Sixteen year old Julia Phillips buries herself in guilt after killing her best friend Monica in a car accident. Julia awoke in the hospital with a broken leg, a new talent for drawing and false memories of the accident, in which she dies and Monica lives. The doctors attribute this to her head injury, but no one can explain how a bracelet engraved with her name ended up at the scene of the accident. A bracelet no one has ever seen before.
Classmate Evan Whittaker paid Julia no attention before the accident, let alone after. Now suddenly he’s volunteering to tutor her and offering to drive her home. She can’t ignore that his new obsession started after his two-day disappearance last week and that he wears a pendant she’s been drawing for months. When the police show up one night looking for Evan, he begs Julia to run with him, convincing her that Monica is still alive. Julia agrees to go, never guessing where he’s really from. (Goodreads summary)
Plagued by guilt for her role in her best friend Monica’s death, Julia Phillip’s life is falling apart at the seams. Her family is disintegrating right before her eyes, buckling under the strain of her reaction to the tragedy. She’s shut everyone out, doesn’t participate at school and is dangerously close to failing all of her classes. Julia has hit rock bottom, all without her best friend to help her through… the best friend she killed. As if her life couldn’t get any worse or more weird, she wakes up from the car crash to find a strange bracelet she’s never seen before clasped around her wrist, an inexplicable, new artistic talent, and eerie, unsettling dreams about the accident.
Frustrated by Julia’s continued course of self-destructive behavior, her high school guidance counselor threatens to send her to alternative school if Julia doesn’t turn herself and her grades around. Toward this end, Julia is assigned a couple of tutors to get her back up to speed in her classwork. When Mr. Popularity himself, Evan Whittaker, volunteers as one of her tutors, Julia is curious, especially in light of the attention he’s given her recently. To her surprise, Evan is kind, friendly, and genuinely seems to want to help her, but he’s strangely cryptic about his own personal life. With Evan, Julia finally begins to feel the heavy weight she’s been shouldering lighten, and yet there’s something about Evan’s continual evasiveness that sends up a mental red flag. She thinks she may be losing her heart to this sympathetic, mysterious boy, but can she really trust him? After going to school together for years, why after all this time is Evan suddenly interested in her – the homicidal queen of social suicide? And what about the mysterious loner, Reece, who despite his rough edges, seems to have a soft spot for her? Why is Reece able to make her feel more alive and why does he feel so strangely familiar?
There are many reasons why I love Here, but the character of Julia tops the list. Julia’s development throughout the book is the most dramatic, her character undergoing the most personal development in the novel. Though this book has strong romantic elements, to me, this book is ultimately a novel about Julia. When Julia is first introduced, she is a a very broken person, wracked with guilt, emotionally checked out and barely functioning. Her depression over killing Monica is crippling, and like many who lose loved ones in a tragic event, she doesn’t believe she can be happy again or that she deserves to be. Swank does a fantastic job of connecting the reader to Julia’s mental state and her grief. Told in first person by Julia, her voice is candid and real. It’s easy to understand what she’s feeling and why as she begins to honestly face the deeper underlying issues that she’s managed to avoid for months. Both Julia’s transition back to the land of the living and her healing process are well done and feel very natural. She doesn’t do an immediate 180°, but the unbelievable circumstances she suddenly finds herself in help jar her out of her internally-focused existence, and help her appreciate that life may just be worth living.
As Julia begins to climb out of her months-long hibernation from life, there are two people who reach out in an effort to help her: Evan and Reece. I don’t want to say too much about the romance, because it’ll reveal too much about the twists the plot begins to make, but I will say, YES. I LOVE it! Yes, there is a love triangle in Here, but it’s one that, in my opinion, is very well done. It’s tragically complicated, it’s heartbreaking and it’s passionate. I really sympathize with everyone involved, though there’s definitely one guy I love above the other for a myriad of reasons that would spoil things. But I will stay silent on my #team and list-of-whys for now so that I don’t sway your perception, Dear Reader, when you’re nose-deep in Here. However, you’re more than welcome to email me if you just have to know.
In regard to the story itself, what I found extremely interesting is that the book starts out very much like a contemporary novel, though not completely of course. There are definitely strange goings-on that remind you that there’s something out of the ordinary a brewing, leaving my mind to puzzle and theorize. However the first half of the novel mostly focuses on Julia, her depression and her journey. Then… all of the sudden, the story radically changes and I am falling down the rabbit hole into something akin to a really good episode of Fringe. Everything starts coming together and the behind-the-scenes strangeness of the first half of the novel suddenly starts clicking together — all the loose ends tying together nicely into a well done, cohesive plot. It’s fascinating, and Swank’s switch in gears is done very smoothly and is well-developed. The twists and turns and Swank’s seemingly effortless navigation of them are some of the reasons I love this book so much.
Overall, with a fantastic, sympathetic heroine, two swoon-worthy leading men, and a plot whose twists and turns left me breathlessly wanting more, Here by Denise Grover Swank is a beautifully complicated, wonderfully bittersweet paranormal romance that totally hit the mark for me on all fronts.
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Series: On the Otherside (Book #1)
Published: November 7th 2011
Format: Paperback, 350 pages; Kindle; Nook