Thea and her friends head off to Key West for one last hurrah before returning to school and facing the reality of Thea’s upcoming preventative double mastectomy. She’s looking for a good time, a break from the harsh realities of life, and she finds that time with Shay, a somewhat shy Key West boy who keeps her smiling until it’s all tears when she has to leave. He’s just a summer fling. A good time. A vacation for her mind and heart before she returns to the real world. But fate’s lined things up differently, and when Shay shows up on Thea’s college campus in North Carolina, she won’t be able to hide her surgery…or her feelings for him.
The Verdict: With all the romance I read, it was nice to pick up a book that has all the standard elements but would still be just a little different. Thea is lively and spirited, responsible and smart, and she’s been handed some really screwy genetics. She lost her mother to breast cancer, and then she spent her summer seeing her sister Jen through brutal cancer treatments. It’s no wonder that when her own tests come back showing she has up to an 80% chance of developing the disease herself, she elects to cut out the potential culprits.
It was interesting to see this kind of decision and loss from the perspective of someone so young, especially since the author didn’t toss Thea down into some angst-filled pit of loss over her mother and sister. That Thea was large-breasted actually makes it a little scarier, since the chances of early detection are smaller in that situation, hence the higher mortality rate. It also meant that Thea couldn’t look on the somewhat bright side that I’ve known many women to force a smile about — at least they can get implants and have a little more up top.
Shay is incredibly sweet but not perfect, either. It seems that mental illness runs in his family, causing his mother to commit suicide when he was young and leaving his brother to deal with a lifetime of treatment. Shay doesn’t have the option of preventing it from being passed down to any children he may have, but at least he’s informed and knows what he could be getting himself into. What stood out about his character development, though, was that he was not portrayed as simply this perfect guy. He was too shy to approach Thea, embarrassed when his uncle forced an introduction, and trying damned hard not to move too fast in his undeniable attraction to Thea.
The conflict, of course, comes from Thea’s reluctance to let Shay know what she’s about to undergo. Since her sister’s ex-husband was against a mastectomy and then abandoned Jen when she was suffering the awful effects of chemo and radiation, Thea’s all too aware that some men just can’t hack it. Plus, her breasts are part of her identity, a physical feature of which she was proud when she donned a bikini, and she loves that she has that attractiveness to men. It’s entirely understandable that she’s afraid of bursting the romantic bubble she and Shay are in by telling him she’s going to be scarred and “less womanly” soon.
I will admit that Thea’s dramatics in trying to cut Shay loose were a little annoying. I understood her ignoring him when she thought she’d never see him again, but I did not understand her leading him on and then pushing him away on the eve of her surgery. I get that she didn’t want to be hurt by his reaction to the aftermath, but really? He was a medical student who chose his future specialty to address the problems in his own family line. That didn’t guarantee that he’d be man enough to deal with the ugliness of surgery, but if there was anyone who could understand…
Fortunately, Shay seemed to relish his role, understanding Thea’s issues even better than he understood her decision, and he didn’t let her push him out of her life. But while he had pretty much the perfect, supportive reaction to everything at that point, it seemed rather rushed and a little too good to be true. Their brief fling and the short time they’d been together in a real relationship led to a rather rushed, too ideal happily ever after ending, and while it was sweet, I wish it had been written with the same pragmatic and sometimes ugly realness that the rest of the book presented. I’m not saying he should have walked out of her life, but since some of the book was written in his POV, I would have liked to see him grapple with their new reality a bit more.
Overall, Goodbye to You is a very sweet story that deals with a very serious issue in a positive way. It also doesn’t hurt that Shay’s a real sweetheart, and their bedroom scenes are all kinds of hot. Despite the serious undertones, it’s a rather lighthearted read, and it’s quite a feat that the author managed to tackle a tough subject like this with both accuracy and sensitivity in the middle of a charming love story.