Saturday, February 2, 2013

Review: Always and Forever by Karla J. Nellenbach

Always and Forever
by Karla J. Nellenbach

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 263
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
Publication date: September 18, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, realistic fiction, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"Mia's first reaction is outright disbelief. Obviously, a mistake has been made. Sixteen-year-old girls don't die. But, when the diagnosis is confirmed, she dives headlong into anger. If she has to die, why should it be of cancer? In fact, anything would be preferable to cancer. Better for her to say when, where, and especially how.

Determined to meet death on her own terms, Mia devises scheme after scheme to get the job done. A “fall” down the basement stairs, driving her car off a bridge, and even a dance with a train all end in her survival.

And through it all, Mia keeps her family and friends at arms' length with her destructive and hurtful behavior. With each failed suicide attempt and burned relationship, she slowly realizes that it’s not the dying that she’s afraid of, but the life she’ll be leaving behind. Now, that life is in a shambles. As time begins to slip through her fingers and death is upon her, Mia fights to rebuild the bridges she has destroyed, but can she do it before the clock runs out?

{ I received an ebook for free through Early Reviewers on LibraryThing. }

Always and Forever is so heartbreakingly beautiful. It took me a little while to write this review because I just couldn't find the words after I first read it, and I'm still having trouble now. It leaves you with a numbness; closing the book only emphasizes the sense of loss. It takes quite a bit for a book to make me cry, but I had tears streaming down my face at the end of this one.

I can't imagine being in Mia's place. She survived cancer once, and now she is told she has cancer again. And this time she won't survive. Mia reacts to her situation differently as she moves through the stages of grief; she is furious, she is devastated, she takes everything out on her friends and family. At times I wanted to grab her and shake her and make her realize how much precious time she was wasting with her loved ones. But would I act any differently if I was in her place? How do you respond to something like that? How do you go on with your life when you know each second is bringing you closer to the end of it?

When I first read the synopsis, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about Mia trying to end her life on her own terms. But Nellenbach handles it wonderfully; she explains Mia's thoughts and actions in a way that puts you right there in Mia's mindset. Even if you don't agree with it, you understand why she's considering it.

The relationship between Mia and Kal is very sweet. He is there for her through good and bad. When she rebels against it all and wastes time with her loved ones, the lost time with Kal is exceptionally hard. Or it was for me, anyway; I really liked them as a couple, and I felt bad for Kal not being able to help and for Mia missing out on some much-needed comfort.

I don't want to say too much about the end of the book, but I'll say it was beautiful. The tone, the feel, the all came together in one beautiful, bittersweet scene. I would snatch up another book by Nellenbach in a second.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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