Accidentals by Sarina Bowen
A YA novel from USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.
Never ask a question unless you’re sure you want the truth.
I’ve been listening to my father sing for my whole life. I carry him in my pocket on my mp3 player. It’s just that we’ve never met face to face.
My mother would never tell me how I came to be, or why my rock star father and I have never met. I thought it was her only secret. I was wrong.
When she dies, he finally appears. Suddenly I have a first class ticket into my father’s exclusive world. A world I don’t want any part of – not at this cost.
Only three things keep me going: my a cappella singing group, a swoony blue-eyed boy named Jake, and the burning questions in my soul.
There’s a secret shame that comes from being an unwanted child. It drags me down, and puts distance between me and the boy I love.
My father is the only one alive who knows my history. I need the truth, even if it scares me.
Amazon Global Link: http://geni.us/ACCAmazon
After the last course—chocolate mousse—the three of us go tripping back across the cold lawn in the dark, Aurora in the lead. I’m the tiniest bit tipsy and wearing heels. So naturally I stumble on a frozen clod of snow and nearly fall. But Jake catches my hand to steady me. “Thanks,” I breathe.
Curiously, his warm fingers remain curled around mine until we reached the door of Habernacker.
I try not to feel ridiculously excited about it.
He lets go when we all reach the third floor. When Aurora opens the door, he follows us inside until we all collapse on the S.L.O., with me in the center.
“Oh! I forgot to steal my plate,” I realize.
“Me too.” Aurora sighs.
Jake reaches into his jacket and pulls out a plate.
“Well done, Mr. Jake!” Aurora laughs. “The party in the annex starts in fifteen minutes.” She heaves herself off the squishy couch. “I have time to redo my makeup.”
I watch her walk over to the stereo, where my phone is already ensconced, and turn on our Christmas playlist. Then she grabs her makeup bag off her desk and leaves the room.
When the door clicks shut, neither Jake nor I speak for a moment. The low chords of a Straight No Chaser song play through our little speakers.
Suddenly, it’s awkward. We’ve been circling each other for a while now—since the night he was trying to be nice and I wrecked it.
“You’re probably sick of a cappella by now,” I say, just to find something to talk about.
But Jake turns slowly toward me and says something unexpected. “Rachel, I need to ask you a question.”
My stomach does a little flip flop, and I turn to face those blue eyes I love so much. “What?” I whisper.
“Well…” He clears his throat. There is a very long pause, during which I hold my breath. “Will you come skiing some time?”
I exhale. “I guess so?” Another beat of silence passes. “That was your big question?” I ask, feeling like I’ve missed something.
His color deepens. “Well, no. I just…” His brow furrows, as if he’s trying to explain some point of astronomy. I love his look of concentration. I’ve missed it.
Jake’s blue eyes lock on mine, and I see how our own orbits might finally collide. This time, I will not send the moment winging back into space. Instead, I lean an almost imperceptible degree in his direction.
And that’s all it takes.
Reaching up, Jake cups his hand to the side of my face. I’m still processing the sweet touch of his fingers when he leans in farther, his lips brushing the sensitive corner of my mouth. His eyes are tentative, seeking permission. My heart thuds with expectation.
And then—finally—Jake kisses me for real. We come together the way a well-timed drummer kicks into the chorus of a song—swiftly, and without hesitation.
We broke apart a moment later, eyeing each other while I try not to smile. “Can I do that again?” he asks, his voice rough. “That was my real question.”
“Well, since you asked so nicely…”
Jake makes a low noise of approval, then draws me closer. I reach up for the back of his neck, my fingers grazing that golden patch of skin I’ve always wanted to touch. He kisses me again, his arm finding the velvet waist of my dress and encircling me.
My heart flutters, but not from fear. Warm lips tease mine gently apart. And when his tongue tangles with mine, I lose myself.
He tastes like champagne. Everything is wild and sweet, until the moment Aurora’s voice rings out. “Ay, caramba!”
I feel an unwelcome rush of cool air between us as Jake retreats.
“I did say I was going into the bathroom, right? And not on a trip to Fiji?”
Neither of us says a word; we only look sheepishly at Aurora.
“Just to be clear, now I’m ducking into the bedroom for my coat, which only takes a second.” She steps into the bedroom, and I hear the rustling of fabric. Then she peers dramatically around the door frame. “Good listening! Now I’m going to the party. Will I see you both there? Don’t answer that. We’ll speak later.”
Jake laughs. “Sorry, Aurora.”
“I’ve seen worse.” She departs, the door closing behind her.
And now I’m self-conscious. Rising, I decide to fiddle with the music playlist. “Do you want to go to the party?”
“I’ll go. But I’m not great at parties. It’s all shouting over the music, drinking warm beer out of a plastic cup.”
“Then let’s not.” My fingers shake as I adjust the volume. I go back over to the sofa and sit down.
“So.” He clears his throat. “Where are you going for break?” As he asks, he takes one of my hands in his, massaging my palm with his thumb.
