Thursday, September 3, 2020

Book Review: "I'd Give Anything" by Marisa de los Santos

If you enjoy a particular author's work yet you haven't read anything by them in a long while, when you finally pick up another one of their books, it feels like coming home. That's the way I felt when I read Marisa de los Santos' new book, I'd Give Anything. Her first few books—Love Walked In and Belong to Me—really blew me away, and I still consider them among my favorites, yet for some reason I lost track of her over the last several years.

When I saw I'd Give Anything on a friend's Bookstagram feed, I knew I had to read it. And once again, I was reminded why I love de los Santos' storytelling so much. She writes of love and friendship and how one often complicates the other, she writes of family, secrets, desire, guilt, all real human emotions, and does it so well.

In 1997, Ginny, Gray, Kirsten, and CJ are inseparable best friends in high school. Her friends, even a burgeoning relationship with Gray, are her haven from a mercurial, brittle mother most interested in her family's reputation and the battles her mother has with her older brother, Trevor, her ally and compatriot. The four friends have that typical teenage certainty that they'll be part of each other's lives forever.

One night, tragedy strikes, and it changes all four of their lives. Shortly afterward, Ginny overhears a declaration that rocks her to her core, spoken by the one person she trusts more than any other. She cannot believe what she heard, but she knows she must keep it a secret. Her subsequent silence and depression causes her to lose the people she cares about most—her best friends. But it's a sacrifice she knows she must live with.

Twenty years later, Ginny is living in her hometown, in a safe marriage, and is the mother of a 15-year-old daughter, Avery. Their seemingly placid, "normal" life falls apart one day when her husband is embroiled in a scandal that causes him to lose his job. At that point, Ginny realizes she's spent so much of her life doing what is safe, what is right, instead of what makes her happy, and it's time that stops.

Although she did reconcile with Kirsten when they were in college, she hasn't spoken to Gray or CJ since high school. When they are all brought together one night, she must confront the secret she has carried alone for all these years. But one secret is tied to so many others, and she has to make a decision whether to take the safe route once again or follow her heart, and finally unburden herself of the guilt and sorrow she has carried for so long. Hopefully she can help her old friends to do the same.

The story shifts back and forth between 1997 and 2017 for a while, and then stays in 2017, and is narrated by Ginny and Avery. Make no mistake, there is a lot of drama happening here, but I was so hooked on these characters and their story that it didn't matter to me. (Plus, I love melodrama.) There were a lot of times where I wondered how I would react if placed in a similar situation, and that endeared me to the book even more.

Friendships are intense relationships, sometimes even more so than romantic ones. Even though the characters aren't always sympathetic, I loved their story and, of course, loved the way de los Santos told it. And I'll definitely be picking up the books of hers I missed, too!

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