IN THE SPOTLIGHT: My Only by N.K. Smith

Have you ever felt overshadowed by someone close to you? Have you ever wished you were born different – more attractive, smarter, easier to talk to? Now imagine if there was another person in the world who looked exactly like you but they were the better version of you in every single way. That is the story of Adam…

Read my 5-star review

I read so many incredible books each year, but very few stay with me to such an extent that every time they cross my mind, my heart clenches. My Only is one of those rare books that touched me profoundly, permanently, and its beautiful story never really left me. If you’re looking for a truly emotional, beautifully written read, to move you, own you, make you FEEL in shouty capitals, this is the book for you! Today, I have the truly great honour of letting you know that this stellar book has just been re-released with a beautiful new cover, a much more affordable price point, and of sharing with you an excerpt. Please please please, give this book a chance, you will not regret it. ♥

My Only_new

Adam James’s life is far from perfect. A talented drummer from a small suburb of Chicago, he keeps to himself and downplays his abilities. Thinking that he is less than all those around him, Adam lives his life in the shadow of his popular twin brother, Aaron.

When a free-spirited new girl with a troubled past moves in across the street, Adam’s eyes are opened to a new world of possibilities. Olivia Cartwright’s philosophies on life give her a deeper understanding of the world. An instant connection between Adam and Olivia draws them closer, but he wonders why anyone would choose him when a better version exists. His worry grows stronger, especially when Aaron takes an interest in Olivia.

Will the friendship with Olivia change Adam, or will he continue to close himself off in his own world?

Adam has a choice to make: risk his friendship with Olivia or fight for something more.

Adam has a lot to learn about love…and life.

excerpt

“Something you’re interested in?”

The usual smile was no longer there. Instead, she looked somber—not as intense as when we spoke in the car, but definitely more serious than I’d ever seen her.

Her words took me even more off guard than her appearance. “How’d your mom die, Adam?”

It took me a moment for the question to sink in. I wasn’t used to talking about it. While I suspected Aaron thought about her, quite a lot actually, he never said anything to me. Likewise, it didn’t seem like it would do anything for me to have a conversation with him about it.

I licked my lips and swallowed hard. I wasn’t able to look into Olivia’s eyes because they seemed to bring up too many emotions. I trained my gaze on the blue book with gold lettering across the small aisle. “She died giving birth to me.”

“So you never even met her?”

I shook my head and tried to push back the welling depression that always overtook me when I thought about that very fact. “No. She pushed Aaron out, but they had to cut her to get me out. I don’t know. My dad won’t say much. Just that her blood pressure dropped, and she was gone before she heard me cry.”

Olivia didn’t say anything, which I was happy for. Sometimes people felt obligated to fill the silence after deeply personal things were shared. I liked that she gave me the distance to feel what I was feeling and not have the additional pressure of alleviating the awkwardness.

“Sometimes I think my dad hates me because of it. Aaron, too.”

That was my voice. I’d said those words, but I hadn’t meant to. I hadn’t even known that I wanted to. I looked down at my lap as I pushed a deep breath of air out. I held it in my mouth, ballooning my cheeks as the breath escaped slowly through my lips. The thought I’d just expressed felt heavy, and I wished I’d felt lighter after having released it, but I didn’t.

Olivia sort of leaned into me, nudging me with her shoulder. “They might have complex feelings, but I’m sure they don’t hate you. Of course, I’ve only met your dad once, but I don’t think he could ever hate either of you.”

We were quiet again. She drew her knees up, putting her chin on them. I felt bad for making what should’ve been a fun time into a depressing thing, but she’d brought up the subject. We were sitting in the metaphysical section, surrounded by books on death, dying, and the afterlife, so maybe the conversation was more appropriate than anything else.

“What about you? How did your mom die?” I asked, turning my whole body to face her. I wanted to see her expressions as she revealed more of herself to me just as I had just done for her.

She took a deep breath, and looked me in the eyes. “We were grocery shopping and the store got robbed. It happened really fast, but one of the two guys fired and one of the bullets hit my mom.”

