I’m going to preface this review with notes about the series as a whole, before I get to my thoughts on this book in particular.
1) I’ve read this whole series (I’ve read Books 1-3 twice, actually), and this book and the first half of Book 2 were great, but the paranormal stuff got really inconsistent after that.
2) The series gets significantly darker as it goes on.
3) In regards to how the chronic illness is handled, *MINOR SPOILER (I don’t consider this a spoiler, but it’s something you don’t find out for sure until later in the series)* the illness turns out to be something paranormal, not a real chronic illness, and I often find that a frustrating trope. *END SPOILER*
But despite my complaints about things further in the series, I do still recommend this series because what I disliked about the later books may not be something you dislike, and, to be fair, I still liked a lot about them.
Now, onto my thoughts for this book.
This was the best, most realistic portrayal of chronic illness that I’ve ever read, at least in terms of the emotional aspects, as well as how it affects your life and those around you. As someone with a chronic illness, albeit a different one than Bryn, I can tell you that the author nailed what it feels like, all those little things that would never even cross the mind of the average healthy person. It will make you realize and appreciate things you’ve taken for granted or even complained about. It was never exaggerated, Bryn was just a normal girl trying to have a normal life, but her illness was still a constant part of her, and the realism was what made it so powerful. And it doesn’t matter that this character had just one chronic illness out of the thousands that are out there because understanding one is better than understanding none, and there are some thoughts, emotions, disappointments, strengths, and experiences that carry over among many different illnesses.
Because the truth was I was tired. I was tired of fighting but more importantly I was tired of losing, of being disappointed.
But maybe I could give myself something too—permission to keep trying. Even when it felt like it was all for nothing. Even if trying was all I ever did, I shouldn’t stop.
If I had to pull an all-nighter studying for a test or too many looming deadlines had me pulling out my hair, I wouldn’t end up with just some trendy coffee addiction. I’d end up in a mini-coma, face down in the middle of the studio or on the floor of the community showers.
My lip trembled, my throat raw, and I started to cry. But not because I didn’t look perfect. But because I looked healthy and because I wasn’t sure how long I’d stay that way.
Everything else in the book was well-written and (aside from the paranormal aspects, obviously) realistic too—Bryn’s imperfect and sometimes strained but still loving family, her strong and solid friendships, the general teenager/high school-ness of some of the characters and situations, the manipulative words and actions of Bryn’s on-again-off-again ex-boyfriend and the way he always knew exactly what to say to reel her back in when she tried to cut the ties between them, the lingering feelings she still had for him and the difficulty she had trying not to get reeled back in, the pain she felt over her father abandoning her when she was a kid, Roman’s terror and confusion at waking up in some strange world where no one but Bryn existed and worrying if maybe he really was just a figment of her imagination…
I also liked the writing. It was pretty without being overly frilly or metaphorical. And the plot was good too, slow-paced but never lagging. The real life parts were good because of their realism and relatability, Bryn’s relationships with her friends, family, and ex, and her experiences with her illness, but the dream state parts were interesting and had a kind of intimacy to them since it was just her and Roman, all alone, getting to know each other, trying to figure out who he was. And it was all kind of mysterious. I also enjoyed both Bryn’s and Roman’s POVs.
So overall, this particular book in the series was realistic but still mysterious with a hint of paranormal, pretty writing, and a fantastic portrayal of chronic illness!
*I’ve read this book multiple times. This review was written after my 2nd read.*
3.5 Stars (1st Read – 2015)
4 Stars (2nd Read – 2016)
Anyone who likes dark paranormal fantasy and character development and doesn't mind changing paranormal aspects and an open-for-interpretation ending. Anyone who wants to read an amazingly realistic portrayal of chronic illness (in Books 1 and 2).