Josh had a different escape route: the Marines. But after losing his leg in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.
What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and, soon, something deeper.
Compelling and ultimately hopeful, this is a powerful examination of love, loss, and resilience.
REAL and COMPELLING.
Some book quote you’ve probably seen says “One book a day keeps reality away” well this is just what happened here!
For two days I lived in the middle of nowhere California. In a small town filled with trailers and teenagers drinking too much just to forget how depressing their lives could be. I had a job at Marge’s motel renting themed rooms to hippies or truck drivers.
I came back home to a trailer smelling of cigarette smoke and beer. Witnessed my mom losing her job and drowning into depression. Despairing as once more like when I was twelve I would have to take care of her. I would have to find a way to help her and yet fulfill my dream: escaping this small hick town.
This story trapped me into its clutches and never let me go even to breathe.
Let’s say right away that I loved Heather Demetrios’s writing.
It’s real, raw, solid. Descriptive but not flowery. Straight like an arrow. It sucks you in the middle of her story and the character’s lives.
The first scene is in the Mitchell’s backyard :
“Packed full of recent and not-so-recent grads in various stage of decay. The girls leaned against one another, wilted flowers that looked on while the guys got louder, sweatier.
I craned my neck and scanned the crowd for Chris, but my wingman had disappeared.
“Shit”, I muttered.
Like I needed any more confirmation of my loner status.”
In just a few sentences the tone is set.
Skylar is a good girl. Still a virgin. Never drinking as she made a pact with her mom and with her friend Chris.
The party is thrown to celebrate Josh Mitchell’s return from war.
Josh is a marine, back from Afghanistan.
He’s lost his leg.
He’s lost his friends.
He feels the survivor guilt.
Previous womanizer and devil may care he has to find his place in society now. Why was he spared? He didn’t deserve to survive. He is the “up to no good “guy while his friends had projects. A future.
When Skylar realizes Josh lost his leg she does not feel repulsion or disgust. She only feels sadness. She also wants to help Josh.
From dancing in a salsa bar to learning to play chess with him they both will slowly gravitate toward each other. The road will be filled with bumps and hiccups.
Josh is dealing with PTSD and is fighting many demons. He cares too much for Skylar to have her deal with his problems. Skylar deserves better.
Their romance was, like Heather Demetrios said, “messy, complicated-all shades of grey.”
They are both broken in their own ways, dealing with overwhelming things and they become each other support. They tell it like it is, no sugarcoating with each other and that’s what helps them move on and connect with the reader.
Every character in this book is compelling and felt real.
Josh with his nightmares, his guilt, his doubts but also with his golden heart and deep protective instinct when Skylar suffered. Heather Demetrios did an extraordinary job writing this young wounded soldier. He symbolizes so many young people hurt and changed by the war.
What the families, fiancée and wives have to deal with too when their man come back home changed forever.
His chapters were really short but impactful
In just a few words we were in his head living his crushed life.
“Why did I make it when so many other guys got wasted? And now it’s like I lost a leg and gained another f@cking eye that’s letting me see everything in a totally new, crappy light and all that sh@t that used to make me me I either can’t do or is so f@cking stupid-God, what’s the point of me? I want to go back man. I want to be on post.”
Skylar Evans is the poor kid leaving in a trailer park but so determined to bust her behind off to do better. She wants out.
Out of this small town. Out of this depressing cage.
Her ticket to walk away is her scholarship to a college in San Francisco.
She’s worked hard at school all her high school years with her friend Chris to do better than their parents. To have a brighter future.
Now graduation just ended she only has two months to wait working at Marge’s motel “The Paradise” before leaving for SF while Chris is headed to Boston.
Only life has some strange ways to work and what is so close could be threatened.
When he mom lost her job and took a nose dive to depression and back to drinking too much.
Skylar has suffered from abuse by neglect. Yet she loves her mother and lives in fear that she’ll completely “lose it” one day. She had to become adult way before her time.
Sleeping in her car, going without food was her day to day life at that time given her mom’s depression.
“I gripped the steering wheel and squeezed my eyes shut.
God, I’m hungry.
A sob broke out of me, loud and ugly. I rolled up my window, fast, and covered my mouth with my hand. Stop crying Skylar. Stop f@cking crying.”
Dylan the teenage mom. Loving to have a good time. With too short skirts and tight dresses. Loyal friend. Having quickies in the back of her boyfriend’s car at parties along the creek.
Marge the motel’s owner. With her big frame and bigger heart she was a second mom to Skylar and Josh. She had her fair share of drama and sadness.
I could go on and on about this book.
Let’s just say: Read it!
Have you read it or any book by Heather Demetrios??? Thank you to the blogger who recommended this one as “book you think should deserve more love”.
Happy Monday and thanks for reading!
Fantastic review, Sophie! Your review makes me want to pick this up right now! It sounds so good!
Reviews don’t get better than that!
Great review! ♥️ The story sounds intense and real! 6 stars makes me want to go out and grab a copy to see what happens with Josh and Skylar!
Oh yes please Dani! It was a fantastic read.
Another amazing review for this book, which I am happy to say, I finally own! You have me even more excited to read it. Great review.
Thank you so much Sam!
I love this book!, I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I think it deserves more recognition
Exactly Sofia! It should be better known!