I’ve found myself drawn to contemporary novels lately – I’ve been reading a lot of them. So with all the buzz surrounding this one, there was obviously no way I was going to pass up on reading it.
The awesome folks over at HarperTeen gave me a copy of this book on Edelweiss, and after spending some time staring at that pretty cover, I finally started reading it, and I found myself surprised by how beautiful of a story it was.
“Grief doesn’t seem to need much space at all; it’s more like it tightens and squeezes until there’s no more of you left.”
Cloudy’s best friend Ashlyn died a few months ago, and for Cloudy, moving on just doesn’t seem like an option. She misses her best friend and still longs to see her everywhere – at cheerleading practice, hanging out with their boyfriends, at school, etc. Although Cloudy knows that she can’t ever be with Ashlyn again, she can’t quite get over the loss and try to get on with her life.
Ashlyn’s boyfriend Kyle absolutely adored her, so her death destroyed him. He tries to hold things together, but he’s slipping – he doesn’t care as much for spending time with friends, for going to games with his team…instead he finds himself spending more and more time alone, in his room, missing her. When he finds a cat that reminds him of Ashlyn, he wastes no time adopting her and taking her home with him.
It’s this event that brings Kyle and Cloudy back together – a chance meeting at the supermarket while Cloudy is shopping for supplies for cheerleading and Kyle is looking for cat food and toys for his new pet. While they don’t have much to say to each other, they both can tell that the other is still broken from the loss of Ashlyn, not to mention a secret that they’ve kept to themselves for a long time.
When Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s mother has been in contact with some of the people who received some of Ashlyn’s organs after her death since she was an organ donor, and that they are close by, she comes up with the idea to take a road trip to see those people. She figures that maybe, by observing them, she might be able to see that parts of Ashlyn are still going on…hoping that this will bring her some closure. However, she isn’t sure how she could possibly make the trip by herself…so she asks the only person she can think of who would go with her without asking too many questions.
When Kyle gets the phone call about taking a road trip with Cloudy, he doesn’t know for sure what he’s getting into, but he’s willing to go with her. When it turns out that she wants to see the people who have received Ashlyn’s organs, Kyle realizes that maybe, just maybe, this might be the closure he needs, too.
So Cloudy and Kyle (and Kyle’s cat!) set off to drive across several states with a hope that maybe they’ll be able to accept their loss and move on. Even though they aren’t really friendly with each other anymore, will they be able to put their differences (and secrets) behind them and focus on the common bond of losing someone they both loved?
The Way Back to You is full of emotions from the very first chapter to the last page (which left me crying for a bit, I’m not going to lie), and it’s an absolutely beautiful story. Not only is it a story of friendship, but it’s a story about overcoming a loss that feels so deep – like it might take over your entire world. If you’ve felt a loss like that, this book feels really easy to connect to.
The chapters are told in alternating viewpoints: Cloudy and Kyle. Both characters are complex and have completely different personalities, so you won’t be getting mixed up and have to go back and see which character the chapter is being narrated by (I’ve had to do this for a lot of books because the characters sound so similar). Aside from character development (which there is tons of, by the way), this is one of my favorite things about books with dual points of view.
I think one of the cooler aspects of this book was how Kyle brought his cat (which he named ARM…Ashlyn’s initials) along for the trip. I’m a huge cat person, so this book got some extra “awes” out of me because of it.
Cloudy and Kyle really do go through a lot together during the course of this book, and it brings them closer as friends because of it. At first I thought that maybe the whole premise for the book (going to observe people who are organ donation recipients from your best friend) a little morbid, but it’s touching and I think it will do a lot to help people who have suffered similar losses to cope and realize that they aren’t alone. So in the end, I would say that it might actually be quite a comforting read for some. Like I said, it’s full of emotions, and you might need to keep some tissues handy.