Review: More Than We Can Tell
I received a copy from Netgalley.
I loved the predecessor for this book Letters to the Lost, which introduced one of the main characters in this one. There was clearly so much more to Rev than was explored in Letters to the Lost so I'm so pleased he got his own book.
Major trigger warnings for abuse - mental and physical.
This book was a tough and very emotional read. I could only cope with about 100 pages at a time. (Same way I had to read the first one) On the one hand we have Rev, an apparent tough guy who keeps to himself. He lives with his foster mother and father (who are some of the best YA parents ever).
The novel starts with Rev getting an unexpected letter from his biological father, a bible thumping preacher who was put in jail for some serious abuse of his own son. He used region as a weapon both to psychologically manipulate and terrorise Rev as he grew up as well as an excuse for physical punishment.
Rev hasn't spoken to him in years and lost all contact. Despite his tough guy exterior Rev is battling some very complex and conflicting emotions. Regardless of the suffering his father put him through something about his words in the letter still resonate. It's heart breaking to read about as Rev struggles with his feelings and what to do. While he's not telling his parents anything, he does have the support of best friend Declan who's there regardless of the time of day or night.
On the other hand, we have Emma, a girl in Rev's class. Up until now they've never had reason to cross paths. Emma is a gamer who loves to code, she stays up late into the night gaming. She even created and launched a game of her own, which seems to have a lot of players. It's a secret she keeps from her parents, particularly her mom who doesn't seem to approve of her habit of locking herself in her room and spending all hours on her computer. Mom is an overworked doctor and kind of a bitch. Emma's father is a computer programmer for a big computer game company. Yet Emma seems almost embarrassed to tell him about her own coding skills.
She's dealing with some serious harassment problems from one of the players in her game, a player who calls themselves 'Nightmare' and seems to hate the fact that she's a girl and she's the moderator and one in charge. The threats and messages are getting nastier and nastier. She can't seem to tell anyone other than her best friend Claire, and Ethan, another player she has a friendship and a strong connection with.
There's tension between Emma's parents and it's really uncomfortable, so it's not surprising at all that Emma's on edge, especially with her own drama going on. She runs into Rev one night whilst walking her beloved dog, Texas (Texy). They have a brief conversation but there are clear sparks (even though neither realise it until much much later) they've started a dialogue.
Things are getting more and more tense in both their home situations. Emma's parents are fighting more and more, the harassment from Nightmare is getting worse. No matter how much she bans him, he pops up again and again and is sending violent images through emails as well as nasty messages. Rev has a new foster kid living with his family, a young teenage boy named Matthew, who's moody and uncommunicative. He's getting more messages from his horrible biological father, mainly revolving around bible quotes that actually have Rev reflecting on his own behaviour and not in a good way. He's trying to be understand of Matthew's difficult circumstances but it's difficult and with other things going on...there's only so much anyone can take before snapping.
Both he and Emma continue to meet and talk, both in person and via texting and email. They have developed a friendship in which they can talk to each other about personal stuff and things they have difficulty talking about to other people. And of course the friendship turns into something deeper and more romantic. It's a slow burn romance and it's wonderful. They're both so considerate of each other.
Things are going wrong and darker in both their lives, eventually the other's families learn of the friendship. Emma's so frazzled with her family troubles and online harassment she's taking it out on her best friend, who doesn't know what's going on. Her relationship with her parents hits rock bottom. She picks fights over stupid things with people who haven't really done anything wrong.
And when something really bad happens to Emma towards the end of the novel, it's those people who figure it out and turn up and save her. While the danger Emma finds herself in is quite frightening, its a little predictable as to how it's going to turn out.
That being said, it's a really good read. It's a tough one that deals with some hard subjects yet manages to be uplifting in its own way. Brilliantly developed characters. This is the second book I've loved by this author which puts her on my auto-buy list.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title.