“Oh my God.” It always seemed like I didn’t know what to say to her, but this was different. What was there to say to that? It was horrible, and I couldn’t imagine what she’d gone through at all.

Despite the fact that I liked the silence she gave me after telling her about my mother, I couldn’t give her the same for long. There was so much to know and I felt drawn to learn it all. “You were with her?”

Olivia nodded, her face twisting up into some kind of a mask of pain. Her lips were pressed tightly together and her eyes closed for a moment. When she opened them again, she turned away from me. I thought she might cry, but when I looked at her profile, I saw there were no tears.

“How do you process that?” I sighed when I realized I sounded more like a therapist than I’d wanted to sound.

“I didn’t process it. I accepted it and moved on.”

Her voice was too steady and her words were much different than I expected. “But I don’t—”

“Listen, life’s too short to let sadness overpower you for long periods of time. Like you said, ‘Everyone dies.’ I felt my emotions, cried my tears, and then came to peace about it. You don’t ever ‘get over’ something like that,” she said, adding air quotes. “All you can do is embrace the experience and do your best to go on.”

I struggled to understand. Her mother was dead. So was mine. Her statement about never getting over something like that was incredibly accurate, in my opinion. Yet, her comment about simply embracing the experience was foreign to me. “I don’t know anything about my mom. How do I ‘embrace’ her dying as I took my first breath?”

She turned to me once again. “You know that she loved you enough to die to give you life. And if you want to be poetic about it—you took your first breath, she took her last, and together you breathe every day.”

The words bumped around my mind until I was able to dissect and study them then put them back together. Maybe she was right. Maybe my mom gave me my breath. Maybe she lived through me now.

Olivia had a way of making everything seem better.

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✤ ✤ ✤

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Other books in the series or related posts:

BOOK REVIEW: Are You Mine? by N.K. Smith

areyoumine_322x500Human connection? Who needs it?

Ever since she can remember, wealthy but weary Saige Armstrong has felt different from her peers in Pechimu, New Jersey. With only one good friend to her name, she has navigated the complicated halls of high school and is now faced with the timeless question: Now what?

Fox Harrington, a fun-loving, socially charismatic graffiti artist uses his passions to color his world exactly how he wants it. He knows exactly where his life is headed. That is, until he meets Saige.

A summer project links the two together, making a tentative friendship bloom into romance, but despite their affection for each other, fundamental beliefs and ways of thinking threaten to destroy all they have built.

In this tender story of young love, N.K. Smith delivers a striking tale of two people standing on the precipice of adult life.

review

“Not everything has to be so serious, Saige.”
“Not everything has to be a joke, Fox.”

Opposites attract. Two people that are different in every single way and yet cannot resist the pull bringing them closer together. This is the story of Saige and Fox, two young people on the brink of adulthood, but with very different attitudes towards the unpredictable future before them.

Saige is not a people person. She does not enjoy spending time with people nor does she make any efforts to make others like her, her abrasive personality preventing her from making friends. But deep down this toxic persona that Saige uses as a protective façade is not the person she really is. Having lost both parents to violent deaths very early on in her childhood, Saige walks through life never committing to anything – people, feelings, plans, decisions. She made procrastination into an art form, choosing to be a bystander in her own life because she is too afraid of further loss and disappointment.

“It’s a cold hard fact that people suck, and those who don’t suck aren’t dependable anyway, so there is no use putting your hopes and dreams in them.”

Fox is the life of every party. His happy personality makes him everyone’s favourite person, his contagious positivity being his dominant trait. But Fox has his own crosses to bear, his mother’s mental illness leaving him helpless and heartbroken, and his learning disability making him feel ashamed of his own inadequacies. And yet, Fox is like a ray of sunshine, never dull and never not shining brightly when among people. He’s a good son, a reliable worker, a passionate artist, and when he meets Saige, he does not see her darkness like most people in her life, he sees a hurt young woman desperate not to get hurt again.

