Tim Mason doesn't expect anyone to believe him. He knows that ship sailed years ago when he started drinking, got his very own dealer, and required oblivion in order to get by. Now he's clean, sober, and being kicked out of his father's house at last. Already kicked out of high school, he takes his best friend Jase up on his offer of a place to stay, packs a single box, and moves into the dilapidated apartment over the Garrett's garage. But when Jase's older sister Alice discovers her little brother has up and allowed his deadbeat friend to move into the apartment she wanted, that trouble Tim can never seem to escape begins brewing once more. It doesn't help that he's had a crush on Alice forever and that her dolt of a jock boyfriend keeps giving him the evil eye anytime he comes within a five mile radius of Alice. Of course, Alice can take care of herself. She's been keeping herself as well as her entire motley family afloat since the car accident that put her dad in the hospital, thank you very much. And she has no time for a boy who's proven time and again that he wants nothing more from life than a good time.
I love Alice, and you know why? Because she gives approximately zero damns about Tim from the word go. She has her priorities set, she knows what she wants, and she works so freaking hard to take care of the people in her care. Never mind that she never asked for seven siblings with another on the way and that she may have to defer nursing school again if those hospital bills keep coming. I love Tim, too, and you know why? Because he's serious about changing his life in his way. He may have no earthly idea how, but his eyes are clear despite being clouded for years. He sees Alice, recognizes what she is, and he never messes around with her. Despite their tacitly acknowledged attraction. Living in such close proximity to one another does lead to something of a softening of enemy lines, especially as Tim is incapable of turning the flirting off when it comes to Alice, even as he knows she's too good for him on pretty much every level. But just when things are maybe sort of starting to look up, his past comes back to haunt him in the most serious of ways.
What I love is that the whole debacle never grows too overwrought, that Alice accepts the latest of Tim's mess-ups just like she does every other blow she's taken standing up in her life. Which is not to say that she doesn't give him the grief he deserves over it. Which is also not to say that Tim doesn't accept said grief as his due. She just doesn't let it derail her, which is one of the best of many things about Alice. And he doesn't let it destroy him. Which is, yeah, one of a host of things I just really loved about Tim. The pain is there, and it is real. Along with the daily, crushing uncertainty of youth. The creeping sense that you may not be able to escape your past (in Tim's case) or your present bonds (in Alice's). The lovely bit is the way Huntley Fitzpatrick works it all out, the way Tim and Alice's story unfolds against the backdrop of all of the messy, wonderful Garretts, Tim's twin sister Nan's struggles, as well as the quietly supportive and aching additions of his fellow AA members. The way that with increased clarity comes the realization that escape doesn't necessarily have to be the goal. A pivotal scene told from Alice's point of view when she comes to understand Tim's situation a little more clearly:
I carry both mugs from the kitchen, set his down in front of him.
“Look. Stay. I mean . . . I can wait. It’s only fair. Jase didn’t know I wanted it anyway. Four months is nothing. You can be here for four months and then . . . “ I trail off.
Troubled gray eyes search my face for a long time. Finally, he sighs, shakes his head. “Nah. I’ll find somewhere else. You deserve it. You’ve earned it.”
Like a home’s something you have to earn when you’re seventeen.
He’s a kid. Not a man, not on some deadline. But with his jaw set and raised—I know that face. The I’m going to push on through, no problem, I’ll deal. Moving right along. Nothing to see here face. Know it as well as my own. It is my own. And I picture the rest of the lines on that paper.
Tim Mason: The Boy Most Likely To . . .
Forget his own name even before we do
Turn down the hottest girl in the world for the coldest beer
Be six feet under by our fifth reunion
Don’t go that way, Tim. Such a stupid, stupid waste. “I mean it,” I say aloud. “Stay.”
“I want you here,” I add, my cheeks flaring. He shifts on the couch and I’m hyper-aware of him next to me, the smell of soap and shampoo, the heat of him, the alive of him.
My words fall into the silence, and something changes. Tim’s shoulders straighten. He stills, but not frozen, more like . . . more like . . . alert.
“Yeah? Then . . . I’ll be here,” he says quietly.
The narrative alternates back and forth between Tim and Alice's perspectives, a touch that I appreciated and one that definitely aids in the reader having enough time with them to not only love, but get, these two individuals. No one has an easy time of it, and I wasn't sure at times things were going to work out in a way that felt both realistic and well (not a requirement, but frequently a hope). But it was such an enjoyable journey, and it has a last line that sticks with you the way I always want them to. Even now—a couple of days later—I'm murmuring it to myself as my lips curve in a satisfied smile.
Book Binge - "I definitely recommend this book to fans of the contemporary YA romance but also of the first book in this series."
Book Rock Betty - "YOU. MUST. OWN. THIS. BOOK."
Christina Reads YA - "The Garretts, as always, are the charming backdrop, providing much needed humor and stability for the characters and us readers."
Good Books and Good Wine - "Fitzpatrick is a master of creating family dynamics that are both exasperating and exhilarating in contrast."
Love is Not a Triangle - "Even more than a romance, this book is all about Tim, and his growth is amazing to watch."