Sunday, January 19, 2020

Echoes Between Us


Alright y'all, this ARC came to me thanks to TorTeen and BookishFirst.com and I am so glad that it did! So this is a YA that is about two teens that are in complete opposite social circles at school that are brought together by ghosts and secrets. Katie McGarry takes on the story of Veronica, the weird girl that does things her way, and Sawyer, the popular guy who doesn't really try to be popular. I had a few moments where I completely forgot this was a YA novel, because she writes in an amazing way that just pulls you into the story. I am super excited to talk about this book and had to actually stop reading so I would not spoil too much. So let's dive in!

Veronica is a seventeen year old girl who deals with constant headaches. She lives with her truck driver dad and mom in the second and third floors of their Victorian house. They converted the first floor of their house into an apartment that they rent out for some extra cash. Normally she wakes up in pain, but today she wakes up in a good mood and pain free despite it being the day of the school orientation. She looks around at the paper turkeys Veronica has hung up because she likes to creatively celebrate holidays on their non-designated days like her mom. Veronica and her mom have a whispered conversation about a secret Veronica is keeping from her dad while he is cooking in the kitchen. He brings up the short term tenants moving in soon because they are waiting on their new house's construction being done. Veronica asks if they know the house is haunted, but her dad tells it's not so no they weren't. She watches as her mom goes up the stairs without a glance from her dad as he joins Veronica at the table so they can eat breakfast.

Sawyer is an older brother to Lucy and a son to a single mom. His parents got divorced a little over five years ago when Lucy was just a baby. Ever since then Sawyer has taken on the responsibility of being the man of the house because his dad made it clear that was what was supposed to happen now. Today that means driving the U-Haul as they head over to move into the first floor apartment owned by Veronica's dad. He also has to check out the place when they first arrive to make sure there is nothing strange and out of the ordinary waiting for them around the corner. He walks through and finds nothing strange except an eerie feeling of being watched and a stapled pack of papers on the window seat of what is going to be Lucy's room. He picks up the papers and sees that it is a diary of a girl named Evelyn Ballack dated 1918. Once he tells his mom that it is all clear and shows Lucy her new room, his mom pulls him to the side. She lets him know that their landlords have rules: do not go upstairs and knock if something is wrong, you must call on his phone. Also the house is haunted.

Veronica is hanging out on the hill behind the house with her friends Leo and Nazareth. They are sitting on the wall of what used to be a tuberculosis (TB) hospital during the early 1900's. They can see Sawyer and his friends are making their way up the hill towards the abandoned hospital. Leo graduated last year and Nazareth is on an accelerated course that is half high school half college. That means that Veronica is by herself most of the school day. Nazareth drops the bomb on Veronica that he can't do the Senior Thesis project with her because he was made to do it last year. Veronica listens as a migraine is making its way through her head. Meanwhile inside, Sawyer and his group of friends are walking in through the front doors of the hospital. The others walked in further while Sawyer and his best friend Sylvia hang near the door. Sylvia starts talking about Veronica and how weird she is now that it is out that Sawyer moved in to her house. Next thing they know Veronica is standing on the other side of the room asking if there is anything else they want to say about her. Veronica asks Sawyer about the stapled papers just as Leo warns that cops are coming. While everyone else scatters, Veronica and Sawyer have a staring contest silently daring the other to run off first. Sawyer is the first to move.

Veronica is back at home looking through her files to see if Sawyer does have her copy of a diary. After looking every where she realizes that he does have her copy that her mom got for her. She's on the phone with her dad, who is out delivering another haul, talking about the accounting side of the business. Once she catches him up on everything, he hangs up and she realizes that it is after midnight. She sees a shadow run down the stairs, and she quietly follows it down the stairs. She is hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost children she used to see when they first moved into the house. She is waiting patiently on the main staircase when she hear a child's scream. In his room, Sawyer is startled awake from his dream of being in Evelyn's TB hospital room by Lucy's screaming his name. He walks out of his room to see her standing at the main front door with it open. She is trying to go out the door while screaming about a monster when Veronica grabs her and pulls her close just as a shadow figure lunges towards them. Veronica picks up Lucy and carries her halfway up the main staircase with Sawyer close behind just as his mom stumbles in drunk. Veronica takes Lucy up to her place while Sawyer deals with his mom. He puts his mom in the bathroom before she can throw up everywhere. Once she is done, she tells him that they are broke until her next payday because his dad hasn't paid child support the past few months.

