Review: How to Say Goodbye by Amber Lin

goodbyeHow to Say Goodbye by Amber Lin
New Adult
Released: April 7, 2014
Self Published

Reviewed by Mandi

I’ve read several of Amber Lin’s previous books, and while sometimes the stories don’t work for me, her voice is just lovely and I’m always eager to read her next one. This time, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I was hesitant because it’s a New Adult (hero is 18 and heroine is 19) and I’m kind of over the super, emo angst that this genre always brings, but this one is different. I’d say it’s more somber and serious than super angsty. Let me set it up.

Amy has grown up lacking affection. Her parents moved from Japan right before she was born  so she would have a US citizenship, but after her father is murdered, her mother leaves a six-year old Amy with an uncle, and goes back to Japan, never to see her daughter again. Her uncle is decent, but isn’t one to give out hugs or any type of affection. She is sent to a strict boarding school and becomes extremely introverted. She is very intelligent and makes it into Cornell university after skipping some grades. In the summer after her junior year, she gets an opportunity to travel to Cape Canaveral, Florida to intern at the Kennedy Space Center. She excitedly takes this  job, but her awkwardness and shyness follows her. She does amazing work, but has a very hard time socializing with her co-workers. So when she sees a man on the beach one day, it surprises her that she finds herself approaching him..and feeling sad when they part ways the first time.

“Bye, Cornell.” He crosses the beach, heading for the water.

He walked right past the frothy edge and dived underneath, leaving on ripples in his wake. His head came up once for air, and again, growing smaller, farther away.

She waited for hours. Or seconds, really. She stood with sand caked to her hands and her knees, feeling abraded and raw. Every other time in her life, she’d pretended not to want this. Friends and laughter. Easy camaraderie. Touch.

Dane has been homeless since the age of 14. Coming from a wealthy family, he was abused for years and apparently his parents didn’t know. So at the age of fourteen he decides a homeless shelter is a better option. Years later, he has found ‘home’ in Cape Canaveral. The weather is decent, he has an old pick-up truck he lives in, and he has found sometimes employment, even if it is degrading and shameful. Dane is a decent guy though, and although he has lots of dark shadows, he wants to be happy and live life. He starts to notice Amy on the beach, or at the park and they start a very tentative friendship which quickly builds to much more. He realizes how skittish Amy is and that he must be slow and cautious around her, but he also teaches her how to live. To break some of those strict boundaries she has placed on herself.

She hadn’t smiled when he sang. That was what had drawn him to her in the first place her serious, somber expression. It made him want to know what she was thinking, to find out whatever made her so damned cautious, to hear her problems…though he didn’t know why. He couldn’t fix them.

While I normally shy away from younger protagonists, these two have a pretty high maturity level. Amy is so well done – the struggle to break free of her mom who lives thousands of miles away is a hard one for her. To make her own decisions and her own happiness doesn’t come easy. Then she meets Dane – this drifter who does as he pleases. Yet, Dane struggles too. He has such shame of being homeless (he doesn’t have an ID because he doesn’t want his parents to track him down, but this makes it impossible to get a job). He has lived a hard life on the streets, and even to this day is still physically fighting people off. He wants to be this amazing person for Amy but feels like he isn’t enough. There are times in this book he lashes out and doesn’t speak to Amy that nicely. At first I was taken aback, but as I thought about it, I decided it felt realistic. Dane isn’t used to people caring for him, trusting him, wanting him around. It’s his defense mechanism to use his words cruelly at times.

I loved the progression of their relationship and how they both find peace, in their own life and with each other. This one will stick with me for a while.

Rating: B+

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