“Who hurt you?”
“No one hurt me.”
“You’ve never given anyone the chance, have you?”

What starts as a unlikely connection, slowly develops into a gentle romance. Saige fights Fox’s advances relentlessly and stubbornly, but the more time they spend together and the more of Fox’s inner sunshine she basks in, the more she cannot help but fall in love with him. He brings her out of her shell, forces her to face her own demons and finally think of her future. But this is not an easy battle for either of them – Saige’s loneliness and pain from losing her parents have affected her deeply and moulded her into someone who is so terrified of further loss that she would rather give up on happiness rather than risk losing it later on in the future.

“I guess I just want to be the one–”
“Who leaves this time?”

This is a story of learning to love oneself, of finding strength and courage to take risks even when life has given you only suffering, of making changes in oneself when you come across something or someone worth making the effort. Saige and Fox’s beautiful romance is a timeless lesson of human endurance and capacity to heal, a testament that there’s a Phoenix in all of us, ready to rise from the ashes and embrace life to the fullest. Ms Smith is a skilled wordsmith, her writing style is atmospheric, moving, inspiring. She writes with sincerity and heart, and every story she weaves is deeply emotional and personal. You feel every layer of the characters’ personalities, every dilemma and every heartbreak. I FELT this story, I lived this story and I loved every minute of it.

“Underneath your hard, abrasive exterior and underneath my soft, friendly persona, we’re the same. You hide out and I let out. You go inside yourself, and I go outside myself, but apart from what’s out here,” I say, gesturing to her, myself, and our surroundings, “we’re just little kids wondering if anyone else understands what it’s like to lose the things we’ve lost.”

4halfstars

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The Author

NK Smith_picBased in the American Midwest, N.K. Smith is a Technical Writer for a Fortune 100 company. The author of the Old Wounds Series, Ghosts of Our Pasts, and My Only, she is a mother of two who finds the time to write very early in the morning when the rest of the world is still fast asleep.

An avid lover of history, art, music, books, and people, she is interested in telling stories that speak to the human condition.

Connect with N.K. Smith: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

COVER REVEAL: Are You Mine? by N.K. Smith

Last year I read a book that changed my life. It cemented my love of books and set such a high standard for any book that I have read ever since. That book was My Only. So you can only imagine how excited I was when I heard that N.K. was releasing another beautiful story that will undoubtedly own my heart cover to cover. I feel very honoured to bring you today the stunning cover of N.K.’s upcoming New Adult Contemporary novel, Are You Mine?, cover design by Regina Wamba of Mae I Design and Photography and photography by Poly Mendes

Expected release date: 7 August 2013

Are you Mine by NK SMITH ebooksm

We only talk when he’s pointing something out to me, and I like that. There’s something almost magical dancing around us, like I’m inside a cloud nebula and we’re creating our own star. I think he feels it too. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I see twinkling in his eyes, like he’s looking at something special, like the vast, sparkling sky that hosts planets and stars.

But he’s just looking at me.

It makes me think that maybe I’m special, at least to him, and because of it, I feel special. Like I’m not just Saige, stuck in the merry-go-round of my little life, but like I’m half of something huge and awesome on the roller coasters of the unknown.

After I pitch my coffee cup, he takes my hand and uses his momentum to swing me, then presses me up against a building – I don’t know which one and I don’t care – and stares at me like I’m the only person in the world other than him.

The kiss is fantastic and generates heat from the core of my body that radiates out to my extremities. It’s a scary kiss because I know with every millisecond that passes, I’m more and more invested in him. This feeling I have – the feeling he gives me – is so deep and wondrous, I never want to let go of it.

The Story

Human connection? Who needs it?

Ever since she can remember, wealthy but weary Saige Armstrong has felt different from her peers in Pechimu, New Jersey. With only one good friend to her name, she has navigated the complicated halls of high school and is now faced with the timeless question: Now what?

