Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this book very much - it's an odd and unique mix of themes and feelings. There are many traditional YA elements - MC Alex's parents messily divorce (when beloved dad's affair with a paralegal is discovered, oops), and she is wrenched away from her familiar school, and close friend Eve, to her mom's childhood home, where mom sinks quietly into a bad relationship with her new boyfriend, alcohol, making her moody and sometimes mean. As if that weren't enough to deal with, Alex's integration into her new school is sidetracked by her attraction to the Bishop twins, Fred and Adina. They are quite frankly weirdos, and everyone in the school knows that. Alex's one friend/frenemy (her mom's friend's daughter) is pretty explicit about what happened to the last girl who got too close to Fred, and how crazy Adina can be. This is where the unusual elements creep in. Fred and Adina (well, especially Adina, Fred can seem pretty nice, if utterly under Adina's thumb) live in the old family mansion, now crumbling and abandoned feeling, while their widowed dad travels the world and is otherwise absent. They spend their time drinking, cooking elaborate meals which anorexic Adina never eats, and sending Alex confusing, sometimes scary, but always intense mixed messages about Fred's feelings for her, and Adina's response to that. This reminded me a little of a wonderful book I read a long time ago Love for Lydia. The gloomy old mansion, the obsessive love for a very odd character who seemingly can't be trusted to do the right thing with your emotions, and the ambiguity and bewilderment experienced by the MC - very impactful. You, the reader, are kept off balance emotionally, just as Alex is, by the maddening antics of these two Addams-family-esque characters. It creates a cool, jittery, what's going to happen next feeling that gives the book a haunting and slightly dreamy vibe. But the traditional YA elements are not overshadowed by the gothic-y parts. Alex's relationship with her dad, and her encounter with the "slutty paralegal" are real feeling and create an empathy for even the "bad guy" characters. Like Holly in Nothing Like You Alex is such a lonely character. My heart went out to her so much. This is a good, albeit short read, with echoes of The Turn of the Screw, the castle scene from Cabaret, and the aforementioned Love for Lydia (I remember crying so hard at the end of that one!). But it stands on it own feet, and brings on the real emotions for a real feeling girl, as she takes on not the exotic and esoteric ghosts of Quinton and Miss Jessel, but of her own messy, broken feelings, and decides how to face them, and the future.
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