will it deter me from listening to it again. She delivered Paige with feeling and heart, and when Paige was hurting, I was hurting. ****
Now a longer/spoiler-ish review:
Lets pick the things that can and will fuck us up, shall we? Young love, Abortion, Religion, Mental Illness, Abuse.
A.M Johnson covers it all in this book, in such a beautiful way.
The abortion. These is the comments I made in our Audiobook group after our listen:
“Okay…. Let me be real. Paige pissed me off, and at the beginning of the book, I was very much anti-Paige and pro-Declan staying away from her. I am very Pro-Life. And I know that is an dirty ugly notion in this world now, but it is what it is. I am also anti the government telling you that you can’t make those decisions for yourself. The heart of a true Libertarian. But man, she broke my heart. 18/19 is such a hard age anyway, But to make a decision that could potentially gut you for the rest of your life?! And to know that their story, in some form, is so many young kids’ truth.”
“I don’t think this book could have been without the abortion. What else could tear them apart like that? I mean, really. It’s such an integral part of who they are……”
I don’t know what else I can say about it. I can’t write a review without talking about it though, So Copy and Paste works best for me.
Then we have the mental illness part of the book. Declan is schizophrenic. Now because I listened to the book and didn’t read it, I heard all of his voices in my head from Aaron Shedlock’s amazing portrayal. And it was scary. A.M. really dove in and gave us a glimpse about what it must be like to have that be a part of your life. Having been an Adult and Children’s Psych nurse, and having a brother who has been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, she has seen how this goes in the real world. And it feels real. Listening to the voices in Declan’s head gave me shivers. Declan is high-functioning and capable of taking care of himself (as long as he’s on his meds, of course) and loving Paige and being accepted by Paige quiets his voices and anxiety. It gives him hope. A.M made the comment that she “wanted to give the illness a little hope if possible”, and I think she does. Since she made Declan and Paige both artists, this book really made me think about Neil Hilborn’s poem “Joey” which is in this book.
When I was younger, I read a book by Mary Higgins Clark about people with Multiple Personalities and I wanted to be a Psychiatrist. That was my major in college for awhile. So, the mental illness aspect of this book really captivated me.
Religion. Another thing I’m oddly captivated by. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the church. Raised by an evangelist. Maybe it’s because I’m addicted to Leah Rimini: Scientology and the Aftermath on A & E. Paige’s parents gave her up, traded her in for a spot in the front pew and good standing in the church. Pretty much sold her to the asshole of a husband who would never let Paige forget where she came from. And forget she was a sinner. Even if you don’t believe in God and are not religious, we are all products of the choices we’ve made along the way. The guilt Paige had from her choices kept her locked in a church – and marriage- that, despite having a cheating husband, she was never going to be good enough. I think that is important for all of us to remember: We are not just the choices we have made. We are also the choices we are going to make.
Paige and Declan do find themselves back together. Because it’s not a romance without a good Happy Ever After. ❤
I can’t wait to read the other books in the Avenue Ink Series!