His light touch is so distracting that I almost forget to answer. “Kansas City,” I manage. “To meet my grandfather for the very first time.”
“Um, what?” He squeezes my hand.
So I tell Jake the embarrassing highlights of my weird story—that I hadn’t met Frederick until this past summer.
“Wow. I’m sorry,” he says.
“I guess I’m not that offended now that you wouldn’t introduce me. If the normal waiting period is seventeen years.”
My laugh begins with an unladylike snort. Ah, well. “With me it’s just all soap opera, all the time. Believe it or not, a year ago I was really a boring person.”
“I don’t see how.” He regards me with darting eyes. “You look beautiful tonight.”
“It’s Aurora’s dress,” I whisper.
But Jake doesn’t seem to care. He slips his arms around my waist. Scooting closer, he slides his lips from my forehead, down my nose and onto my mouth. And we begin again.
This book was a tough one. I got into it blind, since I love the author, but with a general idea of what the YA genre implied. I was expecting a cute coming of age story, but this book was way heavier than that. I am not saying it in a negative way. I liked how this book played my heart strings. It was intense, and Bowen did a great job letting the characters’ actions speak louder than internal monologues ever could. That being said, I did found this novel a bit too disproportioned towards sedness. The story starts from Rachel’s lowest point, her mom having just died, and throughout the novel, you could still feel the hurt caused by both her parents. It was omnipresent and while it added realism, it also made the book denser.
Realism is definitely one of the major positive features of this book. Each character is flawed in a human and relatable way. If at first it was disconcerting for me to see how the story was not evolving in the way the books I normally read would, with serendipitous happenstances and good feelings thrown in to balance the bad, I started to appreciate the realism as it hightened the emotions conveyed in the story.
Rachel’s character was different than the usual heroine. She’s very… average, in a good way. She has her hobbies and passions, but she’s not a genius, or overly-sassy or sterotypically beautiful. Many readers will be able to relate to her insecurities and personality.
The other key character of the story, in my opinion, was not her love interest, Jake, to which I’ll get to in a minute, but her father, famous musician Frederick Richards. Their relationship was very human, and the misunderstandings made sense, considering that they had never seen each other before. Still, I have to say, I saw Rachel’s non-confrontational attitude towards Freddy as quite troubling. Her hurt in reaction to his actions felt so real and so deep that I ended up wanting to slap Freddy more times than I actually supported the dude.
Now onto Jake. I loved Jake. 100% great guy. Nerdy, but also fun, and attractive and thoughful. I would have loved to read more about him. But here lies the issue. I felt like his character could have been given more space. Sometimes I felt like he was there as a pawn for the narration, rather than being a human being with his own flaws and thoughts and feelings. For example, when a question arose regarding his similarity with his brother, I would have loved to really dig into that topic and bring Jake’s insecurities to the surface a bit more. That being said, I adored the guy. He was the sunshine to Rachel’s justified glum, and I smiled every time I read his name of the page. On the other hand, I was quite confused about Haze. I started the book loving him, then pitying him, then I was just puzzled about his role in the book and whether it was truly necessary.
Regarding the plot, I found it unconventional but interesting how the author took her time with Rachel and Freddy’s introduction at first and their dynamics, with her transferring to Clairborne Prep almost halfway through the narration. It gave the reader something to look forward to, but also a ground for Rachel and Freddy’s relationship, budding as it may be.
The writing style is solid and this book kept me hooked. I literally could not put it down, and YA is also a genre I don’t usually read because it does not grab my attention anymore, so extra kudos to the author for that. I liked the characters, the story was gripping and very emotional.
The reasons why the last star fell are two. Again, the book is great anyway, but I feel like I need to express these thoughts I kept having while reading. First, the story was quite complex, with many intersting secondary characters, to the point though that some “more important secondary characters” felt a little dull because they were not given enough space (Jake and Haze). And this book was so interesting, the characters so relatable that I wanted to know more about them. I felt like there could have been so much more to be said. If this book had had another couple hundred pages of backstories on them, or simply a deeper insight into their lives, I would have been over the moon. Even simple things like Aurora’s relationship, or Freddy’s past with Rachel’s mom… at the end I just felt like not all loose ends had been tied and I just wanted to know more. The other minor critique is that the ending was a bit anticlimatic. This novel is the story of Rachel Kress’ life after her mother’s death, which signals a justified starting point. However, the end was quite arbitrary and almost abrupt. Again, I am calling forth realism in guessing the author’s choice, because I understand that in life conflics and issues don’t cease existing when the word “end” is typed, but still, considering everything Rachel is put through, even though involuntarily, by her father and in general by everyone around her, the final confrontation between Freddy and Rachel didn’t truly satisfy me, and her situation seemed still very uncertain.
Overall, a gripping and highly emotional YA debut for Bowen, who does not shy away from complicated relationships and human nature at its best, as well as at its lowest. I would be really interested in reading a sequel of The Accidentals in the future, as, as I said, the only real flaw this book has is that it left me wanting to know more about these characters.