Only because it was not a 2-star read for me, but the disappointment level was pretty high.
Since this book was heavy on the metaphors of guilt, insanity and loving on the edge of pain I'll start with a metaphor of my own.
Reading this book felt like seeing a beautifully framed photo, in some picturesque place somewhere with two strangers in it and something poetic scribbled artfully in the scene.
But you're still in your house. Wearing your pajamas at 2 in the afternoon. Eating empty calories in bed (it's my day off work… I promise I'm not a slob everyday).
I was never taken THERE. There's a certain… detachment at play. Like an out of body experience, watching someone try to manipulate me into feeling something, doing all these tricks and stunts and gimmicks while I stand by and watch with mild clinical interest.
With that blurb in mind, just be aware that the mystery of what happened to Matheo will be your driving force to read on for the good first half of the book. You get a glimpse of him waking up in the hazy aftermath of the events that he cannot remember. You get a sense that something terrible has happened but the clues don't add up. Then you're taken for a ride to see a couple of days in the life of Matheo Walsh: top diver in the continent trying to balance out that desire to stay on top and his growing dissent of his parents' will to control his life, perfect girlfriend, perfect friends.
Until that day.
So basically this book goes:
✔ Matheo can't remember and you (the reader) don't know what happened.
✔ He starts to remember parts of it but you still don't know what happened.
✔ He claims to know what happened but you still don't know, and he won't fucking tell.
✔ He may or may not know the entirety of it but you'll cease to care because you've already figured everything out, probably more than Matheo did. And at that point, you're just watching this book twist and bend itself backwards trying to confuse you and keep you from knowing what went on, while you tolerate its efforts with bemusement.
I don't know, I feel like all that length and energy was just focusing on that non-mystery. When some of it could've been expended giving some more depth into Matheo and Lola's characters. After reading this, I felt like I was being forced to be sympathetic about two people I know nothing about because bad things happened to them. The alternative being I'm a cold heartless person who doesn't deserve a puppy.
Neither came across likable and I don't understand why they are in love with each other. And for a story relying heavily on that relationship, this book didn't give a good enough argument to make me believe all that devastating declaration of love. Their moments together felt superficial at best, one that not even Tabitha Suzuma's gorgeous prose could help.
Which, as I have experienced with Forbidden, is very much true for this one. The many ways she describes sunlight filtering through a window, Matheo performing a dive, the cacophony of the world going on while Matheo watches growing more insane… beautiful. But I find her busting out one too many frou-frou phrases in too close succession, sometimes to the point of redundancy, without reprieve of dialogue. I found myself reading with interest then slowly drifting away midway through.
Tilting his head back, he stares up as the wide swath of bottomless sky falters from purple, to Prussian blue, to violet - a pink smear cutting a path above the horizon like the mark on a child's finger painting. Haloes of light converge and cover the paling mist, turning it a sanctifying white as it falls like dust over the rocky headlands, the trees and bushes dark cut-outs against the rising sun. Below, the sea spreads out before him, whispering and wrinkled, sunlight dancing on the moving water.
That was just half the paragraph. Now think of every chapter having several of that. At one point Matheo and his friends took a trip to the South of France and I found myself dreading it.
Because that place has an ocean. And trees. And mountains. And all that fucking nature to be poetic about. Not to mention the feels! The feels that will be described lengthily! Repeatedly!
The only thing keeping me from calling this a literary masturbatory exercise is the actual weight of the subject matter that it tackles. Because it is quite heavy and one that is a novelty for me. And maybe all that detailed description of characters bathed in brightness and sunshine (something I also noticed inForbidden) should perfectly contrast the darkness and the growing void eating Matheo away but I could very well just be making excuses for all that… imaginary glare.
The best part of this book was Loic. His scene with Matheo, while still coming off contrived, still did the job of making me feel without the ever looming hysteria I seem to sense in every scene. And once you have it figured out and even beyond Matheo's confession, the drama goes into hyperdrive… one that I couldn't get fully on board.
The books that we love, we remember the smallest details. The little things that made our hearts skip a beat. Sadly, this one I'll just remember for the stunt it failed in pulling.