by Kristin Halbrook
To be published by HarperTeen
on January 29, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss
My summary: Zoe is the fifteen year-old daughter of an angry alcoholic. Will is a eighteen year-old foster child who's been bounced from home to home. They're in love, so they decide to run away together to Las Vegas. These two have big dreams, but dreams won't pay the bills, keep the cops at bay, or erase their troubled pasts.
My take: This book definitely had strong points. The narrative alternated between Will's and Zoe's viewpoints, and it was never a problem to know whose head you were in. Zoe's sections were wordier and more reflective, while Will's were more staccato and peppered with "aint's," which, admittedly, did grate on my nerves after a while. The setting was well-drawn -- as these two trekked cross-counry, I felt I was right with them in the convenience stores and cheap motels.
I also liked the fact that Nobody But Us doesn't try to romanticize the couple's terrible choices. In fact, I give the author credit for not being afraid to offer up two very flawed characters. Will has serious anger management issues, using his fists or a weapon when things don't go his way. He's also jealous, alternating between professing his love to Zoe and lashing out violently at others. Zoe is the brains of the operation, but she's clearly still a child, seriously lacking in any kind of practicality or common sense. Deep down, she seems to know that Will is a bad bet. If the guy you think you love has to keep telling you that he's not going to hit you, at some point he probably will.
Both of these two have gone through a lot. Zoe tells us -- twice within a few pages -- about her mother's gruesome (accidental?) death. I wasn't sure if this repetition was deliberate or an editing error in the e-ARC I read. Will has languished in the foster care system. While it would be hard not to feel sympathy for the all hardships these two have endured in their short lives, it was also hard for me to get attached to them when I felt they were doomed.
Watching the two of them drive cross-country became an exercise in dread. I clicked through the pages, wondering what kind of bad outcome I was going to get. Zoe, fifteen and pregnant? Zoe, murdered by Will? Neither of those things happened and, in fact, some of Zoe's actions at the end did surprise me. But I think if I had seen any small glimmer of hope, I would have found the book far more poignant.
If you love gritty contemporaries, you should definitely try Nobody But Us. If you like your stories to have some sense of happily ever after, this won't be the book for you.