Upstairs Veronica gets Lucy a snack and all the art supplies needed to make paper turkeys to add to the collection Veronica has already started. She asks Lucy what was so scary, and the little girl tells her that she saw a little girl ghost that was dressed funny. Veronica tells her that the ghosts aren't scary, just simply people who left their bodies but not their homes. Veronica tells Lucy a secret: her mom is a ghost in the house too. Then Veronica tells Lucy about her decision to do her school project on proving ghosts are real so her dad will believe too. Lucy asks Veronica to show it to Sawyer so that he will believe her when she says there are ghosts waking her at night. Veronica tells her sure because more people need to believe. Later Sawyer goes upstairs to get Lucy and tries to convince Veronica not to cash their deposit check yet. She lets him know that she already had and it bounced. Sawyer asks her to give them until next week, and she agrees to wait on telling her dad. She also tells him that Lucy is welcome to come upstairs whenever she feels like it as long as Veronica is home.

The next morning, Sawyer sets Lucy up in front of the TV with a couple boxes of her toys and his mom outside with a book before heading off to his doctor's appointment. Sawyer has been walking around with a cast on his arm, and as far as anyone knows it is from where he slipped on the pool deck at the Y. The doctor takes the cast off, and Sawyer drives to a rock quarry and jumps down 40 feet into the water. He knows it is dangerous because this is how he actually broke his arm, but no one else knows that he jumps off cliffs for an adrenaline rush. Veronica is at her friend Jesse's farm with Leo and Nazareth camping out since Leo leaves for college in the morning. Veronica and Leo are sitting on a blanket waiting for the sun to rise when he asks her what it's like to have a brain tumor. She has to fight to hide the tears forming in her eyes while she answers that she forgets it's there until she gets a migraine. She thinks about she has already told him that it is benign but inoperable because of it's placement, and how ever since he only saw her tumor when he looked at her. Her mom died of a malignant one in almost the same spot, and Leo watched her go through the grief of losing her. They continue to sit there while she silently begs Leo to kiss her again, but he just puts her back in the friends zone like he has done so many times in the past. The conversation ends with him telling that her, Jesse, and Nazareth should come visit him at college in a few weeks. 

It's the first day of school, and Sawyer is in the library just listening to music after picking up his schedule from the front office. Before first period rings, Veronica comes up to his table and tells him that she wants to work with him for the Senior Thesis project since they are in the same class and he has a car. He tries to tell her that she doesn't want to work with him because of his dyslexia, but she doesn't see a problem with it. She tells him to just take her to one place this weekend and he can decide after that if it is something he wants to do since they have until Monday to pick out their own groups. Sawyer tells her okay, and heads to his first class. After the last bell rings, Veronica is slowly making her way out to the parking lot because she has been hit with a migraine that just won't quit. She makes out the doors and is pleased to see Nazareth waiting for her. He looks at her, and tells her to get in his car.

Nazareth takes her to his house where she smokes some pot his mom, Greer, grows until she falls asleep. She has migraine medication, but it doesn't do anything for her pain when it is this bad. She wakes from her nap to Jesse coming into Nazareth's room holding out his cellphone. Her dad is waiting to talk to her because she left her phone in the car and Nazareth doesn't always have his on. After reassuring her dad that she is okay and is honest about the pot, he tells her to go eat the soup Greer made her. She promises to let him know if she stays the night or goes home. Greer treats her like one of her own kids when Veronica comes over, especially during an intense migraine. After going to pick Lucy up from school because his mom forgot again, Sawyer heads to a town thirty minutes away with the urge to jump. Instead of heading to the quarry, he winds up at an AA meeting where he meets Knox. Sawyer sat in the back the whole time and didn't say a word, but he still got Knox's attention. Knox tells him that he is there to talk anytime Sawyer was ready. Sawyer just keeps thinking to himself that he's not an alcoholic so he doesn't need to be there.

