Wherever You Go by Heather Davis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A poignant story about making peace with the past and opening your heart to love. Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. But she has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, trying to get close to Holly—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. As their uncertain new relationship progresses, the past comes back to haunt Holly and Jason. Her Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side?
From reading the blurb of this I pegged this as a story where the ghost of a dead boyfriend is forced to watch his girlfriend mourn for him, and the pain of seeing her grow closer to his best friend. I absolutely loved the sound of this book and had very high expectations of it. I have read other contemporary YA novels dealing with the aftermath of the death of a loved one such as The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson or If I Stay by Gayle Forman (both absolutely fantastic books, if you haven't read them yet, read them) or books where the dead character gets to watch their loved ones from beyond the grave like Kissed By An Angel by Elizabeth Chandler. But in comparison to those books Wherever You Go feels a little bit cold and detached. The first quarter of the book mostly deals with Holly's hard life stuggling to cope with school, and taking care of her little sister while her mother is working, and then the responsibility and burden of also having to care for her elderly grandfather who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Holly and Rob's past relationship is barely even touched upon at first.
Normally I cry at everything! Any time someone dies in a book out come the tissues and the red-rimmed eyes. When I picked up Wherever you go I expected a tear- fest, and wanted a novel that would play upon my emotions, and rip my heart out, but this book let me down a little. The advice that Holly seems to be getting from her friends is mainly along the lines of "He's dead, just get over it already". And even Rob's parents are told something similar by their therapist- "move on- you have another child to parent". I think another thing that made it feel a little empty, was that there were very few flashbacks into the past, and few fond memories or little anecdotes about Holly and Rob. In another novel I read- Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, the main character gets to relive her last day over again to hopefully right some mistakes and re-evaluate her life, and this book really moved me- because there was so many little details, and little anecdotes and stories, that it made her life feel so real, and just highlighted everything that she was losing (this is another absolutely fantastic book- read it if you haven't already!). I think that this is what is missing from Wherever You Go. We see Holly and her current life, and we also see Rob wandering around as a bitter ghost, but we get very little impression of what they were like before, as a couple.
I don't want to put a downer on this review though, because despite all of this, I DID like the book. It grabbed my attention all the way through, throwing in some twists and turns, and clues about Rob's death that turned out to be red herrings. I liked the second half better than the first half. One of my favourite aspects of this novel was Holly's sweet relationship with her grandfather. She really looks after him, and not only cares for him but she still treats him like a person even when others just talk around him. She always tries to help him to remember, and when he comes up with a list of things he wants to remember she helps him by treating him to days out based on his list. Jason also seizes on the chance to help Holly with looking after her grandfather, and whilst Holly initially questions his motives, gradually the two of them form a bond that is not only connected to their shared memory of Rob, but also based on enjoying each other's company. Despite the fact that they are very different- Jason is wealthy and part of the popukar crowd, and Holly is very shy and lives in an apartment in a rough area of town- they do complement each other very well and make a sweet couple, but not without some complications and misunderstandings getting in the way first.
Wherever you go is not your typical ghost story. I liked the fact that Holly's grandfather was the only one who could see and comunicate with Rob, but being so far gone with Alzheimer's disease, he couldn't properly communicate messages from Rob. The budding relationship between Holly and Jason is very sweet, and their inner struggles to get over their guilt over moving on after Rob's death was moving and emotional. I also really sympathised for Holly, who has an incredible burden on her shoulders, as her mother puts more and more responsibilty onto her, with such high expectations of her, and then critisices the way that Holly deals with things. I liked the journey that this story takes us through, and would recommend this book to fans of a gritty romance.
Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishers and Netgalley for the review copy of the book.