Nothing makes a reader feel more spoiled than easily slipping into a book and remaining emotionally invested throughout. It’s even sweeter when it comes as a total surprise. This, my friends, is A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery. The book follows Kelsey as she deals with the death of her twin sister, Michelle, right at the start of their senior year of high school. Kelsey’s grief leads her on an unexpected journey to get to know her sister better. Not to unearth any dirty secrets, but to understand her through art (her passion) and, a bit untraditionally, by corresponding with Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter — not as herself, but as Michelle.
We’re all lying to ourselves if we swear grief will never make us do outlandish things. On one hand, I loved how Kelsey was learning so much about herself and this box she’s been stuck in by uncovering what made Michelle Michelle, and, on the other, how could she not be honest with Peter and tell him that Michelle is dead? This was definitely a situation leading to no happiness for anyone but I almost couldn’t blame Kelsey — and that’s how you know Avery’s writing was so solid — because she wanted so badly not to lose this little piece of her sister that she could hold on to. Maintaining this correspondence with Peter (while he was in Afghanistan) almost felt like Michelle was still alive and how could she let that go?
A Million Miles Away gets messy for our characters as Kelsey finds herself falling for unsuspecting Peter and the suspense builds in such an extreme way that I was yelping from my couch. But I love that in books (especially in a complicated situation like this one) because it shows me so much about this author — how would Avery (and Kelsey) get herself out of this pickle? She did not make it on Kelsey and that was even better because this book is filled with the kind of family and friends we all need in our lives. The kind who call us on our shit and still are on our side. The ones who tell us the truth when we probably don’t want to hear it because it’s not pretty.
Sometimes it’s more difficult to feel close to characters that we are hanging out with in third person but that distance worked here because it reflected Kelsey’s own detachment from the real world. She’s harboring a huge secret, she misses her sister tremendously, and, in some ways, she’s finding out she hardly knew all of these layers to her own twin — and nothing in the world was going to give her that opportunity again. Cue the heartbreak. A Million Miles Away is exactly why I love contemporary YA fiction so much — experiencing the lowest of lows and highest of highs alongside a character who, even in the worst scenario, is discovering a whole new part of herself.
I think it’s time for me to read this one again.
Book was provided early by the publisher. Thanks!