Thursday 3 July 2014

Review: Harder - Robin York

Caroline still has dreams about West. His warm skin, his taut muscles, his hand sliding down her stomach. Then she wakes up and she's back to reality: West is gone. Before he left, he broke her heart.

Then, out of the blue, West calls in crisis. A tragedy has hit his family - a family that's already a fractured mess. Caroline knows what she has to do. Without discussion, without stopping to think, she's on a plane, flying to his side to support him in any way he needs.

Though they are together once more, things are totally different. West looks edgy, angry at the world. Caroline doesn't fit in. She should be back in Iowa, finalising her civil suit against the ex-boyfriend who posted their explicit, deeply intimate pictures online. But here she is. Deeply into West, wrapped up in him, in love with him. Still.

They thought the odds once. Losing each other was hard. But finding their way back to each other couldn't be harder.

Caroline and West Series:

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I absolutely loved Deeper, in fact it's one of my favourite books of the year, so you can imagine how excited I was to get my hands on the sequel Harder. It broke my heart when West had to leave Caroline to go back home but I could completely understand why he had to do it and I loved him even more for being such caring and protective brother. Harder picks up the story a couple of months after West broke Caroline's heart, she misses him like crazy and is trying to get used to her life without him in it but when she receives a desperate phone call from him in the middle of the night about a family emergency she doesn't have to think twice, she immediately books herself onto the next flight so she can be there to support him.

The West she finds in Silt is very different to the one she knew though, he's so angry at the world and has a major chip on his shoulder about his family situation and how his life has been turned upside down. You can't really blame him for his feelings, Caroline certainly doesn't, but she finds it incredibly frustrating that he keeps pushing her away when all she wants more than anything is to be there to help him like he helped her. My heart really broke for West in this book, he is under so much pressure from his useless mother and he's trying so hard to do the right thing for his sister Frankie that he forgets that he deserves to have happiness for himself too. He pushes Caroline away because he doesn't want her caught up in his messy life. He doesn't feel that he will ever manage to get away from his past and build a life for himself and he refuses to drag Caroline down with him.

I found myself incredibly angry on Caroline's behalf throughout the first half of the story though. As much as I understood where West was coming from it hurt to see him punishing himself and Caroline when neither of them had done anything wrong. There was one point when West did something so horrible that it put a knot in my stomach and made me feel physically sick when I was reading so it's a credit to Robin York's writing ability that I was actually able to get past his actions and forgive him. She writes his story so well that even though you hate what he did you hurt almost as much for him as you do for Caroline. Caroline's original response to his betrayal was outstanding, she gives him such a talking to and I was cheering her on from the sidelines! I have to admit that I was disappointed that they didn't talk more about the issue afterwards though, I kind of wanted to see West begging for forgiveness but Caroline just brushed it aside and almost acted like it never happened. I guess that makes her a better person than me, well she's certainly less vengeful anyway LOL.

Alongside West's family issues, which I'm not really going to talk about here in detail apart from to say that I loved his little sister Frankie, you also have Caroline's ongoing battle with her ex-boyfriend Nate over the naked pictures he posted of her online. There was nothing the police could do and the college refused to step in so now she is bringing her own civil suit against him. I was incredibly proud of Caroline for facing up to Nate, she held her head high and realised that she wasn't the one in the wrong. I was also pleased that she agreed to help a nationwide campaign about revenge porn, she was working towards raising awareness and along with a senator they were trying to put laws in place to protect other girls from going through everything she went through.

I'm going to admit that I was a little disappointed in the final outcome of things with Nate though, I think that's down to my need to see her get revenge (I'm beginning to think I have a very vengeful side!). I just really wanted to see Nate admit that he was wrong and actually apologise for his actions. It may not have made a difference in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't have removed the pictures from the internet after all, but it would have made me feel better. I guess the whole point of this story is that there is no quick fix in that kind of situation though, Caroline will suffer the consequences of Nate's actions for the rest of her life and nothing will change that. What she can do is recognise that it wasn't her fault, she was a victim in all of this and the only thing she has full control over is her reaction to what happened. She has been able to turn it into something positive by using her experience to fight for changes in the law in the hope of protecting others in the future.

I have absolutely loved this series. It isn't always easy to read and I have been through the emotional wringer more than once in these two books but I have loved every minute of it. Caroline and West's story is hard, it's emotional, painful and at times full of darkness but at the same time it is compelling, powerful and completely and utterly beautiful and I can't recommend these books highly enough. Whatever Robin York writes next will automatically go straight to the top of my wish list.

Source: Received from Piatkus in exchange for an honest review

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