Once, In Lourdes by Sharon Solwitz

Welcome back! I should have mentioned yesterday that I’ve been reading some pretty intense books lately, and today is the beginning.


Title: Once, In Lourdes {320 pgs.}

Genre: Young adult {ish}

Publication Date: May 30, 2017


Four high school friends stand on the brink of adulthood—and on the high ledge above the sea at the local park in Lourdes, Michigan, they call the Haight—and make a pact. For the next two weeks, they will live for each other and for each day. And at the end of the two weeks, they will stand once again on the bluff and jump, sacrificing themselves on the altar of their friendship. Loyal Kate, beautiful Vera, witty C.J., and steady Saint—in a two-week span, their lives will change beyond their expectations, and what they gain and lose will determine whether they enter adulthood or hold fast to their pledge.

So. This book. It was…difficult. Not complex or hard to read, but…something along those lines.

I finished this book over the weekend and I’ve been sitting on it for awhile because I’ve been trying to figure out if I liked the characters or not. They were well-written and felt real, but that’s not what I mean. Did I like Kate? Did I like Vera? What about C.J. or Saint? Last night, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like any of the characters, but that may have been the point.

They weren’t perfect. They had flaws, and big flaws at that. But that’s what made them interesting and made me root for them. 

These teenagers have problems. That’s the understatement of the century. Kate is overweight and her father – and stepmother – are pushing her to lose twenty, thirty, forty pounds while bringing up her grade in her most hated subject. Vera’s mother has checked out, her overbearing father fluctuates drastically between love and violence, and her younger brother has take his love for Vera too far. C.J. is the stereotypical poor rich kid, a boy who doesn’t understand anything inside of him and tries everything he can to push down everything. Then Saint, poor Saint, the boy that they’re all in love with and who only wants to show everyone that he’s not like his father, but the violence constantly rises up inside him.

It’s no wonder that when Vera mentions jumping off a cliff in two weeks, they all jump at the chance.

The next two weeks pass in a blur of excitement and secrets. Everything that these kids have been trying to keep from each other comes pouring out in a gush of emotion. It’s difficult to sit back and watch them all implode by the stress and the unrequited love that is spurting through their veins. It’s hard to talk about this book without giving anything away, so I’m giving you a warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Okay, did everyone leave? Good.

Vera is a rather heartbreaking character. Not because of her half-formed arm and hand, or because her father is a complete jerk who lives on power trips, but because of what she does to those around her. Her main reason for jumping off the cliff is because of her brother, Garth, whom she slept with one night, high on acid. Now Garth’s obsession with her has her at the breaking point, and she shoves him away constantly because she’s in love with Saint. Although she doesn’t really understand that at first. She teases him and uses him until there’s nothing left but for her to admit that she loves him.

Their love is the catalyst for the climax. C.J., only beginning to understand that he prefers boys over girls, shares one night with Saint, but that only fuels the fire. Kate, good, loyal Kate, loves Saint for his beautiful face and his equally beautiful soul. She knows nothing would ever happen between the two, but she still loves him with the fervor of a girl falling in love for the first time.

They’re all doomed, whether they know it or not.

I would put this under young adult, but I added the “ish” because there’s a lot of sexual scenarios, drug use, and destructive behavior. One of the characters is telling this story as memories from their past, so it’s adult-like in nature, but I think it’s a good representation of teenagers from the late 1960s: the wildness, the freedom, the wanting something more from what you have. Isn’t that what being a teenager at any time is like?

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