Blurb from Goodreads
Sometimes you have to leave your life behind to find your place in the world. . .
After five years at secondary school spent bullied and alone, Peyton King starts sixth form college determined that things will be different. Whatever happens, she will make friends at any cost.
When she finds the friends she’s always dreamed of, including an actual boyfriend, she’s happier than she’s ever been.
But when they let her down in the worst way, Peyton is left no better off than when she started. Now Peyton knows the only chance she has of finding happiness is to look for it somewhere else. With nothing but her sketchpad and a backpack, she buys a one-way ticket and gets on a plane. . .
This book is so heart wrenching…
I experienced so many feels as I was reading it. It’s the most painfully honest story of a seventeen year old girl trying to figure out … well basically everything about life.
You see Peyton was bullied all through her school years. She had no friends. No loyal confidante. She was alone. Picked on.
And to further amplify her misery her parents just didn’t understand her. They didn’t see her love for art as a path she could take in life. They, especially her father, were all about the traditional academic subjects and the subsequent likelihood of a 9 to 5 career that they would bring about.
Peyton’s father made her attend a college level school (from what I know this is somewhere where UK students attend for two years before typically embarking on a university degree) and it is there in that college that Peyton forces friendships. She’s so very desperate for companionship that she moulds herself to be a friend to people… well to people who just don’t truly ever know her. And things happen that make Peyton feel even more lost and alone than ever before.
So Peyton makes the decision to leave her life behind and find adventure in the wilds of Canada, and to hopefully begin to heal from the years of hurt.
The book uses a then and now narrative.
Then explores those months at college and how Peyton found herself at rock bottom.
And now is Canada. Canada where she has escaped to. Canada where she slowly begins to heal. Canada where she finds a disparate group of fellow travellers who help to change how she sees herself.
And what unfurls is a story that moved me so deeply.
I ached reading this book.
I empathised with Peyton.
I cried for her.
If you’ve ever felt lost or misunderstood you will find yourself in the pages of this book.
Sara Barnard has a great talent of crafting truly authentic leading characters and in Peyton is a girl that I think most of us will be able to empathise with. Though Peyton’s story may not be your story, Barnard’s talents lie in being able to find the humanity within her fictional characters, and having that humanity leap off the page to demand that we feel all that the characters are feeling.
As I read an eARC copy please be aware that the passage I am about to quote may be subject to change before the book is finalised. But these few words moved me so much that I had to share:
”Pain is not a hierarchy. It is like a reservoir. It all comes from the same place. Sometimes the volume changes, but people can drown in three inches of water.”
I love the sentiment in these lines. The understanding that we should never compare and contrast our personal pain. All pain is relevant to the person experiencing it, and one person’s experience isn’t more worthy than another’s.
What I really enjoyed about the book was the self awareness that Peyton had as a character and how that was juxtaposed against an almost nihilistic view of her own well-being.
In the past flashbacks when Peyton was at school and trying to fit in with this one group of friends you could really get a sense of her desperation. She ignored so many red flag behaviours: Flick using Peyton for her own gain, Peyton blinding herself to her lack of feelings for boyfriend Travis, the toxicity of Flick’s romantic relationship with her boyfriend Eric etc. It was fascinating to read how Peyton didn’t really want to be so reckless re the casual drug taking, sex etc. but her own self loathing was so blindingly overpowering (and at times understandably frustrating) that she lived those months in almost a fatalistic fashion.
And then to have that contrasted against Peyton’s much more positive experiences in Canada really heightened that sense that this character was really trying to bounce back from her lowest ebb. I enjoyed how the events in Canada unfurled in a slower nature; there was a much less urgent pace to these chapters which mirrored nicely the descriptions of the beautiful Canadian scenery. And I also appreciated that Peyton didn’t experience an over night healing. Instead her character arc was slow and steady; sometimes it was one step forward and two steps back, and others vice versa. It all felt wonderfully organic and never overly pressed. I also liked the romantic plot-line in the book because it never overwhelmed the overall story and was kept nicely simple.
My minor quibbles are that I felt the supporting cast of characters in Canada were a little too underdeveloped; I often forgot their names and mixed up who was who due to what I felt was a coherent description of each of the travelling buddies. Plus I felt that the grandfather storyline was very much shoehorned into the book as a convenient plot-device rather than being an intrinsic part of the overall story.
However, on the whole I thought this was a thoroughly wonderful YA read that I happily recommend to fans of emotional, contemporary YA.
*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Publishing 25 June 2020, Macmillan Children’s Books
The publication date of this book has been pushed back to early 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.