Seventeen-year-old Evie Parker is devastated in the wake of her father’s sudden death. But she knows something her mother doesn’t: the day of his heart attack, her dad was planning to move out. After finding his packed bags, an impulsive Evie puts everything away, desperate to spare her mom more heartache.
To make matters worse, Evie soon learns the reason her father was going to leave: he had been dating his twenty-two-year-old receptionist, Bree, who is now six months pregnant. Desperate to distract herself, Evie signs up for a summer photography class where she meets a motley crew of students, including quirky and adorable Declan. Still, Evie can’t stop thinking about her father’s mistress. Armed with a telephoto lens, she caves to her curiosity, and what starts as a little bit of spying on Bree quickly becomes full-blown stalking. And when an emergency forces Evie to help Bree, she learns there’s more to the story than she ever knew…
When We Were Strangers is a roller-coaster of emotions for both the main character, Evie, and the reader. The same day her dad dies, Evie finds out that he had been planning to move out, if his packed suitcases are any indication. Covering it up as to not upset her mom any more than she is, Evie thinks she’s doing the right thing. But then she overhears her mom talking about her dad having had an affair with his young receptionist. Now Evie has no idea what to think or even how to process her grief.
Through Evie’s narration I felt like I could really feel her struggle with dealing with the grief and other emotions. I mean, not only is she grieving her dad and trying to process his affair, but then she also has to deal with her mom – who isn’t making any of this easier – and channel her anger when she realizes exactly who her dad was having an affair with. Evie makes decisions that surprise herself as she copes and learns how to process her emotions, which she does via a photography course.
The photography course plotline was a great way to have Evie get out and not spend her summer along and in misery. It got her away from her mother, who was falling apart for most of the story, and she got to meet a group of eccentric characters, including the cute and interesting Declan.
Because a summer romance is exactly what Evie needs right now, right?
Despite Evie wanting to protect her heart, she quickly finds herself falling for Declan and can’t help but want to spend time with him. I totally get her reluctance, not only because Declan was leaving at the end of summer anyway, but also due to the fact that she no longer trusts if romance really lasts.
Declan was adorable, plain and simple. I love his mixed Japanese and Irish nationality and how he was with his grandparents. He was just an easy-going guy and pushed Evie to do the right thing, without being a jerk about it. Then there was Evie’s best friend, Juana, who was a great addition to the story. She also pushed her bestie to do the right thing, but also understood Evie’s side of things and cared about how Evie’s interest in knowing more about Bree would affect both Evie and Evie’s mom.
Overall, this book goes through much more than I can really fit into a review. It deals with family, grief, relationships, forgiveness, and healing with a great cast of characters and a story that won’t be easily forgotten.
Rating: 4/5 stars