If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom–that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be.
What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise–a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper
“Sometimes it was hard to breathe, knowing how small my world could be.”
There are stories that you read that stick with you, stories that are so true to life that you imagine yourself in them. For me this was one of those stories. Being an Air Force brat I could relate to the feelings of seeing the effects of a war on a person, and this story became very real for me.
This is the story of Sky and Josh. Two people from a small town that are both looking for ways out, but realizing they may not come in the form of how they thought. Skylar thought that her ticket out was Art School, and Josh thought the Marines were his. But events happen to them both that cause their views to change and the possibility of leaving may not happen.
“And maybe some people are like collages – no matter how broken or useless we felt, we were an essential part of the whole. We mattered.”
Skylar is ready to get out of the little town they live in, she does not want to become like her mother, and work a dead end job at Taco Bell for minimum wage. She also does not want to become like her friend Dylan, a single mother stuck living in a trailer with no hope of leaving the dead end town Creek View is. Skylar found her way out, she got a scholarship to Art School, and was ready to leave, she just had to survive three months, three months of working at a hotel, three months of dealing with her depressed mother, and three months to say goodbye to Dylan and Chris.
Josh had his way out of Creek View; he joined the Marines, went off to war and ended up back in Creek View missing his leg. Now he has to deal with being home, and how he is going to get out once again. His options are limited, he knows he will never fight in the war again, but he can still be a Marine, he just has to decide if he wants to.
The story starts off with Sky attending Josh’s homecoming party and trying to avoid Josh’s brother Blake, who she had a brief relationship with. When she finally sees Josh she realizes he is not exactly he cocky boy he was before he left for the Marines. He’s changed, and it’s more than just the fact that he lost his leg. Not really the partying type she leaves with her friend Chris after seeing Josh.
Things change for Skylar when she returns home to find out that her mother, who is depressed over the death of Sky’s father, has lost her job at Taco Bell after being accused of helping the store get robbed. Now Sky has to re-think her plan on leaving because there is no one to care for her mother.
Over the course of the start of the summer, Josh and Sky grow close as they work together at the Paradise hotel. While they have worked together there before, something about this summer brings their relationship to a new place. Josh has a lot of walls up, all because of his experiences in Afghanistan, and what he lost while there.
“Chess and you taking a picture of me reading Slaughterhouse-Five, telling me I’d need proof someday because nobody in Creek View would ever believe I had actually read a goddamn book, let alone five. Talking about God and why there’s evil in the world and bitching because the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Camp Leatherneck, me not missing home at all and you missing it like crazy, always talking about going to college and how when you had leave you were gonna marry Hannah. And you wanted kids, and I said I didn’t because people like me, we just end up disappointing one another and I’d probably be like my dad, and you told me I had to get over it, get over my dad and my mom and how screwed up everything is because you said, Josh, you’re gonna have it all. I know it. You’re gonna have it all. And for the first time, I’m almost believing that.”
There are parts of the book, that I was not sure at first how I felt about, it was chapters from Josh’s point of view, and it was not until I realized who/what he was talking about that it started to resonate with me, that we were getting an unique glimpse into some of the issues that Josh was dealing with, the PTSD that Josh came home with. Sure his PTSD lead him to doing stupid things, like trying to push Sky away, pulling away from his family, and having a tough time dealing with how he would get out of Creek View now, but I feel as the reader, that it was important for us to see Josh this way, to realize that he like all our soldiers, do not come home unaffected, if they come home in one piece.
“I don’t really know what it means to move on, but lately, with Sky, I’m starting to feel like I want to because when I look at her, I don’t see you or the war or any of the shit in my head. I just see her, and it’s like suddenly I can breathe again after holding my breath for so long.”
Sky and Josh’s relationship is rocky, there is still so much they are hiding from each other, but seeing them grow closer, and letting each other in was, to me, just like watching friends get together. It was real, it was not the insta love that so many other books have. There were real problems in their relationship, both dealing with personal issues that will either keep them in Creek View or send them farther away.
“When the store was empty again, I buried my head in my hands. I hadn’t realized how much Josh had been helping me get through the summer until he wasn’t there anymore. I wanted him to ask me how the Sky was. And then I wanted him to make it stop raining.”
What I really did like, was how protective Josh was becoming of Sky, especially when an old friend of Sky’s parents starts hanging out with her mother. Throughout the story their relationship, and the relationship Sky has with her friends, and mother were as real to me as if I was actually living the story. Heather Demetrios did an amazing job of writing a story that was real, that was relatable and that would resonate with the world we live in.
Sky and Josh were characters that were just trying to find a way to change the hand they were dealt and in the process fell in love. They are both strong characters that have flawed lives, but together found a way to become who they were supposed to be.
“It was the same creek I’d been going to all my life, but in his arms it took on a magical quality.”
I’ll Meet You There is a story that I will remember for a long time. A story I know I will read again, probably the best story I’ve read this year. Well done Ms. Demetrios, well done.
**all quotes from I’ll Meet You There are property of Heather Demetrios**