99 Days by Katie Cotugno ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 4/21/15 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Pages: 384 | Target audience: young adult
Keywords: mothers/daughters, summer before college, bullying, romance
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Previously: a review of How to Love
Summary: Molly has 99 days standing between her and college. Can she ignore the past to survive the summer in Star Lake — a place she never wanted to see again? With constant reminders of all that went down last year, it’s impossible to say for sure especially when she finds herself back in the company of the Donnelly brothers.
There’s nothing like a novel that completely revs you up.
Trust me, in the cause of 99 Days, this is the best compliment I can give.
Molly Barlow is back in Star Lake for the first time since her “scandal” became public knowledge. Her time caught between the Donnelly brothers turned into a best-selling novel by her adopted mother, and the reason she lost so many once-important people in her life. In the wake of this devastation, she runs off to boarding school until senior year ends. Caps in the air and she is back for one more summer, planning to hide for the next 99 days… until she can start fresh at college.
Heavy stuff, right? The complexity within this story knows no bounds, especially as the novel unfolds. Molly’s relationship with her mother is shaky, her old best friend Imogen is avoiding her (and why shouldn’t she since Molly cut her off), and her old close friend, Julia, who also happens to be a Donnelly, is making her life a living hell. This is where my blood starts to boil because even though it takes two to tango, Molly has always been the one taking the brunt when it comes to her Donnelly love triangle. Does anyone key Gabe’s car? Does anyone call Gabe a slut? No, of course not. Enter the lovely double standard because it’s here to stay and made me so incredibly angry on Molly’s behalf. The girl feels guilty enough without having to be reminded of it every five minutes, but why should she be ostracized when Gabe still gets treated like Star Lake’s mayor?
My anger is a testament to Katie Cotugno’s writing. She twists what most think of as a black-and-white situation into something so gray, she’s practically discovered new shades. Love is a messy, complicated thing and I haven’t come across a portrayal of it quite as honest and heartbreaking as this one. When you feel something so intensely for two people at the same time, there aren’t words to properly explain that, especially when the end goal is (rightfully so) supposed to be one person. But how do you shut off your brain or your emotions? The reality is… sometimes you just can’t.
You know that bewildered way you feel after you wake up from a vivid dream? That’s exactly how I felt every time I jumped back into this book. I was in such a zone, and suddenly, I was jolted awake, surprised to realize a whole world was still going on around me. 99 Days was that captivating. Sure, the foundation is Molly caught between Patrick, her first love, and Gabe, this guy she clicks with so well, but it’s so much more than that – the loss of trust she feels with her mom, how much she misses being around the Donnellys when their entire family has been a part of her life for so long, how she had a best friend who stood beside her when things got rough and she took her for granted (everyone needs an Imogen in their lives), and the small realizations we make about ourselves and others as time passes.
There are times in our lives where we have to just follow our hearts – however unconventional that may be – and sometimes we just have to forgive ourselves. Molly may not understand why she is feeling the way she is feeling but at least she was honest with herself about that confusion. Most of all, I love how this book can challenge the most compassionate reader. Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect and it confuses me why we put the fictional characters we read about on such pedestals. For all you know, I could be Molly. The person sitting next to you could be Molly. Your best friend could be Molly. We desperately need to shift this conversation away from likability and back to whether or not a book tells an engaging story.
Two fun facts before I say adios: The first time I read 99 Days I stayed up until 4 a.m. on a Saturday night because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until I knew how it ended. Second: 99 Days is the first (and only) book I’ve reread this year, and I found it just as sexy, intense, messy, and wonderful as I did the first time around. I haven’t felt quite as passionate about a book this year as I do about this one.
Bonus: A chance to win a signed copy of 99 Days, signed by Katie Cotugno! Open to U.S. reads only. Good luck!