Skylar Evans can’t wait to escape from her dead-end hometown of Creek View, California. Fortunately, she’s just graduated from high school and is bound for art school in the fall, so she only has to survive one more summer working at the ironically-named Paradise Motel. Meanwhile, Josh Mitchell thought he had already escaped Creek View by joining the Marines, but when his leg was blown off in Afghanistan, he was forced to return and face a wildly different future than the one he expected. Now Josh is doing odd jobs at the Paradise, and Skylar finds herself trying to reach out, because it seems as though the leg is the least of Josh’s problems. Skylar and Josh begin a tentative friendship that eventually deepens into something more. But as Skylar’s mom relapses into alcoholism and Josh struggles to deal with his physical and psychological wounds, their fledgling relationship falters under the strain. Eventually, Skylar and Josh must both develop the courage to face the future — together or apart.
I like YA contemporary romances when they’re done right, and this one is definitely done right. I found both Skylar and Josh to be extremely sympathetic characters, so their romance was easy to root for. That’s not to say that they’re perfect human beings — far from it. Skylar is so focused on her desire to get out of Creek View that she subconsciously looks down on her friends who don’t want — or simply can’t afford — to leave. Meanwhile, Josh spends the first part of the novel engaging in a lot of self-destructive behaviors. While his choices are understandable given what he’s been through, they certainly don’t make him a likable character at first. I also liked the fact that the romance between Skylar and Josh doesn’t magically solve all their problems. They both still have a lot of issues to work through, and they have goals and plans that don’t revolve around each other. Ultimately, I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a good love story; it’s one of the best YA contemporary novels I’ve read in a while.