Kai died while saving Avery from drowning and now his spirit continues on, healing people where he is assigned to. During his down time, he watches Avery. In the many months since that day she nearly drowned, her life has been fraying at the edges. She’s obsessed with finding out the identity of the boy who saved her life, only to have his lost and his body never recovered. She feels she can’t move on with her own life until she can locate his family and let them know how his ended. Kai, seeing that her life is not so much of a life anymore, risks much to help her heal her frayed emotions and move on.
This was a very enchanting story that surprised me in several ways. First, I’m not usually one to venture into contemporary romance, but lately I have been dabbling my toes in it. So I was quite surprised to find myself really wishing the two main characters would find a way to have a happy ending, one where love conquers all. Second, I know nothing about surfing and that sport features heavily in this book, but it’s done in such an approachable way. Now, I want surfing lessons. Lastly, YA is not something I seek out. If it happens to be a component of the story, then that’s OK, but it’s not a label that I look for. For this book, the coming of age coupled with young love was perfect for these characters.
The author did an amazing balancing act with this tale. Her writing brings up my own recollections of teenage parties, friendships, anxieties, hopes, and first loves. Yet she never goes overboard with any one component. For instance, there’s just the right touch of teen angst here and there but not so much as to make me think it’s there for drama’s sake alone. Young love plays a critical role in the plot, but, again, it’s not over worked. It was a joy to read these parts instead of being something I felt I had to plow through to get to the real story.
Kai, who technically is an angel (though the word is not lightly used in the story), is a very interesting character, and not just because he’s dead. We don’t learn everything about him upfront. Like Avery, we have to pull one secret after another out of him as the story moves forward. Before his heroic act, he had big dreams, family, a rough past. However, we meet him when those things are no longer in his grasp. Through him we learn about the place in between the Briar and Elysium, where others like him take on assignments to assist those in the mortal world in one way or another. I really liked these parts of the story with all their imagery. Also, there is Charles, Kai’s mentor from real life and his mentor in the afterlife. Charles was key in showing young Kai how to be a good person in life and he continues to give Kai that love and support after death. I think we all need a Charles in our lives.
Now Avery is also an interesting character but in different ways. Her life is more open and her secrets don’t have to be gently teased out of her, at least not for us readers. To some extent, she has been part of the adult world for a few years now. Her mom suffers from mental illness and she’s been working a regular job at her dad’s chocolate store for several years. At this point, she keeps her own schedule so long as one parent or the other knows where she’s at. She’s been a competition surfer for years but since that fateful day where she nearly drowned, she hasn’t been back in the water. Also, her boyfriend Tyler, who she was serious about, broke off their relationship after the accident. Additionally, her parents have separated, though she still sees each weekly. She’s been through trauma and change in short order.
There was a delicious build up to the end. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure how things would play out, but I had definite ideas about how I wanted things to end (because I cared about these characters). Kai has some serious things he has to do before he can move on to Elysium and Avery has some serious things she has to do before she can move on with her life. I was really hoping to see them end up together somehow, but I wasn’t sure until the very end whether that would be or not. Without giving anything away, it was a very satisfying ending. Indeed, this tale was a weight to it that I didn’t expect to find in a romantic surfer YA story.
The Narration: Quite frankly, when I saw that Punch Audio had a hand in the making of this audiobook, it heavily influenced me to give it a try. I have listened to several Punch Audio productions and they always put forth a quality story. Dana Dae was a great pick for Avery. She sounds like a young lady on the cusp of full adulthood. She did a great job imbuing the characters with emotion without making them sound overly dramatic. Zachary Webber was also great, a really good match for Kai. I loved his voice, being deep enough to evoke images of a man grown. He also did a very good Hispanic accent for old Isadora.