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Whenever I'm With You

Review

Whenever I'm With You

It's been three months since 17-year-old Gabi chewed her mother out at the airport for ruining their family and shipping her off to Alaska. Gabi's father is still absent and depressed, while Gabi herself is struggling with what happened. Meanwhile, Gabi has unexpectedly found love and friendship with her new boyfriend, an Alaskan native named Kai Locklear. His infectious personality, overwhelming optimism and true companionship are just what Gabi needs.

As they get closer to the anniversary of the day that Kai's father disappeared in the wilderness, Kai begins acting oddly. He starts missing dates and becomes more distant. Gabi isn't sure what's gotten into to her usually attentive boyfriend. When she learns that he has gone off alone into the Alaskan wilderness to trace his father’s route, she's more than a little concerned. Determined to help Kai in his time of need, she sets off on an adventure that will change not only herself but all of those around her.

"Debut author Lydia Sharp packs a lot of deep topics into WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU....[It] was solid read for me and I think fans of clean survival stories and contemporaries with depth should give it a try. "

Debut author Lydia Sharp packs a lot of deep topics into WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU. She explores the stages of grief and the many different ways people experience it. Through Kai, for instance, we see the lengths people are willing to go to avoid pain and despair. Through his brother, we see the numbing effect that grief can have. Mrs. Locklear, Kai’s mother, demonstrates how grief can incapacitate and depress.

Another topic discussed is divorce and the affect it has on families. While I've seen divorce explored a lot in fiction, I felt that Sharp explored it more in depth than most other authors I've read. Gabi's parents represent the common reasons for divorce, like fighting, cheating and general unhappiness. Vicki's parents, however, show that couples who disagree aren't always happier apart. Gabi and Vicki display the helplessness, sadness and (in Gabi's case) anger that many children often feel when their parents break up. Sibling and parent/child bonds are explored as is the importance of communication. The author briefly makes the point about the contrast of what we as humans actually need vs. the waste and excess of society.

Gabi has a distinct voice as a character (which I find is pretty rare) and a lot of really positive traits. She has a good head on her shoulders and though a lot of the time she is unable to help with the survivalist stuff, (due to lack of experience) she still tries her best. She's very supportive and mindful of those around her. She's mature for her age without acting too grown up, which I find refreshing. She's a great learner and rarely makes the same mistake twice. All in all, Gabi is a strong and realistic character.

Kai and his family's dynamic was interesting. It was different seeing a survivalist mountain man portrayed as a desirable love interest in young adult fiction. Actually Kai and his family's survivalist nature is, in general, uncommon for the genre. And I think it's nice that author stayed away from the usual stereotypes that would typically accompany the outdoorsy nature of Kai and his brother.

I appreciate that Lydia Sharp chose to have Kai and Gabi's relationship be a healthy and balanced partnership between two people. While their union is good, it's not perfect and both of them work to keep it going. I like how they each have this mutual respect for each other and how they both love and care for one another and try to support each other.

I thought the survival element was well done and very realistic. I really liked that Sharp kept things clean and not too dark, as these types of books can get pretty gory and unpleasant. My only complaints are that the kiss scenes were underwhelming and there were moments throughout the novel where the writing was so jumpy that I had to reread parts.

All in all, WHENEVER I'M WITH YOU was solid read for me and I think fans of clean survival stories and contemporaries with depth should give it a try. It's also a good choice for young teens and tweens.  

Reviewed by Rachel A., Teen Board Member on August 4, 2017

Whenever I'm With You
by Lydia Sharp

  • Publication Date: January 3, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Marriage, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 1338047493
  • ISBN-13: 9781338047493