Let's get some warnings out there first.
This is not meant for young readers. So if you can't buy alcohol, can't join the army, can't vote, and still carry around fake ID, you should probably wait to read this book. With saying that though, I'm sure there are adults twice my age who are not open to thinking outside the conventional norms and probably shouldn't read this book either. You've been warned.
Lochlan and Maya are brother and sister.
They're essentially parents to their three younger siblings.
They love each other.
Not the love with a small 'L'; the big one.
The true one that consumes your being and gives you hope.
The one that destroys you the moment you are forced to think you might lose it.
The one that you would give up everything for.
This is quite possibly the most beautiful writing I've ever come across. EVER. This story is absolutely heartbreaking and it doesn't sugarcoat the realness of the consequences. This is not a light read. It batters you from the very beginning. A part of you feels crushed because of the utterly shitty circumstances surrounding this family. I didn't find a moment of reprieve from this soul-shattering story. It just kept brutalising me. Over. And over. And over.
At Chapter 23, I was done. I couldn't take it anymore. Nothing catastrophic has happened, and yet I was seriously considering making this my first ever DNF. Not because I hated it. Because I desperately wanted them to be magically transplanted to a farm, away from judgement, and have their love. I didn't set out to be cheering for Lochlan and Maya to make it through this and get their happily-ever-after. But after intruding in on their own personal hell, I began silently wishing for the opportunity of maybes. I was hoping for things that I had never considered.
But that doesn't happen. I'm inconsolable. My body is shutting down because it's the only way it can deal with the pain. Devastation steals my ability to breathe. Eventually my lungs remember their purpose but it's too late. I feel lesser. No amount of praying at the altar of this author can repair me.
Note to potential readers: If you loved this book, do not listen to Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars. The lyrics and harmony will eviscerate you. I speak from experience.