It's Saturday and Sawyer is driving Veronica to an address that she gives him. They pull up to a house that she has been to before, and knocks on the door. Veronica introduces Sawyer to her dad's friend Max. Max does ghost hunting on the side, so he is able to instruct them on the proper way to use the necessary equipment as well as how to talk to the ghosts. When Sawyer asks if they have to spend money to do this project, Max tells him and Veronica no because he is going to loan them his equipment. Unfortunately for Veronica, Max spills the beans about her tumor in front of Sawyer when he tells her that he prays for her and her dad. Once all the questions are answered, Sawyer loads the equipment into the car when he sees Veronica starting to walk home. He tries to convince to let him drive her, but doesn't push when she keeps saying that it is just a few miles. Sawyer figures she is upset about what Max said, and drives off even though he feels like an ass for doing that. 

Sawyer is still thinking about it as he sits at Sylvia's house around midnight for a pool/pot luck dinner party. Him and Sylvia are sitting in chairs by the pool when she tries to explain that his mom was just trying to help when she signed him up for the AP English class her and Miguel are in. She says that his mom just wanted to make sure the three of them could work on the Senior Thesis project together, Sylvia and Miguel doing most of the work while Sawyer did the other part. Sawyer knows this means the "easy" part, and decides to ask Lucy if she is ready to go. He takes Lucy inside so she can get changed and tries to convince his mom it was time to go. However, Sylvia's mom Hannah steps in that the kids could go now while someone drives her later. Annoyed Sawyer takes a very sleepy Lucy and leaves his mom there wishing that his friends and his mom were more separated. Veronica is having a pity party on the porch when she sees Sawyer pull up with a sleeping Lucy. She opens both the main door and the apartment door for him, and waits in the living room at his request. Once Lucy's all tucked in and back to sleep, he asks Veronica about the tumor. Veronica gives him the quick breakdown like she gave everyone else that knows before asking if he is going to do the project with her. Sawyer surprises her and himself by saying yes.

In English on Monday, the teacher asks everyone to announce their groups for the project, and Sawyer surprises everyone else by saying he will be working with Veronica. He ignores the hurting and angry look on Sylvia's face while the rest of the class states their groups. Once that is done, Sawyer joins Veronica at the back of the class so they can start discussing more details as well as writing out the summary for the teacher. During the process, Veronica tells Sawyer that they need to get to know each other a little better if they are going to work well together despite her frequent headaches and his dyslexia. Back at home later on, Veronica gets a surprise visit on the psychic Glory who she has been avoiding lately. She is about to ignore her when Glory pulls out a smudge stick that will send away all spirits including Veronica's mom. After Veronica refuses to let Glory smudge the house, she leaves a few smudge sticks, a seashell, and the instructions on how to use them properly. Once that is out of the way, they go out back so that Glory can perform the healing that Veronica has been dodging for the past month. Inside the house Sawyer is in his apartment taking care of Lucy after having to leave practice early to pick her up because their mom forgot. His mom comes in the house mad about him working with Veronica on the Senior Thesis which causes him to leave out of the house fast with the urge to jump again. 

After getting an A- on the summary, it takes two weeks before Sawyer and Veronica can get together again. After dropping Lucy off at a sleepover, they drive to their first haunted spot. Their first place to check out is a covered bridge that has had multiple deaths occur, including a car accident. They get there before sunset which means that Sawyer is able to get a few pictures while Veronica sits on rocky ledge with the recorder and her phone behind her. She is about to adjust her sunflower barrette in her hair when it falls onto another rock a little below her. She lays on her stomach and tries to reach it when the ground gives way under her. She is sliding down the hill when she feels Sawyer grab her and roll her onto another rock ledge. They stand there and debate their options before Sawyer says they need to jump. Veronica never learned to swim, so he proposes that she float while he pushes her across. After a few more minutes of looking at the options, Veronica agrees and jumps with Sawyer. They land in the water and are able to swim across exactly how he said they would. They make it to the other side and walk up the hill. They have no choice but to go across the bridge back to his car. While walking across it, they hear tapping behind them like footsteps and hurry the rest of the way. 

