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"Sometimes at night, I wake up and stare at the heart for hours. I think of how I collected each piece from the beach, how I glued it all together into one big sculpture. I wonder if Connor realizes what it means, that he’ll always have a piece of me no matter what happens. Each piece of glass is another piece of myself that I gave to him.
It’s too bad I didn’t keep any pieces for myself."
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and a track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved – and needed. Ann can’t recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor’s rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything – and everyone – in its path.
This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.
But I Love Him is a very disturbing look at the descent of a relationship into violence. The first chapter opens with Ann, lying beaten and miserable on the floor after another argument on awry. This is the literal breaking point but we’re not given much else. All the pieces come together as her story gradually unfolds. Each chapter serving as a reference to a point in time in their relationship. Every so often, a chapter brings the reader back to the present.
At first, I found the jumbled chronology disorienting. There were a few times when Ann mentioned certain events and I wondered if I had missed something. But ultimately this tactic works because it narrows the focus to the history of the relationship first before anyone can point a leering finger at Anne, wondering why in the hell she remained with an abusive boyfriend for a whole year. It's written like one of those, "where did it all go wrong?" scenarios where you sift through your memories attempting to pinpoint that crucial moment in time.
Connor himself has suffered at the hands of his abusive father and watched as his mother was destroyed by it. Ann witnesses this as well. So it’s unnerving to see her make the very same mistakes as his mother did: staying with the guy, thinking it’s something she did that set them off. Such is the irony that Ann recognized those mistakes in his mother but not in herself. It’s gut wrenching to see how much Ann has relinquished from her life so that Connor can be the absolute center. Even her friends have given up on her somewhat. She knows what her life has become. She admits to the "wrongness" and stress of feeling guilt at being happy if she hangs out with a friend, or that she's scared to say the wrong thing to him. Yet she still feels she can fix things – as long as she can placate him, she can fix him.
But I Love Him is not a fun read but it’s engaging. Amanda Grace does a spectacular job of helping us to understand Ann’s psyche, why she stayed and why she felt she couldn’t leave. I wanted to read it because I wonder about people who remain in toxic relationships that are slowly ruining them. It's easy as an outsider, to think "Don't you have any self-worth? Can't you see the signs?". I could never comprehend why anyone would allow that to happen to themselves. But I suppose you don't know until you've been through it or had someone you love go through it.
This is a very thought-provoking book that made me cringe several times. I developed great empathy for Ann and surprisingly, Connor too. I felt sadness for his pathetic and terrifying childhood, his sad excuse of a man for a dad and his hopeless mother who never chose to give Connor his best chance. And though initially I wasn't a fan of the jumbled chronology, it is in fact a genius ploy because by the very end of the book, where everything is set into motion, I was left breathless.