Fox Harrington, a fun-loving, socially charismatic graffiti artist uses his passions to color his world exactly how he wants it. He knows exactly where his life is headed. That is, until he meets Saige.

A summer project links the two together, making a tentative friendship bloom into romance, but despite their affection for each other, fundamental beliefs and ways of thinking threaten to destroy all they have built.

In this tender story of young love, N.K. Smith delivers a striking tale of two people standing on the precipice of adult life.

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The Author

NK Smith_picBased in the American Midwest, N.K. Smith is a Technical Writer for a Fortune 100 company. The author of the Old Wounds Series, Ghosts of Our Pasts, and My Only, she is a mother of two who finds the time to write very early in the morning when the rest of the world is still fast asleep.

An avid lover of history, art, music, books, and people, she is interested in telling stories that speak to the human condition.

Connect with N.K. Smith: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Read my interview with N.K. Smith

Are you Mine by NK SMITH_full jacket_small

BLOG TOUR: My Only by N.K. Smith

From the first moment I read the synopsis of My Only I knew I HAD to read this book.

“… resigned to sit on the sidelines of life, overshadowed by his outgoing and popular twin brother …”

I love well-written stories of sibling rivalry and family bonds, but I love stories of self-discovery and of conquering one’s own hang-ups even more. This story proved to have it all, and then some.

There will never be enough words in the dictionary that could express how this book has affected ever since I read it. This is not a story of conflict, this is a story of human connections and of living life to its fullest without any regrets. There were scenes that made my heart clench, some that literally made me a sobbing puddle of mess, and others that quite simply obliterated me, but there was never even a split second where I did not enjoy reading this book.

Read my review HERE
The Story

Shy, awkward Adam is resigned to sit on the sidelines of life, overshadowed by his outgoing and popular twin brother, Aaron. Adam James’ life is far from perfect. A deeply internal person, Adam is silently confused about his lot in life, including life after high school. A talented drummer from a small suburb of Chicago, Adam keeps to himself, downplaying his abilities, thinking that he is less than all those around him. By living a life of moderate isolation coupled with his ambivalence toward most people, he is unable to gain new perspectives on himself.

But when a free spirited new girl with a troubled past moves in across the street, Adam’s eyes are opened to a new world of possibilities. Olivia Cartwright is a fun loving, beautiful girl whose philosophies on life give her a deeper understanding of the world around her. Previously living a semi-nomadic life, Olivia is out of her element in the quiet, slow-moving suburb of Lakeside, Illinois.

An instant connection between Adam and Olivia draws them closer, but why would anyone choose him when a better version exists? What will happen when Adam’s outgoing twin Aaron takes an interest in Olivia as well? Adam has a choice to make: Keep his relationship with Olivia merely friends or fight to take it further, keep safely within the dormant cocoon he’s lived in for years or find and cultivate all of his good qualities. Which will he choose? Will the friendship with Olivia change him? Will he adopt her philosophies, or will he continue to close himself off in his own world?

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The Interview
NATASHA | What inspired you to write My Only? How and when was this BEAUTIFUL story born?

N.K. | The image of Adam watching Olivia dance in her bedroom was the initial inspiration. I’m not one hundred percent sure of when it was born, but I know it was after I finished writing Ghosts of Our Pasts. After that one, I wanted to write an innocence driven story of the crush of first love. I wanted it to play on the insecurities a young person has when facing a crush on someone held on a pedestal.

When I first started writing it, it was going to be a very cautionary tale of teenage hormones and insecurities, but as I delved deeper into who my characters were, it just didn’t fit, so instead, it became a story about finding yourself through a connection with another person; a story about how lost and alone you can feel one moment, but then through a simple touch from someone else, you know exactly who you are, where you are, and where you’re going to go.

NATASHA | I get the feeling that you write books primarily for yourself as they come across as incredibly intimate and emotional. While reading My Only, I felt like I could reach into your soul and see exactly what kind of person would have written a book like that. How personal is your writing to you?

