Mallory’s plans for going to college have fallen apart, just like her friendships and family have. Her friends have all gone off to college and new lives without her, leaving her alone to repeat her senior year of high school, followed by community college. Her dreams of going to Vanderbilt were crushed by the financial wipe-out of her parents’ divorce, with her father moving away and her mother taking a job assignment in Texas. She’s been left behind by everyone except her Aunt Sam, who’s moved back in to look after her following her own divorce and mid-life shake-up. But when a boy she used to know starts coming around, she follows her aunt’s advice and steps out to see where this life might lead her.
This is stupid. I can’t possibly write a review that will do this story justice. It crept into my head and took me back to those awkward barely-an-adult years and put that boy, that one who so simply changed everything, in front of me again. It made me ridiculously happy and ripped my heart out and made me spend money I can’t spare on grocery delivery because who the hell can be bothered with driving and check-out lines when Malory and Tucker are happening?!
I’m pretty sure Mallory in many ways could have been any one of us. She’s not so sure about who she is, wishes she could be something more, but resigned to being a third wheel, the one on the sidelines, the one who’s just never quite good enough or confident enough or pretty enough to live like others do. And with all that’s happened so recently in her life, she’s adrift in that weird place where the life you know is gone, and you’re not sure how to grab what comes next. But with Tucker she finds new friends, real ones that don’t make her feel like shit with their backhanded compliments and snide looks. Her easy friendship with him is a slow subtle build to something more, with all the awkwardness and wonderful that come with first love.
And Tucker’s just perfect. Not in that super-popular, must be the quarterback or lead singer or daredevil rogue way, but in the way that a comfortable friend grows to fill a space with looks a little more heated and touches a little less innocent. He was thoughtful and observant and all-boy angry, with small gestures that spoke volumes and raw words that cut deep. He seemed to see something in Mallory that didn’t live in her mirror, and what’s more is that he never really had to spell it out; he just showed her how to be who she was because it was better than anything she wanted to be.
And then there were the notes from Sam, placed at the beginning of chapters and written in a way that only someone with regrets and learned lessons and open eyes can write them. At first, I thought they were sweet and insightful, and then I began to suspect something more, which left me with a lump in my throat for probably the last third of the book. To say that Beatless is a romance is somewhat off the mark. It’s most definitely a love story — a beautiful, sweet, grabs your heart and twists until all you can do is feel story — but it’s so much more than something that can be shoved into a genre and left to languish with a million other romances that categorize themselves the same way. It’s growing up and letting go and falling in love and hurting and forgiving and finally wrapping your arms around life and hanging on so tight it hurts because it’s just starting with a boy made of wonderful and a new sense of self. I’m not sure thinking in run-on sentences is the proper way to write a review, but I just don’t think I’ll ever get over this book.