Norway is cold and rainy, the farm is desolate and resists modernization, and the grandparents are quiet and religious. On to the scene waltzes Even, the eighteen-year-old farmhand, who counters Ben’s restlessness and complaints with friendship, fresh perspectives, and problems of his own.
With the mounting expectations of Ben taking over the farm one day, getting closer to Even becomes Ben’s only reason to stay put. As the friendship deepens, the two boys learn that secrets can turn into both beautiful and ugly truths, and that support can be found in unexpected places.
And the meaning of life is…
What? Did you actually think I’d tell you? Ha!
I’ll tell you a secret instead. When I requested this book I immediately regretted it. I was not able to force myself to start it, above all when shinning beautiful novels kept drawing my attention here and there.
I feel bad. Now.
Because it ended.
And it shouldn’t have. It should have gone on and on and on. But it didn’t.
When I was at 20% of the book I thought there was still a 80% to be read. When I was at 80% I saw the same filled glass upside down. And then I got to 95% and I had to hold my horses and repeat myself again and again that I still had a 5%. But then I got to 98% and… it ended. Just like that, I almost didn’t feel it. It was not painful.
But it was traumatic.
Now I feel like screaming, crying, and kicking like a baby.
I’m not ashamed.
Life is too short to wait for things to happen to you. I decided to make them happen to me.
Benjamin is a 17-year-old and is mad at the world. He can’t control it and he wouldn’t hold it, and much less acknowledge it. So he sets all his anger and frustration free in recklessness like a rebel with a cause. He fools around with stupid girls, gets into brawls with stupid guys, breaks the speed limits in stupid car races. Such actions have their consequences. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the straw that breaks the camel's back becomes the perfect trigger for his parents to buy a plane ticket directly to Norway, and a return ticket in a 10-weeks-time. It means a summer to help his grandparents on the farm, accompanied by an adamant prohibition not to get into problems: no alcohol, no parties, and of course, no cars.
Benjamin doesn’t want Norway, rural anything pales in comparison to the cheerful life in Miami. This is a punishment he can’t help but be impatient to get over with. Heidi’s bucolic lifestyle has never drawn him. Being far from the maddening crowd is indeed not cool. He sees no attractiveness in scything or in rolling in the hay.
At least not alone.
I did what any sane and lust-struck teen would do when stuck in a depressing situation that went nowhere, hour upon hour: I acted. On impulse.
I ran up to Even from behind, tackled him, and flattened him to the ground on his back, before I crushed his startled yelp with my mouth.
Benjamin is blunt, rash and unworried in his arrogant and showoff attitude. But Even is confident and solid and trustworthy and upstanding. Everything Ben is not. Also, Even is too handsome for his own good and Ben foresees a hellish existence keeping his hands to himself. Above all when they sleep in the same room, sharing part of the bed and apart from the adults in a cottage all to themselves.
“I don't want you to leave,” he said, the words rushing out of his mouth. “I don't want you to fucking leave. I don't want you to pick up handsome dudes in Miami, or stupid girls, and do stuff with them that you should be doing with me. I didn't think I would be sunk like this. You're not what I bargained for.”
Ben’s grandparents and Even don’t take any shit from Benjamin, simply because they are unaffected. I loved how rural Noway was depicted. The farm, the small cities, the rain, the teenagers, the tourists, the sky, the fjords, the everything. When the big secret is out, the reaction from both families are revealing at least, bringing more mysteries out into the light. The grandparents are indeed an interesting couple, and there is more than meets the eye. Even’s friends are totally worth the time they appear on scene. And when the shit hits the fan with Even parents, I could do no other thing than be on Ben’s side of the situation. Let’s say some people simply don’t deserve to share a meal on the table.
Subtly, Benjamin begins to see Norway in a way he would never have expected. Little by little, he discovers he has everything he could ever want.
“Fast cars-check. Partying-check. Friends-check. A special someone-check. What else do you need?”
It all felt real and believable, and, more important, Benjamin’s growth and evolution is also undeniable. The arrogant spoiled brat who flies from Miami is not the same person once he comes back. Not only because he found love, but also his own feet and, therefore, is beginning to learn how to stand on the ground he’s on.
And the scene came when I was totally sold. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have, because it’s nearly close to bribery. #MomentoEmpanadas.
“Is this a Cuban dish?” he asked.
“Not really. Spanish, I think. Empanadas are common for lunch among Cubans.”
“What about tacos?”
“Mexican. They serve tacos at school all the time.”
“Have you ever been to Cuba?”
“What’s this? The inquisition?”
I’m so easy.
I actually rolled my eyes at the inquisition hint. What was the last fuckery I heard? Oh yes, when that journalist told Donald Trump: “This is not Spain, the Church doesn’t hold control over the Estate”. Or that other one? “Spain wants to abolish the 3-hour siesta”.
“I’m your father. You follow my orders. Capisce?”
“Basically the same as Spanish.”
I laughed at this. In a good way, of course. It was not the only time I broadly smiled at all. You expect a slow burn book from this, and it is. You expect sweet and optimistic and innocent romance, and it is, in a way. But teenagers are much more clever than adults, so when Even and Ben finally make the step, they make it for real. A big step forward and not looking back. It’s a funny book but it’s not a hilarious one, because heavy situations go by and that implies heavy conflicts sometimes, but also great resolutions where at first only problems seemed to exist. And there is always the pending doom of an end. In general, I can conclude it was easy and fun to read, with all its depth and a little drama, which always fit right.
Also, I really liked how Ben’s background in Miami is portrayed. The Spanish was ok. It wasn’t perfect. The mistakes I found were in names mostly. Ben’s family is Cuban. Did you know what Cuba is the country with the highest percentage of people who speaks native Spanish? 100%. It’s only logical, right? So you should expect “flawless” Spanish, in a way. At least in names. He mentions a relative called “Consuela”, and another one called “Manuelo”, another called “Oscar” and two girls called “Lucia”. Well, the correct names are Consuelo (female), Manuel (male), Óscar (male) and Lucía (female). I forgive the lack of accents because in USA the accents tend to disappear. I guess you can write anything you fancy on the birth registration, too. There was a moment that left my scratching my head in confusion: when I read “qué bolá?” with no initial “¿” but with accents. Then I realized it was a chat conversation and God knows nobody writes correctly in those. In my case, I don’t waste my time in writing “¿” and capital letters and I very rarely use accents. For the sake of fluidity, of course. So it was spot-on after all. To sum it up, in general, the Spanish was very good. At least, not worse than I’m used to, which is always a win.
The writing style is stunning. It sounds like music on my ears and every sentence encouraged you to read the following one. Even coming from a “tough guy” like Benjamin, it was suitable and poetic. It made me want a repeat.
Tough guys can feel too, you see.
This young adult/coming-of-age novel made me swoon and it made me truly happy for a while. And I started this regretting my decision, you see.
A Review copy was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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