Review: Live Through This by Mindi Scott

Review: Live Through This by Mindi Scott

There’s something thrilling and even a bit nerve-wracking about reading the second novel by an author whose debut landed squarely on my True Book Love shelf.

It’s thrilling because of the anticipation of hoping that book magic will happen all over again. 

Mindi Scott’s 2010 debut, Freefall, is a book I love dearly (Laura’s review pretty much nails it) so I have been eagerly anticipating Live Through This. It received a starred review on Kirkus, and the pre-publication buzz has been extremely positive. When I saw it on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and noble—a whole week early—I squealed far too loudly and sprinted to the register, breathlessly explaining to the BN employee who rang me about about how much I’ve been looking forward to this book, and how it’s not actually out until October 2nd, and how I’ve got to know Mindi after I read Freefall and how it got a Kirkus star—and isn’t it all just so exciting! Needless to say, the poor guy thought I was a nutjob. 

That evening, I cracked open the book at around 10:00p.m., intending to just read a couple chapters after a stressful day and head to bed. Almost instantly I was gripped by the harrowing (which is how Stephanie Perkins described it in the cover blurb, which could not be more apt) story of Coley, a 15-year old in the Seattle suburbs whose life seems perfect on the surface, but underneath is anything but. 

For years, Coley’s kept a secret, maintaining the image of the perfect dance team girl. When she starts kind of/sort of dating Reece, and he winds up spending a couple of days with her family on their ski trip to Whistler, B.C., and Coley’s carefully partitioned life starts to unravel. 

I don’t know how to fix this, or if it can be fixed. There’s too much to say. Too much I don’t know how to say.

For over half of my life, I’ve been pretending… [spoiler removed] Reece keeps trying to put the pieces back together without having any idea what’s causing me to break.

I couldn’t set Live Through This Down once started reading. Despite needing to be up early the next day, I stayed up past 1:00 a.m., because I was so gripped by Coley’s story, overwhelmed by a feeling of dread. The story is carefully crafted so I really didn’t know for sure who Coley’s abuser is until halfway through the book. Sure, there were signs, but I didn’t want it to be true. 

That’s the beauty of Live Through Through This—Coley’s abuser is someone she cares about, someone with whom she shares a history. 

I generally avoid books that appear to be “issue” books, especially in young adult fiction. They often seem too cut and dry, with the “bad guys” always seeming like pure evil. And, yes, their actions are terrible. However, the actual relationships are  more complicated. Mindi shines a light on how unsimple the subject of abuse really is. She wrote a letter that was published in review copies and on her website about how the way abuse is usually portrayed, and how she wanted to show something different in Live Through This. This novel achieves that, letting Coley’s story be Coley’s experience in an authentic, nuanced manner. 

Live Through This also has some light, funny moments that shine—especially the scenes between Coley and her best buddy Noah, as do the sweet moments between Coley and Reece as they test the waters of the beginnings of a relationship. 

“This might be shaping up to be our best day ever now,” he says as we siver against each other.

That’s what I wanted to hear. I look up at him. “Really? This is better than giraffes and ice cream?”

“You don’t think so?

With his face this close to mine, he’s just eyes, a nose and cheeks that are so pink form the cold, and upturned lips. I smile back so big, it almost hurts. “I’m going to have to think about that.”

“Sure. Let me know what you decide.”

This multi-dimensional exploration of Coley’s life  makes Live Through This stand out; there is light along with the darkness in Coley’s life. That’s a critical point that distinguishes this book, because Coley is more than what has happened to her, more than the guilt that follows her.

Ultimately, Live Through This is a very different book than Freefall, but there’s a common thread that runs through them both in terms of figuring out the path forward. 

(It’s hard not to make the comparison, especially since they’re set in the same town and there are two Seth references and Rosetta and Kendall mentions.) Like with Seth, the path forward isn’t easy and Coley’s decisions have consequences and the emotions are so real. 

Now I’m sorry. 

I am so, so sorry. 

A sob escapes my lips and Reece scoots closer. I throw my arms around him, rest my face against his chest. 

“It’s okay,” he says, rubbing my back as I cry. “You’re okay.”

He’s so wrong and he has no idea. It’s totally unfair for me to put him through this; I know that it is. Still, I keep holding on. I keep soaking his shirt with my tears. I can’t make myself stop.

There are so many little moments in Live Through This like this one. Moments that made me know that something is going to change, but I never felt confident in how they’d change until the very last page. 

FNL Character Rating: Pending a consultation with Laura, our FNL Character Rating Expert, who is inconveniently out of town and hasn’t been able to read the book yet.

UPDATE: FNL Character Rating - VINCE HOWARD!!! 

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Disclosure: Mindi and I became friends when I Twitter stalked her after I read Freefall a couple of years ago and Laura and I hung out with her when she was in Portland earlier this year. Regardless of that, this review is my sincere opinion. 

A Few Thoughts on the Cover

livethroughthis.jpg

I’ve seen Live Through This included quite a bit in mentions of books with a “dead girl on the the cover.” I can see how people would see that (though when I first saw the image, I thought of a girl sleeping/dreaming), if they hadn’t read the book. However, having read the story, I noticed at least two scenes that the cover could easily represent. The dark, moody imagery constrasting with the perfectly coiffed blonde girl (there’s a scene in which Coley is styling her hair that’s very important, so this detail struck me) is also very representive of the stark constrast between the image Coley presents to the world and the reality of her life. 

I’ve noticed that Simon & Schuster’s YA imprints generally seems to draw more on the actual content of the books in their cover choices than some of the other publishers. For example, Second Chance Summer’s cover (which I didn’t initially like) made so much sense after I read the book that it’s actually one of my favorite cover images of the year. And, S&S’s YA books tend to have higher contrast, largely typography that translates well into different sizes and on different mediums.  

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