The first time I read this novel I was a bit hesitant. I am surrounded by high school students all day (I'm a high school English teacher)...and there is ALWAYS angst and drama. Sooooo I told myself I'd read the sample pages of what I'd downloaded and decide if I wanted to submerge myself into high school angst on my time off. Well, after reading the prologue I hit the "buy it now" button on Amazon and settled in for the journey.
In the first 50% we know that Nastya doesn't talk, she lives with her aunt, she dresses like a "profanity spewing guttersnipe", she runs so that she can sleep, she journals with an OCD- type consistency, she's an amazing baker, and the two people she 'befriends' are Josh and Drew. It's what we don't know that is intriguing. We are given a bread trail of crumbs...teeny tiny crumbs of answers to the questions that plague us. What happened to her? Why did it happen? Who did it?
In this first 50% we also get to know Josh. Nastya describes him as having a force field around him that keeps people from approaching him. He's settled in his life, accepting of his loss, and trying just to live in that force field. He leads a fairly solitary existence (with the exception Drew's family) until Nastya shows up.
By the time you get to the end of the first 50% the questions are still there. Unanswered. The questions are the subtext; they hover on every page and in all of the unsaid things. Not having the answers should have been agonizing, but I found the journey to figuring it all out to be wonderful.
Katja Millay is an absolutely superb writer. The characters are rich, the dialogue is exactly what you would expect spewing from many high school students' mouths (and it's funny, and sad, and angry, and just perfect), and the unraveling of the story is wonderfully paced--no rushing, no dragging.
I cannot wait until we write about the last half of this book. Warning...there will be spoilers...no way around it. Until next time...
So...my goal is to keep this read along as spoiler free as possible, so there will probably be a lot of OMG and WHAT throughout. I say this because it is truly THE MOST compelling, well-written, beautiful, tragic but romantic story I have read in a long time, or maybe ever. I have put it on my list of all-time favorite reads, which is actually a pretty short list (mostly just containing Harry Potter). So, on to the first 50% of TSoT....
The prologue itself was intense. Who knew that 5 sentences would have the power to create like 50 questions! For a long time, things seem fairly normal. You don't know why Nastya is going back to school for her senior year after being home schooled for the last two, or what could be going on with the doctor's notes for the principal. All is well. We get our first glimpses of Drew, and don't really know which way he's going to go on the scale of good guy to douche bag. I adore stories that have both main characters point of views that alternate, so here we get to meet Josh BEFORE Nastya does. Which I felt was a good thing, and majorly expanded TSoT because Nastya sure isn't giving anything away.
So the game changer for me almost immediately was the fact that NASTYA DOESN'T TALK. Outloud that is. Her thoughts are glaringly blunt and honest, but she doesn't say a word to other people, ever. Talk about an original idea. At 7% I was wondering how is all of this going to go, because the main character not speaking a syllable to another person started the cacophony of OMG and WHAT!
The day to day stuff, with the running and classes and players at school was very realistic to teenage life (well, except for her practically trying to outrun hell running like she does) but was perfectly balanced to not drive me crazy. (You being WITH teenagers all day long makes us have very different reasons for this being an issue!) It also doesn't stray to far into the realm of impossibility either, and be "too smart" if you will for the age of the characters. It was interesting to witness how each character developed from going to not knowing each other, how they notice one another, and start to intertwine their lives together. This was without adding too much and bogging down the story and uh, the writing was incredible! I usually don't think to much about this, by thinking well who am I to judge their writing style? But, I feel like I have come to be able to recognize GREAT writing when it practically slaps me in the face! Katja hit a home run with this novel, and made me fall in absolute loooovvveeee with Nastya, Josh, and Drew from the start.
I'll shut up now, but want to say the first 50% did definitely dole out as little information as possible from Nastya but focused more, to me anyways, on the "building" side of things. Building their routines, building trust, and definitely building furniture! There were so many funny moments, with Nastya busting Drew's balls every time she got the chance (can't let his ego get too fresh) and her with the ice cream made me LOL!