Published by Disney Hyperion on June 5, 2018
Next-door neighbors and ex-best friends Hannah and Emory haven’t spoken in months. Not since the fight—the one where they said things they couldn’t take back.
Now, Emory is fine-tuning her UCLA performing arts application and trying to make the most of the months she has left with her boyfriend, Luke, before they head off to separate colleges. Meanwhile, Hannah’s strong faith is shaken when her family’s financial problems come to light, and she finds herself turning to unexpected places—and people—for answers to the difficult questions she’s suddenly facing.
No matter how much Hannah and Emory desperately want to bridge the thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows, they can’t. Not anymore.
Until their paths cross unexpectedly when, one night, Hannah finds Luke doubled over in his car outside her house. In the aftermath of the accident, all three struggle to understand what happened in their own ways. But when a devastating secret about Hannah and Emory’s argument ultimately comes to light, they must all reexamine the things they hold true.
In alternating chapters, a skeptic and a believer piece together the story of their complex relationship and the boy caught somewhere in the middle. New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone deftly crafts a moving portrait of faith, love, and friendship.
I finished this beautiful book last night, and I think when I closed the cover I actually said “oof” out loud. There was just so much to take in and process, this book packs a punch on multiple levels and I wish so much it had existed when I was 17 years old. I can’t recommend it enough. I will attempt to make words, but I know they’ll fall short.
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Emory and Hannah have been best friends since they were in diapers. Next-door neighbors, they were always just a few steps away from each other, and they shared everything, as only children often do with their best friends. And then one day, for a reason we don’t find out until the book is almost finished, they cease all communication. They don’t hate each other, but they certainly don’t like each other and they make no attempt to hide that. What you might think is a simple young adult book about girl drama and relationships is actually so much more than what you see on the surface, though: don’t judge a book by its cover (though this book has a stunning cover, might I add).
Emory is a theater kid. She’s always been showy and dramatic, and longs to go to college for acting. It’s just her and her mom, and her mom’s fiance who Emory makes no attempt to hide her disdain for. She has a boyfriend named Luke, a star lacrosse player, and while she loves him to pieces, she knows deep down it won’t last once they leave for college. So Emory, ever pragmatic, has a countdown in place for how long she can remain with Luke until it’s time to let him go.
Hannah comes from a deeply religious family – her father is the principal of the area’s Christian school, and Hannah is part of the acapella group there, SonRise. But whatever happened with Emory really shook her up, and we see her conviction with her religion start to come apart at the seams, piece by piece over the course of the story. What role does religion have in her life? Is she only a Christian because that’s how she was raised, is she a sheep? Or does she truly believe in what she’s grown up “knowing”?
We see these girls do so much growing up, in many different ways. Through their eyes, we question our moral convictions and religions. We think about relationships, and analyze the bonds we have with others. Hannah and Emory make us remember our “first” BFFs, our childhood and high school besties. Is there a higher power out there that puts things into motion, or are we just doing what our parents did, and what our parents’ parents did, all those years ago? What makes a person “good”? Can we ever really “get over” a traumatic incident? These are tough questions, and the girls tackle them with aplomb. Your heart will soar in time with theirs.
I am not a book crier, but I will freely admit I cried at this book twice. That alone should say something, because while I’m emotional, it never hits me at that meta “book” level. The other huge point I give this book is this: the ending is not all sunshine and rainbows. We don’t get an unrealistic, happy, “tied up with a bow” fairy tale. We get realism, the nitty gritty, good and bad both. And that is just how it should be.
The Bottom Line
If I’d had Emory and Hannah in my life when I was in high school, I would have felt so much better about my own personal struggle with religion and its role in my life. This is truly a one of a kind book that tackles the issues teens face today, but more importantly it’s the ones we don’t want to talk about because they’re too garish for the light of day – Ms. Stone drags them out into the sunshine and shows you their ugly face. If you are interested in raw, rich contemporaries that might have romance but it’s not the focal point, please look no further. Every teenage girl should read this book.