Title: Dear Cassie
Author: Lisa Burstein
Series: Companion novel to Pretty Amy
Genre: YA Contemporary
Received for review from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads)
What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?
You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
You’d be wrong.
There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.
What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?
But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.
And yet I can’t help but wonder…what if?
I wasn’t really paying much attention to the blurb of Dear Cassie when I picked it on NetGalley. I just went through one day and picked all the Contemporary YA books I could spot. (You may have noticed the phases I go through with my reading…) So, I didn’t really have any expectation when I came to read this one, which is why I think it hit me so hard and gripped me so utterly.
Cassie’s voice comes across loud and clear in the first few sentences, Burstein painting a picture of this bitter, angry and ultimately vulnerable teen girl who’s desperately trying to avoid her issues, living in fear of having to face them.
What follows is a story about self discovery, forgiveness and redemption through friendship and young love, which you’d be forgiven for thinking sounds terribly cheesy. It does, and in a lot of ways it is, but it’s so well written, it doesn’t really matter.
The gradual revelation of Cassie’s past read like a rollercoaster murder mystery, rather than the secret lives of teenage girls, and because Cassie came across as so real, so relatable (despite the tough girl act and the constant smokescreen swearing) it was just all the more gripping. The secondary characters are great too – a compulsive liar, a girl who won’t talk, and the guidance councillor/wilderness guide who you sense has issues of her own. So much is suggested, rather than told, which is really clever, letting you into characters who are rich and three dimensional, even if they feature only briefly.
I discovered after I read this that it’s a companion novel to Pretty Amy, which I haven’t read, but it wasn’t a hindrance. Past events are glossed over a little, but much of the story is not about the past but about how Cassie deals with it in the present anyway, so it didn’t really matter. I would be interested to read Pretty Amy now, though, to learn more about the characters that don’t feature strongly in Dear Cassie.
This was an excellent book, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending an afternoon devouring it.