I went into this book not knowing if I would enjoy it. I knew it was about mental illness, but content-wise, I had my doubts.
I shouldn't have. They have all been wiped away and replaced with emotions so intense that I'm still processing how I feel about August and Jack and their worlds and their stories. This book...is a lot. That means that it's probably not for everyone, but for those of us who it touches at the right time, I think it's absolutely invaluable.
August and Jack are typical seventeen-year-olds. They go to school together, but they run with different crowds, and only come together after classes have finished. And when they do, they become essentially one person, one being so consumed with the other that they have trouble figuring out who wants what, and whose desire is whose. Jack has a hallucinatory disorder, and sees a world that supposedly doesn't exist. But for August, trying his best to take care of Jack, that world feels just as real...whether it is or not.
There are so many things to talk about here. The physical format of the book is stunning, with the pages slowly burning from white to solid black, mirroring events as the boys' worlds get bleaker and more stressful. Ancrum's writing is sparse, the chapters more like pages than actual chapters, but I think that actually adds to the narrative. Readers are left to fill in the details of what happens in the in-between, and August and Jack are no less fleshed out as characters because of it. And they are what drive this story, much more than any kind of plot.
This is a story about boys who are so completely codependent. It's about mental illness and how it touches you differently every time. It's about finding who you are in relation to the people you love, but also, more importantly, who you are standing on your own two feet. It's a hard read. But at the same time, it's thrilling, fast-paced, and so emotional it left me feeling like I had been punched in the gut. I love August and Jack. Fully. With my whole heart. Because and despite of how wonderfully messed up they both are.