Nov 4, 2016

Review: The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani + Mindi Scott

TitleThe Way Back to You
Authors: Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publishing Date: May 3, 2016
Pages/Format: 384, ARC
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In this witty, heart-tugging novel, two teens take a spontaneous road trip across the Southwest to meet three strangers who received the life-saving organs of their late best friend—charting a journey of loss, hope, and love along the way.

Six months ago, Ashlyn Montiel died in a bike accident.

Her best friend Cloudy is keeping it together, at least on the outside. Cloudy’s insides are a different story: tangled, confused, heartbroken. 

Kyle is falling apart, and everyone can tell. Ashlyn was his girlfriend, and when she died, a part of him went with her. Maybe the only part he cares about anymore.

As the two people who loved Ashlyn best, Cloudy and Kyle should be able to lean on each other. But after a terrible mistake last year, they're barely speaking. So when Cloudy discovers that Ashlyn’s organs were donated after her death and the Montiel family has been in touch with three of the recipients, she does something a little bit crazy and a lot of out character: she steals the letters and convinces Kyle to go on a winter break road trip with her, from Oregon to California to Arizona to Nevada. Maybe if they see the recipients—the people whose lives were saved by Ashlyn’s death—the world will open up again. Or maybe it will be a huge mistake. 

With hundreds of miles in front of them, a stowaway kitten, and a list of people who are alive because of Ashlyn, Cloudy and Kyle just may find their way to back to her...and to each other.


Aside from expecting something along the lines of Searching for David's Heart and Things We Know By Heart, I'm not sure what I thought I'd get from The Way Back to You when I picked it up. It's an addition to what my mood reading has been craving these past few months--contemporaries, preferably those on the lighter side--and I was looking for something quick and breezy and that could easily squeeze in between reads. The Way Back to You ended up being just that--and so much more.

It only took reading a few pages of The Way Back to You for me to not want to put it down, and even when it was over I was wishing for more pages to turn. Contemporaries--certain kinds of contemporaries, my favorite contemporaries, the best contemporaries--tend to have a specific voice, that contemporary voice that just hits the spot and pulls you in from the start. That happened with this book. It's the voice and mood and tone and feel and sense of realism that's not so easily found in fantasies and thrillers and dystopians: it's catered for contemporaries, and sometimes that's exactly what I want to read. The Way Back to You had that voice and did it well, but it also had elements I hadn't expected: a sort of lighter tone with bits of angst, sadness, and characters who weren't what I had thought they would be--not quite innocent, and with various kinds of life experience--and that's not a bad thing. And the dual POVs--Kyle and Cloudy--written by two authors were seamless: I could't tell that two different writers put this book together, and it all meshed together nicely.

The Way Back to You tells the story of many people, but it focuses on that of Cloudy, Kyle, and Ashlyn. Cloudy was Ashlyn's best friend, Kyle her boyfriend--until she died in an accident six months prior to the book's beginning. Since then, they've been coping in their own ways, trying to deal in their own ways--but never together. When Cloudy learns that Ashlyn's family has heard back from three of their daughter's organ recipients, she feels the sudden and immediate need to go see those three people and maybe, just maybe, see a part of Ashlyn once again--and she takes Kyle with her. The two--along with a little black kitten named Arm--travel from Oregon to California to Arizona to Vegas, visiting three people (and a few others from their pasts in between) they know parts of, but who don't know them. And along the way they laugh and they grieve, they smile and they mourn--and they build a relationship that doesn't replace what they had with Ashlyn, but that helps to fill the gap. It's a novel that's aptly named: it's the way back to Ashlyn, the way back to each other, the way back to themselves.

My only complaint about The Way Back to You is that the ending was a little too abrupt, a little too open-ended for my tastes, and I was utterly disappointed when I turned a page and saw that the next one said ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, because I wanted more, more, more. That's because I really, really liked this book. I liked how Cloudy was snarky and defensive and healing and not cookie-cutter shaped. I liked how Kyle was the quiet one, a good, nice, sweet boy with scars and tattered edges of his own. And I loved how they went on a spur-of-the-moment road trip together with a cat. This is my kind of contemporary, despite the fact that I shed a few tears (I hate it when books make me cry). It was light without being fluffy, and the overall sadness of the novel--the loss of Ashlyn is at the center of it all, the point at which the whole story pivots around--didn't drag it down to the dumps, drowning in a waterfall of my tears. It was balanced, it was good, I devoured it and just wanted to read it when I couldn't, and I'm not sure why I didn't read it sooner when I've had it for months. And I'm wondering when I can expect another novel co-written by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott. 

Did I like it? Yes!
Did I love it? Not quite.
Would I reread it? Sure!
Would I purchase it? You know, I think I would like to own a finished copy of this.
Who would I recommend it to? Contemporaries that are neither fluffy nor dark but have a good balance of both, stories about two clashing yet clearly compatible characters, road trips, and books that just tug at your heartstrings.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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