SOME PLACE BETTER THAN HERE is a novel told by two teenagers, Danny and Mary, who find each other one summer against a landscape of conflict and familial pressures. When Danny learns that Mary is trapped in an abusive situation, he can’t help but dive in to try to save her. But he soon learns that the situation –and the girl – are both far more complex than he’d ever imagined. Weaving through themes of codependency, abuse, and loyalty, the novel shifts between Danny’s and Mary’s first person perspective, chapter by chapter, to offer a prismatic experience of their climbing tensions and complex inner worlds.
While Danny’s perspective is often riddled with minute details and immature language that distracts from his true emotional character, his cerebral voice is replaced, toward the middle of the novel, with a more urgent, emotional one. Similarly, Mary’s character begins as frustratingly shallow, but deepens further into the novel, as the reader discovers that her cool exterior is a veil covering an emotionally complex and somewhat broken girl who had to grow up fast to deal with her troubled and abusive father. The novel is at its best when tension is building – both between the couple and between each main character and their own life troubles. The story loses steam during scenes between Mary and Danny where they pick at one another, flirt, argue, or play without really leading to much of a climax. Yet, Wakil manages to pick up the speed in the last third of the story, putting the drama into a higher gear and creating a sense of urgency.
In all, despite its sometimes clunky use of description, the novel leaves you turning the page to learn more – more about Mary, and more about how Danny will ultimately handle the situation, his mother pulling him in one direction and Mary and his own heartstrings pulling him in the other. The landscape and backdrop of a summer love between two teenagers freshly out of school is always nostalgic, and many readers will find themselves connecting to Danny or Mary’s young urgency and introspection.
In SOME PLACE BETTER THAN HERE, Landen Wakil writes an entertaining and emotionally stimulating tale of two teenagers, who cross paths during one summer that changes their lives forever.
~Megan Roth for IndieReader