N.K. | I grew up telling myself stories to either pass the time or make myself feel a certain emotion that I otherwise couldn’t emote. Storytelling has always been a way for me to process things in my life. The stories aren’t something that’s happened to me, but they usually contain a certain emotion that I need to express. Writing is incredibly personal. I would write if no one read it, but as I get older, my goal is to share my work with other and make them feel something.

I didn’t write My Only to fulfill some specific need, but when I think about the novel now, I think it speaks to my own feeling of being different. I’ve thought, felt, and acted differently than my family ever since I can remember, so Adam’s journey through the book was a bit cathartic to write. To have him gain acceptance – both from other people and from himself – was a way for me to evaluate my own journey into self-acceptance.

Again, I didn’t think about it like that while I wrote it, but now that I have perspective, I can see it. My novel Ghosts of Our Pasts, however, was born out of a direct need to process a specific event. I’d ignored it nagging at me for quite some time, but as soon as I acknowledged its presence, I knew I had to write about it.

So that’s the long way of saying, my writing is very personal to me, as I’m sure it is to most authors. I tend to pick subject matter that appeals to me without forethought of what the mass public might think or feel about it. I want to write. I want to share my stories. I’d love to make a living doing so, but it has to be authentic.

NATASHA | What was the hardest part to write in the book?

N.K. | I don’t think the hardest part to write in the book is what you’d think it is. That part was relatively easy to write. I think the hardest to write was the Aaron/Adam relationship. It is, by far, the most complex relationship in this novel. They love each other, they shared a womb, they grew up depending on each other, yet there’s some hidden (and not so hidden) animosity between them. They had to be opposites, yet not so opposite that they couldn’t connect.

One of my favorite little moments is when Aaron and Adam sit on the kitchen floor and eat late at night, talking about stupid stuff that happened during the day. I think that’s just a little snapshot of the fact that even though they’re different, there’s genuine love and comfort that rests between them.

NATASHA | THAT was by far one of the most emotional scenes for me to read! … Do you read the reviews? If so, what is your reaction to the overwhelmingly positive comments about My Only? Did you ever expect people to welcome Adam into their hearts so willingly? … Did you ever expect to make people ugly-cry so much?

N.K. | I do read reviews. I try my hardest not to be obsessive about it, but it’s the only way to get direct audience feedback. I don’t think I’d be able to grow as a writer if I didn’t read reviews to see what I might have done well or what I might have missed.

I don’t know if I expected people to love Adam. I’m not surprised that people like Adam, though. He’s an underdog and like me, people love underdogs. There’s something unifying in cheering on someone who may not have a huge shot at something great. It’s also easy to love someone who doesn’t think much of himself. I don’t know why that is, but it is.

Has it made people ugly-cry? In my opinion, it’s not a sad story, so any tears should be seen as a beautiful-cry. It was important for me to thread as much hope as possible throughout the novel because sadness and hope are two sides of the same coin.

I’d hoped people who read the novel would be somehow affected by it. I knew readers would connect with it, but I didn’t set out to make anyone cry. I’m honored that people felt the story so completely to have that kind of reaction. It’s a huge compliment.

NATASHA | What and who are some of your favourite books and authors?

N.K. | Oh my! How do I list all the books I love and authors I admire? I always find this very difficult to answer.

I love Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bones, but haven’t had a chance to read the sequel.

A good friend of my recommended Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, and that was phenomenal; a book that makes you think about it for weeks after you finished it.

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was likewise fantastic. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more invested in a world than that one. It actually hurt when it was over. I kept dragging my heels to finish it because I didn’t want it to end. And yes, I did send an email to [email protected]!

Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road, Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went also round out my favorite modern literature. Oh, my God, I almost forgot The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. So good! Oh, and Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. The Trojan War has long been one of my favorite things, although I prefer Hector to Achilles. Miller actually made me like Achilles, whom I’ve hated since ninth grade for his despicable behavior to the poor Hector (I’m irrationally attached to persons of historical significance, but I accept it as a part of who I am).

