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Sunday, June 10, 2012

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck (Review)

Genre:Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Publication.Date  May 1st 2012
Published By:  Sourcebooks Fire | 
WebsiteKaren Schreck 

While He Was Away - Goodreads
My review copy:ARC received from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review
Where to get:

"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."

He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.

All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.

When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.

She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with? (Goodreads)

I won't let the Oklahoma wind whip our words away. They can get lost when David and I fly along like this - him driving his red motorcycle, me holding on tight to him. But tonight, especially tonight, I won't let it happen. Tomorrow is soon enough. Tomorrow is another enforced separation, maybe silence. Only this time, it's different. Tomorrow, David is really, truly gone.
We can hold tight. I tell myself this, holding him tighter. We can hold tight across continents and the oceans in between. We've got the strong arms of love.
I reach higher. I will snag a dark but spangled cloak of sky. I will drag it down and drape it over David's shoulders. He will be dressed like a hero. He will be a hero. He will come home from Iraq.

     When I first heard about this book, I was hesitant to pick it up. Mainly because of its premise. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a novel about teenage sweethearts separated by war. I admit, I was afraid that it would be either cheesy or over-dramatic, and I definitely didn't need another Hurt Locker. But then the reviews started pouring in, and they were all so gushy and enthusiastic, I knew I had to give this book a chance. And guys, I am so happy that I did! This book proved to be nothing short of brilliant. Absolutely and utterly amazing! Everything, from the poignant narrative voice, to the convincing characters and engaging plot, is excellent. It took me less than a day to devour it, and every moment I spent reading it was filled with emotions. In tender and almost poetic prose, Schreck captures not only the sweetness, anticipation and hopefulness of young love, but also angst, uncertainty and pain that comes from long-term separation. And she does it in a way that really pulls on your heart strings

     The premise of this book is very simple. A boy, a girl, first-love, and the war in Iraq. David signed up for the military service before Penna moved to Killdeer, but even if he could change his mind later, he probably wouldn't. It's something he wants/needs to do - for himself, for his family, for the country. He's scared, but also proud. He's a good kid, and although Penna's far from happy to see him go, she understands how much it means to him. And she promised him she'll wait for him as long as it takes. They will write letters and frequently call each other, and she will support him all the way through it. But that's the thing about life... Things don't always go as planned. Stuff happens. People change, bonds weaken, and fear and doubt slowly take over. In the end, the only thing that stays the same is the distance. 

     I honestly don't know what it is about this novel, but I absolutely adored it. It's a very melancholic and atmospheric read, full of warmth and thoughtfulness. And it's so incredibly authentic, so harrowing and moving.. I couldn't help but to fell under its charm. It is not a silly, cheesy romance, and definitely not a light summer fling. At the same time, though, it's not by any means a heavy or traumatizing story either. It's something in between, with just the perfect amount of happy and sad. It has its darker moments, when our characters go into withdrawal and seem to lose faith, but its overall tone is rather hopeful and positive. I liked how balanced it was, and how it made me feel a whole palette of emotions: from making me laugh, swoon, long, hope, to almost making me cry. Few books have ever given me so many feelings.

     The characters.. oh, the characters! At times they are disturbingly real. There were moments when I felt like I was reading my own diary (and I know how weird it sounds, considering my husband never went to war). It's just that Penna's narrative voice was so authentic, vibrant and moving.. it really spoke to me! I was totally immersed in the story, to the point of losing track of time, skipping meals and - at times - forgetting to blink! I was mesmerized and spellbound, and I couldn't help but to sympathize with both Penna and David. I loved the chemistry between them. Their love was strong, beautiful and gentle, and it seemed more mature than what you usually see in YA. And let's not forget about Ravi, either! Ravi was another fascinating character, and one that really stood out to me. Sweet, charming, thoughtful and shy, he bounded with Penna and became her support system and a trusted friend. I can't put my finger on what it was exactly that made me like him so much, but I couldn't help it, I trusted him. 

     Overall, While He Was Away was a fantastic read, and one executed with utter skill and believability. It's a novel that takes two teenagers and a seemingly mundane premise, and turns it into a piece of fiction that is just as enthralling as it is touching, and just as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.

This review is posted as part of the Contemporary Fiction Month feature!

Click on the picture for full schedule.

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About the Author
Evie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.
She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and  chatting with fellow book-worms.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing


tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Sounds like a great read.

Tabitha said...

Thanks for the great review! I've been hesitant as to whether or not I want to read this book because of the premise, but after reading your review I think I'll be moving it up on my TBR!

Mandy said...

Oh this sounds amazing! I was a bit wary of reading it, but it sounds great.

MoonStar said...

Glad you liked it. I bought it recently. So planning to read it this summer :) Looking forward to it :D

Rebecca said...

I am SO intrigued. At first I thought it looked like a good read but after your review I am sold. Splendid review, Evie. *runs to buy a copy* :D

Kris (Imaginary Reads) said...

Great review. This sounds like a sweet read, and the cover is cute :)

Caroline (Bon Bons and Reveries) said...

Awesome review!! I hadn't heard of this book before reading your review, but I just added it to my TBR list. Looks really really good.

Hope you are having a good weekend :)
Caroline @ Bon Bons and Reveries

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

I think I've read this guest post from Karen before but the amazing thing STILL gives me chills. I really want to read this book - I think it's going to be beautiful!

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

I'm really super happy you liked this one, Evie. I've read a few good reviews, but yours really touches deeper on the subjects behind WHILE HE WAS AWAY and tells me that this book is heart-wrenching and that I NEED to read it. Penna and David sound like great characters, and this sounds like one of those books that is really going to touch my heart.

Randi said...

Reading this part of your review "Few books have ever given me so many feelings." makes me really really want to read this. The best books, at least my favorites, are the ones that bring out the emotion in me, the ones where I'm really invested in the story and the characters. Looking forward to reading & thank you for sharing your review. :)

Bethie said...

Sounds like a great story. I am glad to her you liked this one. Just added it to my wish list.

States of Decay said...

This is a wonderful review of While He Was Away. I really liked the quotes you shared from the book. I'm really looking forward to reading this one. Awesome job!

Book Blogger Mom said...

The books sounds good. I wanted to read it for a while.

Thalia Anderson said...

This looks so amazing! I've wanted to read it and have been anticipating it for a little while now, and this just makes me want to read it more.

Jen said...

Ahhhh i realllly wanna really this book:)

Alicia said...

*Sobs* I can't wait to read it!

Lexie said...

Fantastic review. You've convinced me. I was similarly hesitant about this one, due to the premise, but it sounds so beautiful and poignant that I know I have to pick up a copy. When characters are so three-dimensional that you feel as though they're real, you know the author's done an incredible job.

Amy said...

Fantastic review! It really sounds like a very deep story. I really love when characters seem so real too. I will have to read this one sometime.

Tobi Helton said...

Thank you for your review! I was hesitant a bit even though it sounds great but you pushed me over to the tbr list!

Moirae(thefates) book reviews said...

This has been on my TBR list for so long!!!

Miss Sigh...anide in the Word Emporium said...

The cover and title caught my attention and you sold me on the book, I need to get hold of it ASAP! Stories about boys/ young men going off to war hold a special resonance me with - as they do many people - because of personal acquaintances. Can't wait to read it!

Jaime Lester said...

I have felt the same way that you initially felt about this one. I am glad to see that you changed your mind. I read Something Like Normal by Trish Doller and it was beautiful. I might see if this one has the same something special!

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