It's too bad I didn't keep any pieces for myself.
At the beginning of senior year, Ann was a smiling, straight-A student and track star with friends and a future. Then she met a haunted young man named Connor. Only she can heal his emotional scars; only he could make her feel so loved - and needed. Ann can't recall the pivotal moment it all changed, when she surrendered everything to be with him, but by graduation, her life has become a dangerous high wire act. Just one mistake could trigger Connor's rage, a senseless storm of cruel words and violence damaging everything - and everyone - in its path.
This evocative slideshow of flashbacks reveals a heartbreaking story of love gone terribly wrong.
Any avid or long-time follower of my blog or reviews knows how I feel about abusive relationships, and how YA has gotten into the habit of glorifying them. So many popular books play on the “He’s just misunderstood” idea and twist very real signs of danger into a bad-boy angle that is supposed to entice when it should warn away. But I Love Him is chock full of some of these very signs, but unlike so many in the genre, this novel shows the realistic, gritty consequences of an abusive relationship. For that reason alone, I would recommend this novel to every single girl who finds herself drawn to the bad boys of YA.
But I Love Him is told in reverse chronological order, a decision that at first seems questionable and difficult to adjust to, but one that reveals itself to be a stroke of genius as the story progresses. Because the actual author can explain her decision so much better than I could, the below quote is taken directly from the author interview at the back of the book;
“By telling the story in reverse chronological order, it removes the reader’s ability to judge the protagonist. They don’t know the events that led up to the abuse, so they can only sit back and observe.”
This bold story-telling decision proves to be very effective. We slowly learn what could have brought a young woman to the lowest of low points the novel starts with, and by the time we turn that last page, we are forced to face the fact that Ann’s devolving relationship with Connor isn’t something that could have been avoided had she been a little smarter, a little more confident, a little bit stronger. It is far, far from being that simple.
Ann’s love for Conner is very real, which is to be expected in this kind of novel. But what may be a little less obvious before you really enter their relationship is that Connor’s love for Ann is equally real. Another questionable decision of Grace’s was to make the abuser sympathetic, a tragic character haunted by his past. While there are sure to be some who hate the fact that Connor isn’t a clear-cut bad guy, and hate this book as a result, I am in love with the unabashed realism of this book. Because in abusive relationships, the abuser is very rarely as clear-cut evil as we tell ourselves. It’s not the moments of pain and debasing that keep women in these relationships, it’s the moments of honest love and kindness that make it so hard to walk away. But I Love Him captured this perfectly. So in the end, Ann’s decision on whether or not to leave isn’t predicated on whether or not Connor really loves her, because she knows he does. It’s whether or not his love is enough of a reason to continue to endure the pain and loss of self.
“I have to decide who I love more: me or Connor.”
So the theme of this book shines. It’s a powerful story that needed to be told, and needs to be told again, one I wish more people could hear about. But I do wish that a few of the scenes had been a bit more powerful emotionally, especially some of the abusive ones. The story as a whole is immensely effective, but some of the big, stand-out moments of the relationship just weren’t given enough weight, in my opinion. There were also a few things that are mentioned in the beginning of the book that we never get to see actually unfold by the end, one specifically that I really wanted to read about. So while I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, it wasn’t perfect. But the honesty in the pages makes up for whatever they lack tenfold.
This is the second of Amanda Grace’s novels I’ve read, and between this and the upcoming The Truth About You And Me, which deals with a teacher-student relationship, she’s quickly becoming one of my favorite less-known authors out there. Her books deal with real issues and show real consequences, not some romanticized version of events. While I’ll always love my romantic, happily-ever-after YA, the world needs more authors as willing to plumb the darker sides of love as Amanda Grace.
But I Love Him - 4 out of 5 stars