Rating: 5 Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.
Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.
Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . . .
“You told me once dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between.
But now you’ve left me and love another;
You have shattered all my dreams.”
I can’t. I just can’t DEAL WITH THESE FEEEELLLLSSS.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve read such a heartbreaking story. I can’t remember the last time I’ve fallen in such love with characters so quickly. I can’t remember why I’m tearing up right now, because if I did, I wouldn’t come out of my room for a good week.
I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. I really didn’t. The blurb doesn’t do this book justice. The other reviews I read were giving me slight hints as to just how painful the ending is, but I hadn’t realized it was going to be this bad.
I want to get it out there that this isn’t a book about incest. It’s really not. It’s about a broken brother and sister who are trying to deal with their abusive father. It’s the story about a brother and sister who love each other more than anyone else in the world, who have no one else in the world to rely on, and who make a promise when James stands up for Sarah, taking the beating from their father that was meant for her. It’s the story about him telling her he’ll always protect her no matter what . . . as long as she’ll love him and only him.
Sarah and James tore out my crooked heart – plucked it straight out of my chest – looked upon it and tried to sew it back up, saying “It’s okay, it’s fine; everything’s going to be alright,” all along lying to my face and heart, knowing that there is no happy ending for anyone. They ruined what I thought was going to be a devastating story about a brother who gets a little too close to his sister, becomes more like his father every day until he slips right into the gap in their lives he formed, all the while Sarah is the poor, poor victim who doesn’t know how to deal with her brother and doesn’t know how to get away from him. But that’s all a lie.
They are equal parts victim, but they deal with it in different ways.
For all the bad James may do, I cannot think of him as a bad guy. He is not a tormentor, instead, he is just as much a victim as Sarah is, if not more. He protects her, loves her more than anyone else. And it’s not all a sick kind of love. Yes, he does get a little more touchy-feely with her more than a brother should, but in many ways, I wonder how any guy in his position couldn’t. When two people have such intense feelings for each other at such a young age, and those feelings of love only increasing as they get older, planning to run away together to escape their abusive father, and already so emotionally and physically damaged, how could they not start to get their feelings mixed up when it’s always just been them against everyone else?
“This is my first real memory of James. In every memory before that, he’s just a flash of color, a warm body with a blurred face, a comforting voice begging me not to die. When he planted himself between our father and me that day, an eight-year-old with small fists clenched at his sides, I think I fell in love with my brother.”
I cannot fault them. Not even James.
“Nobody understands me better than my brother – they can’t, not without having lived the life we have. This is exactly why I love him and why, no matter how much I love Sam, I’m not sure I want to completely abandon my brother. Or whether I can.”
I’m not sure I could have gone away from James if I was Sarah. I don’t think I would have left him until there was absolutely no choice left. I couldn’t. He gives everything for her. Everything. He would tear the world down around them if it meant keeping her happy. He relies on her just as much as she does him, if not more . . . and I suspect much more.
I won’t lie. I wanted them to be together. Not in that way, but . . . together. They’re siblings, and they have the intense love that only siblings that have growing up in that kind of situation can. I wanted them to rely on each other and be able to love each other without it crossing a line. I wanted James to be happy; I wanted Sarah to be able to banish the demons that haunt him.
You cannot hate James.
I pity him. I really do. You cannot even bring yourself to hate how he feels about Sarah. Because it’s so sad, because you can practically feel the loneliness in him, the desire to be everything she needs to be happy, and the utter despair as not being able to be just that. And it ruins him to smithereens.
“No, I love you. You’ve never loved me, even though it’s supposed to be me and you, forever.” He reaches for my waist and buries his sticky face in my stomach. “Why can’t I be enough? I want to be enough so fucking bad.”
The ending killed me, if you haven’t noticed already. There is no way to prepare yourself for the ending this story gives you. I thought I understood the worst case scenario. I’m the kind of reader that always expects the worst case ending a book can give, just to be prepared. I’m talking expecting end-of-the-world-and-everyone-dies kind of ending. The end of The Hunger Games series kind of ending.
I wasn’t prepared. Not even a little bit.
I expected a painful ending. I expected an ending that would leave me sad but satisfied. And I suppose, in some twisted way, I am the latter . . . but I am not sad. I’m devastated. My stomach is twisted into knots that would make a boy scout walk away.