‘Seven Days in June’ by Tia Williams does not sit still

As problematic as this love story is, it is pretty damn engaging and, most of the time, at the end of the day that is what most lovers of contemporary romance want. Romance is an escape, isn’t it? If it mimics real life interactions, cute meets and situations, great. If not, at least you were able to escape in a world where love conquers all and sheer determination can bring two people together after over a decade of silence at the other end of the line.

The reason why I think the love story is problematic is because Eva Mercy and Shane bond early in their lives mainly based on their respective traumas. Yes, they do have things in common, especially their love of reading and writing and, yes, they show empathy towards one another, but they certainly do not help one another become a better version of themselves. Instead, they enable each other to pursue their unhealthy habits.

Of course, when they reunite, they are not the same teenagers they used to be. And yet, they have not fully grown either. They are still unstable in their own respective ways, especially Shane. But they are adults now, more responsible, and making better decisions than they used to. So now it’s about setting the record straight about what happened when they were younger and why it did. Making amends. Asking for forgiveness. Neither really thought that their flame would be as strong as it used to be, but somehow time, age and experience did not succeed in watering it down.

This is a story that feels aware of its story status. I felt the author – Tia Williams – who is also the narrator, more than I did the actual characters. This does mean that I was never truly able to forget that I was inside a fictional world, with fictional people going about their fictional lives. On the bright side, Tia Williams has quite an entertaining way of introducing her characters and laying down the scenes. I felt compelled to keep reading and find out how/if/when Eva and Shane would implode. At the end of the day, I took enjoyment from this, but I don’t quite believe that what Eva and Shane have is sustainable in the long run. Assumptions are made quickly and distrust is still present throughout. Like they say, still waters run deep and neither Eva nor Shane is the still water type.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

The Other Side of Perfect – Mariko Turk

This is the hard story of Alina, a young ballerina who broke her leg and saw her dreams of becoming a professional ballerina melt away. She has no idea how to navigate her new life, post-ballet, at a school where she doesn’t quite feel like she belongs. Her mood is down, she’s short with people, but luckily she has one good friend who’s been through something as well and understands Alina’s walls. But Alina’s walls are slowly coming down as she joins her high school musical, reconnects with her love of dancing, and develops new relationships with people in her life.

It is quite a beautifully-told tale. I can’t imagine what it must be like for someone to have their passion taken away from them in a slip second. I couldn’t picture what my life would look like without my ability to read. I guess I could turn to audio books, which can be enjoyable, but I certainly would miss the amazing feeling of starting a new story, getting to the end of a page and being excited about turning it, and even enjoying the visual qualities of a book. I’m also volunteering as a reader right now, so I read books to more isolated people in my region, and I wouldn’t be able to do that if I lost my sight or anything that enables reading.

All that to say that Alina’s ups and downs were very understandable. Despite her initial refusal to dance again if she can’t be who she used to, she gives herself a chance to be happy again and see the beauty in non-pointe dancing. I watched a YouTube video yesterday in which a overweight woman artist was worried about dating another artist because she assumed that artists loved beauty and she did not consider herself to be ‘‘classically beautiful.’’ Then I read the comments and someone said that being an artist is not about liking beautiful things, but about being able to recognize beauty in things. That really touched me and I am mentioning it because Alina is trying to see the beauty in things that she wouldn’t normally have found ‘‘classically beautiful’’ or as aligning with her vision of who she’s meant to be. I found that to be quite admirable. Though this story has its hard moments, it is ultimately uplifting and very human.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.