Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: 3/5/13
Source: Received from publisher for review
What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?
You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
You’d be wrong.
There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.
What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?
But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.
And yet I can’t help but wonder…what if?
Pretty Amy gave us Amy's version of the Prom night from Hell. The night she, Lila, and Cassie lit up, and went down in flames. The consequences of their actions, and how it changed her. Dear Cassie is Cassie's story, but we quickly learn that getting arrested and going to jail was the least of Cassie's problems. That twenty-eight days at a Wilderness Camp may push Cassie beyond her limits, but it may also save her.
At this point, a pattern has been established: Lisa Burstein is brilliant. I was blown away by her talent with Pretty Amy. Her ability to tap into the innermost thoughts of a troubled teenage girl, and bring that to the surface with her beautiful writing, is shocking. That brilliance continued in The Next Forever, in which she bravely writes an authentic young relationship, and only promises forever a day at a time. In Dear Cassie, Burstein has solidified my opinion that any conversation about must-read books for teens must include her books. They are that important.
I say that not only because they are thoughtful, honest, and bold, but also because she offers an alternative to the "perfect" heroine who finds herself in a troublesome situation. Burstein offers the troubled heroine, a girl that we don't often see in Young Adult fiction. I try, so hard, to take myself out of reviews, and I don't always accomplish that. But I could never remove myself from a review of Burstein's books. She writes about the other girl. The girl who swears too much, smokes, kisses too many boys. Not the vulnerable, meek girl who everyone wants to protect, but the vulnerable, off-putting girl with a tough exterior. I was that girl. My friends were that girl. We were Amy, Cassie, and Lila. There are a lot of girls out there and they need books like Burstein's.
As much as I was prepared, Dear Cassie caught me off guard. Cassie came off as very harsh in Pretty Amy. She is harsh. I identified with Amy and did not think I would have that experience with Cassie. I did. Cassie, though very tough, was so very fragile, and it was beautiful and exhausting to get to know her. She is a girl who uses sarcasm as a shield, who uses the word "fuck" like a weapon.
"I would much rather have someone holding me at arm's length than trying against all odds to hold me."
Prom night sucked for Cassie, but is not the worst thing that has happened to her by a long shot. During her stay at camp, through physical and mental challenges, Cassie's tough exterior slowly dissolves until she reveals just how lost and ashamed she truly feels. Through breaking and exposing her vulnerabilities, Cassie unknowingly is being built back up. Stronger.
And there's a boy. Isn't there always? Ben. Ben is attending camp as well, and he immediately annoys and intrigues Cassie. Ben is persistent, and I loved that. But the antagonistic relationship-turned friendship-turned more (?) is not about Ben saving Cassie or vice versa. It is about acceptance, and simply being there beside one another.
As you may guess, Dear Cassie was an intense experience for me. As much as I loved the writing and could have devoured it in one sitting, I had to pace myself. Cassie's intensity was at times too close for comfort, emotionally exhausting. An author that can make you feel that intensely is a treasure. Dear Cassie is a treasure.
"Come pray with me," Rawe said.
"I can't," I said, instead of just saying no.
"You don't have to be religious to pray," she said.
"But you have to be good." I paused, looking at the orange pinecones that covered the ground. "Deserving," I continued, "and I'm not." I was surprised I'd admitted it out loud. It was one thing to punch myself unitl I couldn't breathe and keep everyone away like I had porcupine needles coming from my skin. It was another thing to say it, especially when I couldn't even write what that really meant yet. ~eARC, 25%
"Why?" I asked. "Why do you keep coming back for more?"
"I think I can make you happy," he said, his eyes on the sky. "I also think you're funny as hell."
"Thanks," I said, "but I'm pretty sure I've never been happy."
"Exactly," he said, putting one arm behind his head. ~ eARC, 56%
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