For older stuff, I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I love anything by Steinbeck but I think my absolute favorite old book is One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I can’t remember when I first read it, but I’m pretty sure it was high school, and I remember just being hit by the overwhelming emotions, even though emotions were downplayed in the book.

NATASHA | What are you writing now? Is YA your preferred genre to write?

N.K. | I’m currently editing the forthcoming Hollywood Lies. It’s my first erotic romance. I’ve had the story in my head for years now.  I’m currently writing Are You Mine?, a Young Adult romance with characters I love, love, love. After that I’ll be turning my focus to Hollywood Sins, the prequel to Hollywood Lies (and the portion of the lead character’s story that has been in my head the longest).

I’m not sure I’d say that YA is my preferred genre, but it’s one I feel very drawn to and comfortable with. There is something beautiful about that time in a person’s life. Everything is new and shiny. The possibilities are endless. That having been written, I do enjoy adult fiction. Ghosts of Our Pasts isn’t YA, and I enjoyed writing that, and Hollywood Lies has been interesting to work on as well. It’s a challenge to write in a genre I don’t normally write in.

It’s much less about genre than it is about the story. If the story strikes me, I’m going to write it. Typically I don’t even think about genre until my publisher asks me.

NATASHA | Thank YOU for spending some time with us and for giving us… ADAM. ♥

N.K. | Thanks for giving me this opportunity to answer your questions. I’m truly so thankful that you’ve taken an interest in My Only. I’m thrilled to have made your acquaintance, and I hope to continue to deserve the honor of your support. I love connecting with people, so I hope your readers will come talk to me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or my Blog.

Connect with N.K. Smith: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
The Giveaway

To win an e-copy of My Only by N.K. Smith, ENTER HERE.

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My Only by N.K. Smith

My Only_newShy, awkward Adam is resigned to sit on the sidelines of life, overshadowed by his outgoing and popular twin brother, Aaron. Adam James’ life is far from perfect. A deeply internal person, Adam is silently confused about his lot in life, including life after high school. A talented drummer from a small suburb of Chicago, Adam keeps to himself, downplaying his abilities, thinking that he is less than all those around him. By living a life of moderate isolation coupled with his ambivalence toward most people, he is unable to gain new perspectives on himself.

But when a free spirited new girl with a troubled past moves in across the street, Adam’s eyes are opened to a new world of possibilities. Olivia Cartwright is a fun loving, beautiful girl whose philosophies on life give her a deeper understanding of the world around her. Previously living a semi-nomadic life, Olivia is out of her element in the quiet, slow-moving suburb of Lakeside, Illinois.

An instant connection between Adam and Olivia draws them closer, but why would anyone choose him when a better version exists? What will happen when Adam’s outgoing twin Aaron takes an interest in Olivia as well? Adam has a choice to make: Keep his relationship with Olivia merely friends or fight to take it further, keep safely within the dormant cocoon he’s lived in for years or find and cultivate all of his good qualities. Which will he choose? Will the friendship with Olivia change him? Will he adopt her philosophies, or will he continue to close himself off in his own world?

review

“I was so lonely that I was practically nonexistent. I wished I wasn’t. I wished my personality was one that made people gravitate toward me. I wished I knew what to say to people. I wished I knew how to just fit right in. I wished I could just be comfortable in social settings and be able to go after everything and anything I wanted. In short, I wished I was my brother. He was never lonely.”

Have you ever felt overshadowed by someone close to you? Have you ever wished you were born different – more attractive, smarter, easier to talk to? Now imagine if there was another person in the world who looked exactly like you but they were the better version of you in every single way. That is the story of Adam.