Sawyer builds them a fire after Veronica spent thirty minutes trying to capture an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) near the bridge's entrance with no success. They are still damp from the river when Sawyer decides to take off his shirt. Veronica has a blush form over her face that she tries to hide when he looks at her. After a little bit of awkward silence, they admit that they are both attracted to each other. Sawyer holds her hand while Veronica asks what is something no one else knows about him. He tells her about being told by his dad at 11 years old it was time to be brave. She tells him about her mom's battle with brain cancer when they hear more taps coming from the bridge. They grab the camera and recorder and walk a little ways into the bridge. Veronica asks a few questions while Sawyer takes a few pictures after telling the ghost that he was going to at Veronica's insistence. Once she asks all her questions, Veronica goes back to the fire and rewinds the tape. Her third question "Is there anything you think I should know?" is answered with "He's hurting."

On the drive home, Sawyer and Veronica sing and dance in the car until they pull onto their street. Once parked in the driveway, they sit in Sawyer's car for a bit when he hands her back her barrette. She pulls him into a hug and stays there until they are both thinking about kissing the other. However they are stopped when Sawyer sees someone standing on the porch over Veronica's shoulder. She turns around and bolts out of the car when she realizes that it is Leo coming down the steps. Sawyer gets out shortly behind her and see Nazareth and Jesse standing at the top of the stairs. Sawyer watches Leo casually touch Veronica while jealousy course through his body before he tells Veronica to text him when she is ready to go over the EVPs as he heads into the house and his apartment. Once he closes the apartment door, Sawyer finds his mom passed out on the couch with three empty wine bottles on the coffee table. He carries to her bed so she can sleep it off.

It's two in the morning, and Veronica is back over at Jesse's place climbing a tree while Jesse, his girlfriend Scarlett, Nazareth, and Leo all watch from below. When she decide she can't climb any higher, everyone else starts climbing up the tree. Veronica has to jump down because she starts getting dizzy. Just as she's walking towards the blanket near the fire, Leo jumps down behind her. They walk over and sit on the blanket as Leo makes a comment about him missing her because she's never down, and it just makes the awkwardness worse. He mentions that he's been going on dates and it quickly turns into a fight about her being around Sawyer. Leo says he's sorry when he sees how exhausted she really is, and then calmly voices his concern about Sawyer hurting her. Before Veronica can respond, his phone is ringing. He answers it saying that his friend is just going through something, which is confirms that their friendship has officially changed. Leo walks off and is replaced by Jesse who joins her when her head erupts into pain. Veronica tells Jesse to take her home right away. Jesse pulls into her driveway as Leo calls his phone for the dozenth time since Veronica turned her phone off. Jesse starts to say Leo came home because he's confused by his feelings for Veronica and a girl he is seeing at college. Veronica gets out in a rush while telling Jesse to just go home. Veronica gets inside just as her dad is coming down the main stairs yelling at her for being home late before she breaks down in tears over losing Leo as her best friend. Instead of continuing to yell at her her dad just holds her while she cries.

Sunday comes and Sawyer is cleaning up from making lasagna with Lucy when his mom brings up the Senior Thesis, him ignoring Sylvia, and his upcoming swim meet depending on his grades. Sawyer is just about to blow up on her because she's blaming Veronica when there's a knock at the door. Sawyer goes and opens it to see Veronica's dad, Ulysses, standing on the other side. He comes in and gets Sawyer to repeat that he won't tell anybody about Veronica's tumor. This peaks Sawyer's mom's interest as Ulysses is explaining a little more about her diagnosis and that he knows Veronica will make sure the Senior Thesis is perfect. Ulysses then tells Sawyer that he'll be taking Veronica out of town for a week for a vacation. When Ulysses leaves, Sawyer wonders what's going on with Veronica. When his mom loses all the fight in her voice, she walks away while yelling at his mom to not tell anybody about the tumor. Sawyer drives to the AA meeting he knows Knox will be at so he doesn't go jumping again. When it's over he tells, Knox about the jump with Veronica at the covered bridge, and Knox tells him that he was going to be his sponsor. While this is for alcoholics, Knox knows that they don't have adrenaline addiction groups, so this would have to be the next best thing. Knox's first step as Sawyer sponsor is for them to go grab food together and get to know each other.

