Bettina Vasilis can hardly believe it when basketball star Brady Cullen asks her out, and she just about faints when her strict father actually approves of him.
But when school starts up again, Brady changes. What happened to the sweet boy she fell in love with? Then she meets a smoldering guy in his twenties, and this “cowboy” is everything Brady is not—gentle, caring, and interested in getting to know the real Bettina.
Bettina knows that breaking up with Brady would mean giving up her freedom—and that it would be inappropriate for anything to happen between her and Cowboy. Still, she can’t help that she longs for the scent of his auto shop whenever she’s anywhere else.
When tragedy strikes, Bettina must tell her family the truth—and kiss goodbye the things she thought she knew about herself and the men in her life.
Leslie Connor has written a lyrical, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about family, romance, and the immense power of love.
Bettina Vasilis and Brady Cullen are the most unlikely of couples. No one would have ever guessed that the up and coming basketball star and the artsy girl with the short skirts and fake ink would become a thing. But they do. In the beginning it’s hard to not absolutely love Brady Cullen. He really IS the perfect boyfriend. So sweet and polite. But after the summer, Brady comes back to school…different. Sometimes he’s the sweet boy that Bettina fell for and other times she finds herself cringing in fear of what he’ll do next.
In some ways, Bettina is a tough girl. But her misogynistic father’s constant dismissal has given her plenty of insecurities and a dysfunctional approach to conflict. So when her “perfect” high school boyfriend begins abusing her, Bettina’s response is to take Bampas’ (her father) advice. Filio Antio. Kiss it goodbye.
“Then I was to bury my pain or disappointment on the spot. Stop crying. Let it go.”
Because if she just “kisses it goodbye” and looks the other way, she can still keep the little bit of freedom she has. Because without her relationship with Brady, her dad would never let her leave the house except for school.
After one of her altercations (one of the worst and most physically damaging) with Brady, Bettina runs off school property to a nearby industrial park so no one can see or hear her cry. That is where “Cowboy” finds her. The attractive older guy in his t-shirt and jeans takes Bettina to his nearby auto shop to look at her crushed hand and help her clean up. And that’s that. No lightning bolts. Not instant love. He helps her and sends her on her way. Bettina returns to the shop with a thank you coffee and begins to spend a few mornings and afternoons a week in his shop. Just doing homework, drawing or helping him clean gears before using them for car repair. That auto shop becomes a safe haven. The one place Bettina can go where no one is trying to control her and her dreams are accepted as possibilities and not just dreams.
“Cowboy” and Bettina become friends and when Bettina mentions her growing attraction to him, he puts an end to it immediately. Bettina worms her way back into his shop with coffee and a promise to never mention it again. She can’t lose the one place she feels she can be accepted as who she is. As the months go by, their relationship grows. And just when “Cowboy” has decided to give in and pursue her (with the insistence that her parents know – which I found fascinating), something happens that forces Bettina to not only come clean with her parents but also address her relationship with Brady and her father.
This book isn’t for everyone. A lot of people will take issue with the age difference between Bettina and Cowboy. But the point this book drives home beautifully is that just because you are young does not make your feelings any less real or less important.
Just because you are young does not mean you love any less. And that sometimes “kissing it goodbye,” isn’t enough.