Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The End of Feeling by Cindy Bennett

* * * 1/2

Benjamin Nefer seems to have it all. He’s the most popular guy in school, the star quarterback with college scouts looking at him, his grades are near the top of his class, he can get any girl he wants . . . but he hides behind his dream life to mask the nightmare of his reality.

Charlie Austin is the new girl. Forced to move in with a bitter aunt, she only wants to protect her fragile mom from the world’s cruelty. When Benjamin sets his sights on Charlie, she’s armored against his charm—friends warned her about Benjamin’s game of pursuing and then dumping a long line of girls, not caring about the broken hearts he leaves behind. She doesn’t count on how single-minded he can be when she refuses him, or how charismatic, easing into her life through what he claims is just friendship.

Benjamin thought he could keep Charlie in the same place he keeps all girls—something to be used and then discarded. But Charlie has as many secrets as he does, secrets he’s determined to discover while keeping his own hidden. He realizes she’s the perfect girlfriend candidate . . . someone he can use to keep up the façade of a perfect life. Now he just has to keep his frozen heart from softening toward this unique girl, because if he doesn’t, his carefully constructed lies might just come thundering down around him, crushing him beneath the burden of feeling.


Benjamin Nefer notices Charlie Austin her first day of school.  He wastes no time and begins pursuing her right away.  He wasn’t prepared for her immediate brush off since she had already been warned about him.  But Benjamin Nefer is persistent.  Except, in this case, his persistence might backfire.  Benjamin’s approach to girls has always been to date them twice then break up with them.  That is just one of many ways for him to appear normal and privileged when his home life is anything but.  He will do anything to hide where he lives and the abuse he endures at home.  Including sparring at a local boxing club to give everyone other ideas as to wear the bruises come from.  He will also do anything to avoid emotional attachments.  And in the end, being attached to anyone in his hometown is useless as he intends on going as far away as possible once he graduates high school.  But Charlie is different.  In his pursuit he finds himself falling for her and he doesn’t have the slightest idea what to do about that as he forgot how to feel any emotions forever ago.

Charlie Austin just wants to keep her mom safe.  Due to complications at birth, Cora has needed assistance all her life.  Her first stay in a home for adults with special needs resulted in her being raped and becoming pregnant.  With Charlie.  Since that horrible time, Cora’s mother has taken care of both Cora and Charlie.  But when Charlie’s grandmother passes away they are forced to move in with Cora’s sister, Naomi.  Charlie doesn’t feel that Naomi wants them there and she certainly doesn’t trust her to take care of her mother.  Charlie’s days are filled with school work and caring for Cora.  Both of which she does willingly and lovingly.  Her plan after graduation is to find a job and care for her mother without the charity of Aunt Naomi.  Needless to say she doesn’t have time for a boyfriend.  But she can certainly do friends.  So when Benjamin Nefer backs off a little and pursues her as a friend rather than a romantic interest, she is completely on board.  But as things sometimes work out, Charlie starts falling for Benjamin.  And she finds herself wondering how on earth they continue to be friends when he might have the unexpected power to break her heart.

The slowly developed romance between Benjamin and Charlie is perfectly balanced with the struggles they each have at home.  The author holds nothing back in describing Benjamin’s home life.  It’s brutally honest, violent and painful to read.  As for Charlie, my heart broke for her as well.  Her unconditional love for her mother is absolutely beautiful.  But the responsibility she has put upon herself is overwhelming to say the least.  And watching her struggle to come to terms with her aunt’s role in her life is touching.

This a remarkable and well written story.  The characters situations were original.  The romance was steady and believable.  And in the end, it left me both emotionally exhausted and hopeful.  I won’t lie.  This is not always an easy book to read and each MC’s personal lives might be a trigger for some readers out there.  But if you are looking for contemporary YA with weighted issues that really make you think, I definitely recommend The End of Feeling.


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