Veronica wakes up at midnight realizing she slept the day away after talking to her dad about everything but seeing her mom's ghost. She hears tapping in the living room and follows it out in hopes of seeing the little ghost girl. On the way out to the living room she sees her mom laying next to her dad in his bed like she did when she was alive. This makes Veronica happy since it means he's finally getting a good night's sleep. She quietly walks out to the living room and down the main stairs when she hears more taps. Meanwhile Sawyer is woken again by Lucy screams. After getting Lucy back to sleep, Sawyer follows the taps that sounds like footsteps out of the apartment front door where Veronica is standing at the bottom of the main stairs. She basically confirms that he heard the ghost she has been telling him about. Sawyer asks her to go with him on a ride. She says sure but she has to leave a note for her dad.

Sawyer drives Veronica 20 minutes away to his favorite spot which is a rock quarry that he loves to jump from. He brings her here in an attempt to share his deepest darkest secret about being addicted to jumping, and to get her to tell him what is going on. Instead she tells him to kiss her and save the relationship altering talk for the morning. Sawyer has an internal debate until Veronica kisses him first. They make out for hours before driving home and happy silence while holding hands at 4:30 in the morning. When they pull into the driveway, Sawyer opens her car door, but lets her open the main door. They stand in the foyer and are about to kiss again when ghost's footsteps startle them apart. Then they hear her dad calling her up the stairs, and telling Sawyer to decide what kind of man he is going to be. Sawyer walks with Veronica up the stairs. Just as they get inside the living room when she sees her mom and passes out. She wakes up to see her dad and Sawyer staring at her while she's laying on the couch. After making sure she is okay, her dad gives them a minute to say goodbye. Veronica uses this minute to tell Sawyer this needs to be a fun thing with no pressure, and he agrees but says that they only kiss each other, no one else. Sawyer says goodbye knowing that Veronica and her dad will be leaving for their vacation soon.

A week passes, and Sawyer is driving with his mom and Lucy over to Sylvia's forget another weekend potluck dinner. Before they get out of his car, his mom makes them both promise to not tell anyone about their money troubles. Sawyer and Lucy sit in the car for a little bit longer, and are about to get out when Sylvia knocks on the car window. Sylvia helps Lucy get out and sends her inside, so Sylvia and Sawyer stay out in the driveway. Once alone they sort of make up and become friends again by admitting they were both handling the situation with Veronica wrong. Then she asks if her and Miguel can join his group with Veronica. Sawyer tells her sure, but she needs to know that he's dating Veronica. On Sunday, Veronica gets dressed for Christmas since her Thanksgiving got canceled thanks to Leo. She is finishing up her outfit while arguing with her mom about the sudden headache / seizure she had before going to Florida with her dad. She goes downstairs for what she thinks is a regular brunch with her dad, and is surprised to see that Sawyer got everyone together for her Thanksgiving after all. They all sit down to eat half brunch and half Thanksgiving food that Lucy keep saying she helped make. After helping clean up and set up Christmas, Sawyer joins Veronica on the porch after her dad finishes a short but serious "don't hurt her talk". Veronica admits to being in love with Leo once, but that she fell out of love when he couldn't see past her tumor. Sawyer makes it clear he sees her, and then tells her about going to the AA meetings for his cliff jumping addiction. She surprises him by being supportive and everything seems at ease. That is until he tells her that Miguel and Sylvia are going to be joining their group, now Veronica is pissed. It's 10:00 p.m. when Sawyer walks back into his apartment. After calming down Veronica, they went over the EVPs and photos from the bridge until he had to go to the Y for a work meeting. After the meeting was over, he did a few laps in the pool before coming home to find his mom still drunk from the night before. She tries to argue with him over Veronica being a bad influence until he brings up his dad is having another baby with his girlfriend. Before it can get turned into a shouting match between the two of them, Lucy wakes up thirsty so Sawyer puts her to bed before calling Knox.

