The Way Back To You – Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 3 May 2016
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.
Heart and humour so aptly describes this book. But it also packs a powerful punch. Have tissues on hand, but also be prepared to smile, giggle and full on belly laugh as Cloudy and Kyle work their way through grief, confusing feelings, and from the mountains, by the sea and on to the desert. All the best books are about road trips, and what an epic one this is, starting with awkward, tense silences, a touch of unrequited love, heartache and a kitten and winding up somewhere near moving forward, laughs, love and life, with a whole lot of hope and even a wedding thrown in for good measure. The Way Back To You is a book to treasure.
The death of Cloudy’s best friend Ashlyn changed Cloudy’s world. For Ashlyn’s boyfriend Kyle, it changed everything. Now Cloudy struggles on with life, projecting an ‘I’m fine!’ façade, while Kyle is noticeably falling apart. When the opportunity to meet the recipients of Ashlyn’s organ donation presents itself to Cloudy, she takes it and neatly ropes Kyle into joining her. Perhaps this trip will give them both some closure or hope for the future.
Told in alternating points of view, readers experience first Cloudy and then Kyle’s methods of coping after Ashlyn’s death. They make the most wonderful protagonists, honest, real and hurting. Cloudy has been burying her feelings, both for Kyle and grief for Ashlyn, for so long that she doesn’t even know how not to any more. She’s smart, sassy and the most un-stereotypical cheerleader I’ve ever read. And then there is Kyle. Grieving, lost and so sick of everyone crowding him, he can’t stand the expectations to return to ‘normal’. He feels everything so strongly and is desperately hoping for a sign that will let him know Ashlyn is okay or someplace, something to help him to move forward with his life. Cloudy’s little road trip gives him that chance, along with the green-eyed, black cat who appears on his car hood and refuses to leave.
For a book written by two people living on opposite sides of a country, The Way Back To You is incredibly consistent. The tone of the book flows perfectly, and yet sometimes the storyline jumps forward, doubling back later to fill in details, just enough to keep you on your toes.
Cloudy and Kyle’s journey towards reconciliation, friendship and the possibility of more is so enjoyable. I loved that it was only Cloudy who was hiding her feelings for Kyle while he genuinely loved and missed Ashlyn, slowly falling for Cloudy as they spend more time together. But even more than romance, this book is about friendship, family and losing someone so important to you. There are loveable secondary characters, great one liners, even better music (yay for Death Cab for Cutie), ghost towns, and incredible scenery. It is uplifting and finds that perfect balance between heartbreaking and hopeful, leaving readers with a tear-stained face and a huge grin. Books like this one are what make reading so very, very important and so much fun. I loved every word of this touching and beautiful book.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Romance, grief, organ donation, friendship, road trips, relationships, sisters.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, dou***, s***, co**, f***. Sexual references.
Published: 3 May 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 384 pages.