Two teens must face their fears to save their relationship.
After losing his left leg in a car accident, Jonas wants a fresh start in college, away from pitying looks and his mom’s protectiveness. But he can’t bear to talk about his leg, and driving triggers post-traumatic flashbacks. Brennan knows about panic; she’d rather be writing than exposing her severe anxiety to college’s unpredictability. The teens’ paths collide, sparking a prickly friendship, but as their intimacy deepens, their insecurities threaten to drive them apart. Much of the tension unfolds in the protagonists’ heads; the author meticulously describes their respective struggles as they learn to trust themselves and each other. Their gradual romance is touching, albeit predictable. The emotional toll of Jonas’ disability and trauma on his family—particularly his older brother, who was driving—is believable, as is Brennan’s dad’s insensitivity toward her anxiety. Unfortunately, copious and often extraneous exposition bogs down the pacing and dilutes the emotional impact. Though Brennan’s ambivalent, inconsistent use of anti-anxiety medication is a realistic plot point, its lack of resolution is frustrating. The book situates whiteness as the default; Jonas’ mother is described simply as half Vietnamese—the family’s background otherwise is not specified—and her portrayal lacks nuance. Brennan appears to be white; and Brennan’s college roommate from India has an Urdu given name and Sikh or Punjabi surname, a circumstance which is not explained.
A realistic, but wordy, portrayal of coping with anxiety and trauma. (Romance. 14-18)