This book didn't speak to me; it sang. Opera-with full orchestral accompaniment.
The opening paragraph is the best I've ever read:
I hate my left hand. I hate to look at it. I hate it when it stutters and trembles and reminds me that my identity is gone. But I look at it anyway, because it also reminds me that I'm going to find the boy who took everything from me. I'm going to kill the boy who killed me, and when I kill him, I'm going to do it with my left hand.
If you can read that and NOT turn the page, you're a stronger person than I am.
What I love about this book: I could go on and on about the writing style. It is exquisite. It is tiramisu in novel form. Reading it is effortless. The way the author squeezes out bits of information and clues about the main characters along the way is genius. (view spoiler) Of course, if the story is dull and boring, who cares about the writing style? This story is addictive and it will keep you up reading into the night.
What I loved about the characters:
Nastya-I get Nastya. I understand her hiding behind her clothing and not speaking for 450 plus days. I know that she is damaged and I can understand her wanting to close herself off and become someone unrecognizable. I can see why she runs: to run away from her problems and so physically drain herself to keep the sleepless nights and nightmares away. And I understand why she writes repetitive things in her journal every single night. She keeps herself in an inflexible routine and doesn't have a spare moment to ponder things. Everything she does is a deliberate choice. There is nothing spontaneous about this girl.
Josh- The boy who has lost everyone and has nothing else to lose. He has become emancipated out of necessity. There is no one left to take care of him. He has an imaginary force field around him and everyone leaves him alone. His friend Drew and Nastya are the only ones who breach it. He is passionate about wood-working and excels at it. His garage is his safe haven. When I think of Josh, I think of a guy who is just really sad. But even so, he's no where near as messed up as Nastya. A lot of book boyfriends take the blame for things that happen to the girl even when it's not their fault. I find it refreshing that Josh doesn't do that. He tells her:
Congratulations then. You wanted to be ruined? Well, you did yourself one better because you wrecked me too, Sunshine.
Drew-It took me a while to figure this guy out, but once I did, I loved him. He is a smooth talker and excellent debater. Even though Nastya doesn't speak, she helps him on the Debate team with research. He can get anything he wants from girls. At first I thought he was an over-sexed pig, but then I realized, much later than Nastya, that with him it's all a show. He pretends that he's hooking up with Nsstya and says all these crude things right in front of her. She goes along with it and lets everyone think the worst of her. But she knows he's full of it, and it's become a game with them. They both know that nothing is going to happen between the two of them. He takes her to parties so that he doesn't have to deal with other girls trying to hook up with him. He's really avoiding Tierney, the one girl that really matters.
Clay-Finally a gay character that isn't a cardboard cut-out stereotype. He is actually like gay people I know. Many books I've read use the gay guy as a best friend for the girl. The gay guy's whole raison d'etre is to help his best friend get together with the book boyfriend. I have always found this absurd. Clay is an artist. He doesn't want to fix Nastya. He doesn't want to take her on shopping trips and impart his chic style on her. (He doesn't have a chic style, which is also refreshing.)He doesn't want to help her in her relationship with Josh. He doesn't issue meaningless threats to Josh like "you better not hurt her or I'll beat you up." No, he's an artist and he does what artists do. He draws pictures of Nastya because he finds her to be an interesting subject to draw.
The ending was almost as good as the beginning. Who would have ever thought the words "your garage" would be so meaningful. The ending leaves me with some hope for Nastya/Emilia and Josh. They won't ever make beautiful music together but I think they will make beautiful furniture.