It has been a LONG time since I posted a review! I’ll be putting them up more frequently from now on, thanks for bearing with me!
99 Days, by Katie Cotugno
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Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Length: 384 pages
Format: Hardcover & Paperback
Times Read: Three
Rating: This book gets a lot of hate, and nothing but love from me
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.
9 Days & 9 Nights, by Katie Cotugno
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Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Length: 272 pages
Times Read: 1
Molly Barlow isn’t that girl anymore. A business major at her college in Boston, she’s reinvented herself after everything that went down a year ago . . . after all the people she hurt and the family she tore apart.
Slowly, life is getting back to normal. Molly has just said “I love you” to her new boyfriend, Ian, and they are off on a romantic European vacation together, starting with scenic London. But there on a Tube platform, the past catches up to her in the form of Gabe, her ex, traveling on his own parallel vacation with new girlfriend Sadie.
After comparing itineraries, Ian ends up extending an invite for Gabe and Sadie to join them on the next leg of their trip, to Ireland. Sadie, who’s dying to go there, jumps at the prospect. And Molly and Gabe can’t bring themselves to tell the truth about who they once were to each other to their new significant others.
Now Molly has to spend nine days and nine nights with the boy she once loved, the boy whose heart she shredded, without Ian knowing. Will she make it through as new, improved Molly, or will everything that happened between her and Gabe come rushing back?
What I Liked: All of it, in a nutshell. If you haven’t read both books yet, there will be spoilers below!
♥ Molly. Molly is not a particularly likeable character to many (most?) readers, but I adore her. I get her. I have felt her confusion, her pain, her isolation. When the book opens, Molly is back in her hometown for the summer after fleeing to a boarding school for her senior year of high school. She’s counting down the 99 days until she can leave for college, and spends a lot of time in her room, eating Red Vines and watching documentaries on her laptop.
Like, a LOT of documentaries
Once Molly comes out of hibernation, she gets a job, makes a new friend, makes up with an old friend, is called a slut, gets her car keyed and her house egged, and has a completely unhealthy infatuation with two brothers. Basically, her summer is a shit show.
♥ Gabe. Confident, sexy, and charming, Gabe is hard not to root for. He was part of The Thing that happened before Molly ran away to boarding school, and I loved how he wanted to own that. He saw the double standard in the way that Molly was being treated and it’s one of the first things he brings up when they eventually see each other again.
“It feels unfair, though, right?” Gabe says. “I mean, if you’re a dirty slut, then I’m a dirty slut.”
During Molly’s 99 days at home, she and Gabe reconnect and start dating. He’s the only person to make Molly fell normal, the first person who’s truly kind to her when she gets home. The only issue about Gabe is that he’s part of The Triangle.
♥ The Triangle. Honestly, I don’t dislike this triangle. It’s messy, it’s convoluted, and it’s truly messed up, but it’s so well written. I can see how Molly has feelings for both boys.
Say what you will, but it happens to the best of us
Gabe, who we’ve already talked about, is sexy and self-assured, with a demeanor that tilts positive, and he’s always up for anything. He’s really good for Molly. Patrick…I didn’t love Patrick. But what I did love was his history with Molly. I loved the small glances back into the past, showing them growing up and growing together. In the present, he’s kind of a dick. But he has good reason to be. Molly broke his heart and lied to him, and he has no interest in being in her life again. Until he does.
♥ The Girls. Right off the bat, you know that even though there’s girl-hate in this book, at it’s heart, this story is full of girl-power. The dedication, “this one’s for the girls”, leaves nothing to the imagination. Julia and her crew may be bullies and slut-shamers, but the rest of the ladies more than make up for them. Her boss at Star Lake Lodge, Penn, is a badass single-mother businesswoman who encourages Molly to pursue a business degree. Imogen! That girl is solid gold. She is all feminist, all the time, and I adore her. She lets Molly back into her life even when Molly ditched her without so much as a call when she ran away to boarding school. But she also lets Molly know that she’s friends with Tess, and she won’t dump her, no matter how weird it may make things for Molly. Tess is Patrick’s new girlfriend, and even though she has reason to hate Molly on his behalf and no one would blame her, she befriends her instead. She’s genuine and kind, and is a really great friend to Molly. Even after everything that happens, she doesn’t shame Molly. She’s still nice to her, which at that point is maybe more than Molly deserves from her.
“The moment it gets to be about doing messed-up stuff to other girls is the moment I get off the train.”
♥ The Slut-Shaming. I don’t love the actual slut-shaming, but I love the conversation around it. I love how there’s a double standard that’s acknowledged, if not by everyone, then at least by many. By the end of the book, even people like Patrick and Gabe’s mom recognize that they’ve been harder on Molly than deserved. And Gabe is always, always on her side. He’s not ostracized like she is, he’s not blamed at all, but he doesn’t just sit by and let it happen. He says something. He stands up for her. He brings her back into the fold and doesn’t let everyone talk shit about her.
