Nobody But Us
By Kristin Halbrook
Will has just aged out of the foster system. Zoe needs to get out of her father’s house. They’re running away to Vegas to start a better life together, whatever it takes.
A few minor, odd moments briefly break through the suspension of disbelief, including a will-they-or-won’t-they-have-sex scene after it’s just been established that Zoe’s on her period, and this improbable exchange:
Will: When people ask, you’ll have to say you’re eighteen.
Not the question of an otherwise intelligent, practical girl who’s been in the habit of cashing her father’s social security check before he can drink it since the age of eleven, no matter how ethereally innocent her spirit is.
Warning: Undignified fangirl gushing ahead.
This one is special enough to drag a perfect A+ out of me, which is difficult enough when there are no mockable details like those above to overcome, and nearly unheard of when you factor in my usual tastes and the absence of any speculative elements whatsoever.
That’s really frickin’ special.
I lost sleep over this book. I had out-loud, uncontrollable sobbing jags over it and long, intense dreams about it afterward. That’s how vivid and alive Will and Zoe are. The relationship between two damaged people, told from both sides, is what attracted me to the book in the first place (in spite of its lack of monsters or exotic alternate spacetime locales), and it could not have been more beautifully rendered.
Will and Zoe are both deeply scarred in distinctly different ways. Will lashes out at the world while Zoe hides from it. Both perspectives are so clear and close that every problem, uncertainty and floundering decision is inescapably relatable, through all the trouble they cause themselves and each other.
They’re damaged, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad or unsalvageable. The love between them and their determination to start fresh and do right by each other are so pure and constant and genuine that there’s no chance at all to stop rooting for them to come through okay somehow, no matter how hopelessly high the mistakes and misfortunes pile up.
This is going on my list of books to re-read whenever I need a reminder of what a true, orchestral heartstring-playing feels like on the page.