Veronica, Sawyer, Sylvia, and Miguel are in a cafe in Lexington interviewing Dr. Kelly Wolfe, who is a professor of history at Transylvania University. Dr. Wolfe also knows a lot about Kentucky history, local folklore, and ghost stories. Veronica shows her the photos and the EVP from the bridge, and gets confirmation from Dr. Wolfe that they did in fact capture ghost activity. Then Dr. Wolfe explains the difference between an actual ghost interaction, and a residual haunting (a memory so traumatic that it stays at the location). This causes Sawyer to think about Veronica's house and all the ghost activity they've been hearing lately. After finishing the interview, they are back in Miguel's SUV who drove them to Lexington, and is now driving them to Louisville. The next destination is a road close to a cemetery where people have claimed to see a teenage girl in a prom dress walking on the road towards the cemetery.

The story is the teenage girl and her boyfriend crashed while they were on their way to a school dance. This road that they are on has a very sharp curve that will send you down the side of the steep hill if you are not careful. They are almost to the cemetery that both teenagers are buried at on the steep hill when a bright orb runs in front of the SUV forcing Miguel to slam on the brakes. This is just moments after Veronica explains the deaths in the crash are real and have records. After Sawyer make sure everybody is okay, he tells Miguel to pull over to the side of the road. Veronica gets out with the recorder and heads into the cemetery before Sawyer, Sylvia, and Miguel follow behind her. They catch up to Veronica as she stands over the teenage girls broken headstone. Veronica mentioned something about a statue close by that she wants to look at, so Miguel goes with her while Sawyer and Sylvia stay behind. Sylvia then tells Sawyer that her and Miguel know about Veronica's tumor thanks to his mom. Before the discussion can go further, Veronica comes back and get some saying they found the statue. Sylvia gets teased by Veronica and Miguel over a statue that supposedly predicts deaths of visiting groups. Sawyer takes a few pictures while Sylvia chases down Miguel. Veronica tells him that it feels like the cemetery wants them to leave.

When Sylvia and Miguel come back, Veronica says they need to take some EVPs. The four of them are sitting on the grassy knoll at the very end of the cemetery trying to get some EBTs but are out of luck. Instead Miguel asks the group what would be the one moment in their lives that would turn into their residual haunting. Miguel is unable to voice his, but it is clear that Sawyer and Sylvia know what he is thinking. Then Sawyer says his is the day his mom finally broke down after another round of him blaming her for the divorce. Veronica says hers is the moment her mom died after all those rounds of chemo. Sylvia says hers is a moment she came out to her family as being gay and her grandma told her that she would be going to hell. Then they all admit that the energy from the cemetery is very off-putting, so Veronica announces that a cleansing of chocolate milkshakes was an order while wondering in the back of her mind if this was the moment Glory had warned her about....

Will Sawyer tell Veronica that more people know about her tumor? Will Veronica tell Sawyer and her dad about the new symptom she's an experiencing? Will Sawyer ever learn the full truth about her tumor? Will they be able to prove ghosts are real after all?

I know this is not the usual cliff hanger that I would stop at, but this is the best spot I could stop at without giving away too much more. Like I said, this may be a YA novel, but Katie McGarry did such an amazing job that I completely forgot. This book pulls you in pretty much from the first few pages, and makes it almost impossible to put down! I am so grateful to TorTeen Books and BookishFirst.com for sending me this book because I absolutely loved it! It has ghosts, secrets, and two teenagers that don't normally fit in the same social circles. What more could you ask for? If you simply must join me and many others by adding this to your personal library, then head on over to my page:

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