Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Truth About You And Me by Amanda Grace

* * * * 1/2

Madelyn Hawkins is super smart. At sixteen, she's so gifted that she can attend college through a special program at her high school. On her first day, she meets Bennet. He's cute, funny, and kind. He understands Madelyn and what she's endured - and missed out on - in order to excel academically and please her parents. Now, for the first time in her life, she's falling in love.

There's only one problem. Bennet is Madelyn's college professor, and he thinks she's eighteen - because she hasn't told him the truth.

The story of their forbidden romance is told in letters that Madelyn writes to Bennet - both a heart-searing ode to their ill-fated love and an apology.

I was taken with Amanda Grace last year after I read But I Love Him, a blunt look at an abusive relationship told through the eyes of the victim.  That book was an absolute stunner. So when the opportunity came along to read The Truth About You And Me, I knew perfectly well that I’d be placing my trust in her once again to take me to that very edge where the characters are teetering on self-destruction before they finally reel themselves back in.

At first glance, Madelyn doesn’t strike you as a delinquent. Her excellent grades, model behavior and responsible nature would lead anyone to believe that she has it all together. That is far from the truth. Madelyn feels the mounting pressure from her parents’ high expectations to surpass even their own achievements. She has endured this quietly throughout high school. When she begins the Running Start program as a high school student taking college level courses, she seizes the opportunity of a being in a different environment to rebel against those expectations.

The trouble starts when she arrives at her biology class and meets her teacher Bennet and they experience one of those "instant connection" moments. There on out Madelyn engages in a dangerous game. On a chance meeting outside of the classroom, Bennet assumes that she is 18 and she allows him to think so. The sequence of events is mapped out through letters Madelyn writes after an unfortunate turn of events. Through these letters, you can follow her as she weaves her first lie and then each lie thereafter. The thing is, she is perfectly aware of what she’s doing and why.

Let me say that I love that this book is in letter format. It made the story even more personal. The letters manage to root through all the emotions to arrive at the motivations behind the actions or the impulses.  I was able to understand Madelyn’s mindset. I was dragged in but not dragged down.  A lot of her issues stem from her parents’ high expectations and no room for failure attitude. With Bennet the irony is that she feels more like herself even though she’s being dishonest with him. They do develop a friendship that’s cozy and reliable with both of them counting down the days til they can officially be together. 

I’ll tell you what, throughout the letters, Madelyn keeps hinting at that day when everything fell apart and as I got closer to that point, I grew more and more uneasy. My imagination was all over the place wondering what on earth could have happened. Did someone walk in on them? Did she let slip something? Did he see her at her high school? I couldn’t wait to find out yet at the same time I wanted to remain in that happy little bubble that Madelyn and Bennet had created.  I swear I could feel my heart thumping madly. But that’s great storytelling when you’re drawn in and can feel that clock ticking to the penultimate moment.

So how did I feel after I was finished? I felt a myriad of emotions from sadness to anger to happiness, to disappointment and finally I felt relief. Considering how this one stayed with me the rest of the day after I’d finished it, I’m quite certain that The Truth About You and Me will be in the running for my Top 10 of 2013!

~ Bel

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