5 blue butterfly stars.
ARC kindly offered by the publisher through Netgalley
DEFINITELY SPOILERISH IF YOU HAVEN’T READ FULL TILT.
LAST WARNING. IT’S GOING TO BE QUOTE-Y
Before starting this book, I was suspicious. Everyone who’d read it kept saying it would make it all better, it’d make the hurt go away. That it would HELP. Still, after being destroyed by Full Tilt, I couldn’t imagine how it could ever be better.
Then, the bomb: Theo was going to be Kacey’s new love interest.
Now, I hadn’t given much thoughts to Theo in the first book. I’d loved his protectiveness towards his brother, but from that to becoming the hero…
His dark hair slicked back, his hands clasped in front of him where cufflinks glinted in the sun. His expression was flat with boredom, until he caught sight of me. His mouth fell open a little and his eyes widened. I smiled at him, tried a little wave behind my small bouquet of white roses. Theo didn’t respond but stared at me in that way he had, like he couldn’t believe I was real. I thought he was playing around but as I neared my place on the platform, his stare hardened and then he suddenly looked away.
And yet the biggest surprise for me was him. Theo is an amazing man and the perfect match for Kacey. First of all, because they share the same grief. He understands her loss and he’d never want her to forget Jonah or deny their past together. Also, he’s the rock everyone is hanging on to. He’s the man who’s there for you no matter the sacrifice. This characteristic of his personality was what really endeared him to me.
What surprised me was instead that Theo had been in love with Kacey for a while, even from before Jonah’s passing. It made sense, but it also created a lot of guilt in him. How could he dare substitute his brother?
Indeed, Jonah and Kacey were EPIC. They were meant to be. The frantic desperation of their relationship was something unique and unrreplaceble. I understood his feeling bereft at the thought of filling his brother’s shoes and how he berated himself over his feelings. The promise Jonah made him swear on his death bed, for how heartbreaking, for me was incredible. It made me cry like a baby, but it reassured me, too. Because it told me that everything was going to be fine in the end.
The installation was perfect. Flawless. Like Jonah had been in my mind’s eyes — the idol big brother who could do no wrong to his little brother who’d worshipped the ground he’d walked on.
The first part of the book was painful, I won’t lie. There were so many moments in which Jonah was present in thoughts, memories, actions. Every time his name was even hinted at, my heart squeezed and my breath hitched. It. Hurt. That moment, at the BBQ, when Theo is thinking about Jonah’s place, Jonah’s chair next to Kacey… wow, that was a bad moment. Not to talk about Oscar and Dena’s wedding.
I miss you, Jonah. We all miss you.
It was easy to feel like I suffered the most. To believe the bulk of the pain was mine to choke down — an enormous mouthful, while everyone else only had to chew little bites. But everyone who’d known Jonah had a place of pain to swallow.
Then, with Theo helping Kacey resurface back to life and the two of them getting closer, the pain dissipated. The sadness was still there, but it was… dull. They clicked together effortlessly and yet not so gracefully. Of course, they’re both plagued by doubts and guilt. They both wonder how it’s possible to fall for each other after losing Jonah. They start as friends, chatting over the phone since they live in different states now, and the slow burn was beautifully made. You could feel the tension simmer then undeniable pull they felt.
Also the family doesn’t seem to understand it, which was something I hadn’t expected, yet it made sense given Theo’s past occasional relationships and hookups. Yet, when you read it, you can feel the utter adoration Theo has for Kacey. It made me love him even more, how he fought against his feelings not to upset his family and Kacey herself.
I had to go. I made a promise. I went to her now, and I’ll go to her again if I have to. I’ll fail a hundred classes and be fired from a hundred jobs before I let anything happen to her again.
Kacey too went through a transformation. She has to let go of Jonah, and Theo will help her both physically and emotionally to overcome her damaging coping mechanisms and starting a new life.
My favorite scene of all, though, was the moment Theo and his father shared at the end of the novel. It had the emotional punch of a mack track straight to the stomach and it was the perfect closure for the arc of their relationship, especially given the confrontation between Kacey and her own parents. Those were twists that I hadn’t anticipated occurring, but I was happy they did because they showed how serious Theo was about Kacey, how protective.
I have this image of you holding a baby, tucked in the crook of your arm like a football while snagging a diaper of another toddler right before he tips over and clock himself of the edge of a table. And you do it with zero stress. Don’t even bling an eye.”
(Yeah, my ovaries didn’t survive this unscathed. I dare yours to.)
“I love you.” (Theo)
“I love you too, but–”
“No, I mean I love you and that’s it. I love you. I love you however you are. No strings or conditions. I love you and that’s it. Okay?”
I bit back a smile. “Okay.”
Theo’s not a chatty caty. He’s the silent, strong type who admittedly doesn’t always have to words to express how he feels. Especially at the beginning, when they’re still friends, I was almost angry at him for not telling Kacey how he felt, but I admit that it was too soon.
“And I don’t dance.”
“Yeah, right,” I laughed. “You’ll have to beat the single ladies off you with a stick. Maybe the married ones, too.”
“That’s not happening.”
“You sure about that?” I said, grinning. “Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery. You’re going to look amazing in a tux, Teddy.”
In the end, it was the perfect ending, the perfect closure to a story that is raw, real, moving and emotional. It’s life in all its complexity. And even though it wasn’t devoid of grief, old and new, It left me satisfied, almost at peace.
Love had no end. She was infinite. She was a universe, my universe, and I was hers. Love had no boundaries, no rules, no favorites. And no limits.