Adam and Aaron were born twins but apart from the DNA they share there is very little they have in common. While Aaron is the most popular boy at school, Adam is one of the geeks that everyone mocks. While Aaron is confident, outspoken, cocky, a go-getter, Adam is quiet, shy, insecure, an introvert. While Aaron can have any girl he sets eyes on, Adam has never even kissed a girl. But this is not just a story of opposites and the ‘rise of the underdog’, this is a story of self-discovery, of family bonds, of finding one’s voice and going after what we truly want in life. Aaron and Adam cannot be simply dismissed as ‘too different to have anything in common’ – their bond as twins and ultimately as brothers makes their story even more complex and touching. Adam’s desire to be like his brother is not one of hateful envy. As opposite as they are, they are always there for each other, knowing exactly what the other needs, quietly supporting one another no matter what.

“… it always seemed to hurt when I thought about how different I was from Aaron. My desire to be like him physically, emotionally, and mentally was causing me to respond this way.”

And then a girl named Olivia moves into the house next door. Adam sees her from his bedroom window and is immediately drawn to this beautiful girl who dances freely in her room like no one is watching – “She looked free.” Her openness, her confidence, her ability to talk to anyone and make everyone around her feel confortable make him want to spend every second of every day around her. Olivia’s perky but compassionate personality draws Adam out of his shell, giving him courage to be himself. He allows her to enter his solitary world and pull him out of it without judgement or any desire to change him, simply by accepting him for who he is and supporting the things he is passionate about. For the first time in Adam’s young life he does not feel invisible.

“Even my twin brother had never had the inclination to figure me out like Olivia had done.”

They quickly develop a genuine friendship, something Adam has never had with a girl, a friendship that for Adam turns into his first real crush. Unfortunately, Aaron has also noticed Olivia and he is just as drawn to her as his brother is. He gives Adam a chance to make the first move but Adam’s insecurities end up paralysing him and he loses his chance with her.

“You can like any girl you want,” he said, “but unless you’re going to go for it, there’s no way in hell I’m going to sit back and pretend that I don’t like her, too. See? This is the difference between us. You’re all theory. You say, ‘I like her’, but do nothing about it. And I’m the proven fact. I say, ‘I like her’, and I act on it.”

What follows is an utterly heart-wrenching account of what it feels like to think you are “worthless and unworthy”, inadequate, not special enough to be wanted or ever chosen by someone over your own brother. We only ever hear Adam’s voice in this story. His heartbreak over watching the girl he loves in the arms of the one person who makes him feel less worthy is one of the most intense emotions I have felt in a long time from reading a book. Adam’s tone is steady, matter-of-factly, his every self-flagellating thought or word stings us powerfully – the author is a masterful storyteller who consistently takes good aim and she never misses the target.

“I was nothing more than a pile of regretful nothingness.”

But do not be mistaken by thinking this is your ‘garden-variety’ love triangle because there is nothing common about this beautiful book. By telling the story from the point of view of the ‘underdog’, we are not being entertained by frivolous alpha male pissing-contests; we are given a real situation with real people and real heartbreak. Adam’s ‘competition’ is his twin brother and as complicated as their relationship has become over the years, they will always be brothers and this unbreakable bond between them plays an important part in the story itself. There are no ‘bad guys’ here, there are no right or wrong decisions made by the characters – this is not a story of conflict, this is a story of human connections and of living life to its fullest without any regrets. This is also an incredibly romantic story about falling in love for the first time.

There are parts of this tale that are so touching and so deeply emotional that you would need to tear your heart out of your chest in order not to feel anything, but it all serves a purpose. Every page, every word, every character counts. This book needed all its elements, happy or sad, to faithfully and truthfully tell Adam’s story. His depth of emotion, the rawness and the reality of each one of its parts made me a very invested and fiercely protective observer. There were scenes that made my heart clench, some that literally made me a sobbing puddle of mess, and others that quite simply obliterated me, but there was never even a split second where I did not enjoy reading this book.

“Life’s too short to get stuck. I don’t have time to wallow in despair. I felt my feelings. I cried my tears, and now I’m ready to get on with it all.”

This story was a deeply cathartic experience, but one that I will probably want to repeat at some point in the future. I suspected this book would be good but I did not expect it to be sensational. And it was, without a doubt.

5stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Connect with N.K. Smith: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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