Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

Title: A Million Miles Away
Author: Lara Avery
Format I Read: ARC
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Stars: 4
Goodreads Link

I have to admit, I was not planning on liking this book. Honestly, I was dreading reading it. It just didn't sound like a book that I would enjoy. I hate lying and cheating and people's self-brought misery. But A Million Miles Away really surprised me. I actually really liked it! I empathized with the characters way more than I thought I would.

For those who haven't heard of A Million Miles Away:

When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.

The blurb doesn't do the book justice at all. Based on the synopsis, I found the book completely unbelievable. I didn't understand how someone could do something so cruel and dumb. I hated Kelsey on principle. But once I started reading, I found that I understood and related to the character's decisions. The rabbit hole that they fall down is actually charmingly realistic.

I know that some people were very skeptical about how Peter could've believed that Kelsie was Michelle. But let's look at the facts. Michelle and Peter spent most of their relationship apart, developing their feelings over email and phone calls. This explained why it was so easy for Peter to mistake Kelsey for Michelle, with brief video calls through poor internet connection. Additionally, Peter was grasping at straws. I don't think he ever really needed Michelle to survive his time in Afghanistan. He just needed someone--someone to make him laugh, someone to hold onto. So he didn't care if Michelle wasn't acting like herself, as long as she was a face and a person for him to think and dream about.

And, yes, Michelle and Kelsey are supposed to be as different as night and day. So how on earth could Kelsey pretend to be Michelle? But that's the whole point of the novel. Michelle's death sets Kelsey on the path toward self discovery. She begins realizing that Kelsey, the person who she's been her whole life, was never really Kelsey; she was just the opposite of Michelle, by default. If Michelle liked art, Kelsey hated art. If Michelle liked hot chocolate, Kelsey liked coffee. Kelsey never really found herself before Michelle's death. She was always just the anti-Michelle. So the novel becomes more of Kelsey's exploration of herself, as she tries to find out who exactly she is now that she's not trying to just be "not Michelle."

I really enjoyed the journey that the story forced Kelsey to take. One of the notes I made at the beginning was, "I wish Avery had developed Kelsey and Michelle's relationship more at the beginning so that I could sympathize more." But the lack of foundation turned out to be crucial. Yes, I didn't know about Kelsey and Michelle's relationship. But it turns out that Kelsey didn't know about Kelsey and Michelle's relationship either! The two twins were living in their own little bubble, so determined to stand out and be their own person that they missed out on something huge--each other. Kelsey realizes that she really didn't know Michelle as well as she thought, which is why we never got to know Michelle either. Because Kelsey didn't know her. I felt like that was really key to Kelsey's development.

One thing I didn't like was Kelsey's all-encompassing relationship with Peter. First of all, she has a boyfriend. I hated that she was fostering these feelings for Peter while she was still dating Davis. That really grated on me. Second of all, she completely abandoned her friends for Peter--who was overseas! I hated how she shut out everyone except for this boy. However, when I contemplated it more, I understood that it was all part of Kelsey's grieving process. Going to school and hanging out with her friends reminded her that Michelle wasn't there. But allowing herself to remain in the little Peter bubble that she created let her stay in a world where she didn't have to let go of Michelle.

Overall, I thought that the redeeming quality wasn't the romance, but rather Kelsey's character development and self-exploration. A Million Miles Away completely caught me off-guard; I was shocked to find that I was completely invested and engaged in this novel! I would give it 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4 (since it exceeded my admittedly low expectations). I'd definitely recommend this for anyone who wants to read about self-discovery with a little heart-string-tugging on the side.