Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.
Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.
Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact . . .
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Entangled Publishing and Netgalley.)
17-year-old Sarah lives with her parents and her brother, but her life is far from perfect. Her mother is constantly doped up on pills and rarely leaves her bedroom, and her father (an ex-boxer) is an alcoholic, and regularly beats Sarah, her older brother James, and beats and rapes her mother.
Sarah and James live in constant fear of their father, and James often takes beatings to save Sarah.
Sarah and James plan on leaving and getting their own apartment as soon as Sarah graduates, but until then, one of Sarah’s greatest fears is that her father will rape her the way he rapes their mother, and take her virginity.
Sarah has had a crush on James’ best friend Sam for around 5 years, but James is so protective of her, he doesn’t let anyone talk to her, and so Sarah thinks that Sam doesn’t even like her, which is actually far from the truth.
When Sam finally makes his feelings known, Sarah knows that it’s definitely Sam that she wants to be with, but James makes it clear that she is to stay away from him. He doesn’t want her to date, and he definitely doesn’t want other boys touching her. The problem is though, that for James the lines between sister and girlfriend seem to be blurring, and he kisses her inappropriately!
Now Sarah is avoiding her father, trying to keep her relationship with Sam a secret, and avoiding getting too close to James for fear of what he will do.
Can Sarah and Sam ever really be together? Can Sarah manage to stay away from her father and avoid being raped? And what future lies ahead for Sarah and James?
Let’s just start by saying that this is not your average teen romance. This book deals with issues of incest, rape, domestic violence, and drug use.
Sarah has obviously had a lot to deal with during her life, and her father is one of her main problems. She’s desperately counting down the days until she and James can leave, until things change between them. James has always been protective, but when he kisses her, she begins to realise that maybe James’ feelings aren’t purely platonic. How she copes with this revelation is quite beyond me. If my brother tried to kiss me I would be seriously freaked out.
After worrying that her father would take her virginity, I’d also be worrying that James was following in his father’s footsteps, and as Sarah and James shared a bedroom it was even more difficult.
The idea of incest creeps me out (as I’m sure it does for most people), and there were several points in this book where I just thought ‘ick’ (as did Sarah). This book was one of those where at places you wanted to know what happened, but also didn’t want to know what happened just in case it was bad! (but at the same time you couldn’t possibly put it down.)
Poor Sarah found herself in a seriously difficult position, pushing her brother away, whilst at the same time needing him to protect her from her father. Wanting to be with Sam, but at the same time fearing that if James found out, he would kill Sam.
Sam was just lovely. He was so loving and understanding, and caring towards Sarah, and he was exactly what she needed. I just hated that Sarah and Sam couldn’t be honest with James about their relationship. The situation that they found themselves in was just awful, and it was just so unfair that they couldn’t be together openly, when Sarah needed Sam’s support so much.
I can honestly say that I didn’t love the ending, not because it wasn’t appropriate or realistic, but because it was heart-breaking! I don’t want to say anything to spoil it, but no! That’s not how I wanted it to end!! So upsetting!
Overall; a teen romance dealing with difficult issues!
8 out of 10.