♥ The Donnelly’s. In present day, they are rough on Molly. But before everything happened, they were her family. She kept a pair of pajamas at their house, she ate dinner there, she was there when their dad died. It was hard to see Molly without them now, it was hard to see how mean Julia and Patrick could be to her, but in the end, they were accepting of her and Gabe’s relationship. Things were starting to get back on track. Until they weren’t.
What I Didn’t:
⊗ Listen, Molly is made of flaws. She makes bad decisions 90% of the time, but she has a good heart. She’s selfish and she hurts people and it’s cringeworthy, watching her make the same stupid mistakes over and over. But she’s real. I can so easily remember being a teenager fumbling through and feeling like everything I wanted at the time was “right”. I was probably a pretty unlikeable person at Molly’s age a lot of the time, and that’s why it’s so easy to relate to her. Even though I know, I KNOW that what she’s doing is going to blow up in her face, I still root for her.
⊗ Molly’s mom. She really fucked Molly over and never seemed all that sorry about it. She doesn’t seem to understand what she really did. But parents aren’t selfless or perfect either, and Katie Cotugno writes them well. They’re just people too, with their own flaws and mistakes.
⊗ The slut-shaming. Oh MAN it makes me mad. But as someone who probably would have engaged in that girl-on-girl hate as a teenager, it rings true. As an adult, I find hating other girls to be super boring and there’s no need for it. There is room for all of us in this world, and if you don’t like someone, don’t look at them. But I didn’t always get that. So as infuriating as it is, as UNNECESSARY as it is, it’s going to happen. The nice thing is that there’s also a balance in this book. Julia and her friends are awful and cruel, but Imogen and Tess are wonderful. They DO get it. One of my favorite things about Imogen is when she tells Molly that she’s there for her, but girl hate is where she gets off the train.
Final Thoughts: I’m a huge Katie Cotugno fangirl, so it’s no surprise that I love this book. I love the flawed characters, the authentic storylines, the way that everyone makes shitty mistakes that impact other people in a real way. And man, does she write good swoon.
9 Days & 9 Nights:
What I Liked: God bless this sequel I never knew I always needed.
♥ Boston. I’m not saying Katie Cotugno writes books just for me personally, but I have lived in both Florida and Boston, where a lot of her stories take place. I have a great affinity for Boston, it remains one of my most favorite places I’ve ever lived (there have been a lot. I’ve moved with my husband four times for medical school and residency, and three times on my own before I met him). We were there for the marathon bombing, and the way the city came together after that was just incredible. Before I get too off-track, I was super excited that the backstory of this book took place at a college in Boston. I loved watching Molly and Ian traipsing around the city that I so adored.
♥ Look, Molly is my girl. As I’ve said before, she is made of flaws, but I still want to be her friend. She makes mistakes, she doesn’t necessarily learn from them, she does the same thing all over again, but like…don’t we all? Don’t we all have something that we are or have been stuck in a cycle about? I do, I have before, and I certainly will again. People aren’t perfect, and Molly sure isn’t. But she does have a good heart, and to me, she’s perfectly likeable.
♥ Ian. I didn’t think I was going to like Ian at all. I came into the book wanting Gabe and Molly as my endgame, and it seemed dumb to waste time on Ian first. But from his first line in the book, I was sold. Ian is awesome. He’s kind, and he doesn’t pressure Molly to date him or explain her past before she’s ready. I thought they were good together, even though Molly wasn’t willing to disclose what had happened to her the past few years. Would you? How do you even begin that conversation? Anyway, I loved Ian. He has secrets of his own, but when they come out, I get why he kept them quiet.
♥ Gabe. It’s no secret that I’ve wanted Gabe and Molly to end up together all along. The end of 99 Days makes it seem like they might make it work, so when I heard about 9 Days and 9 Nights, I was sort of devastated. What do you mean, my precious babies are each with other people??? But it works for this book. It’s necessary for this story to move forward, and for these characters to really show some growth. Gabe has some issues of his own that he’s working through, and I really felt for his hesitancy on changing his major, his career path, the life he thought he’d have.
♥ Imogen. SOLID GOLD, PEOPLE. I loved catching up with her and watching her continue to take no shit from Molly and to be the voice of reason for her friend again and again.
♥ Choices and Consequences. A lot of this book is about the consequences that Molly has continued to face, and the fact that Gabe ended up off the hook for everything. You’ll probably figure out what Molly went through at the beginning of the book fairly early on, as I did. But the author wasn’t necessarily trying to make it a mystery. Molly just wasn’t ready to talk or think about it for awhile. But when memories came up, we witnessed her Mom really come through. When Molly and Gabe meet up in Europe, the chemistry and longing was still there. But this time, Molly made a different choice. She chose not to replay her past, she chose not to cheat on Ian with Gabe again. And I liked seeing that that was hard. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, and it can be so hard to let go of your past, to forget what you had with someone before and imagine how it might be again. Doing the right thing doesn’t mean you don’t for a second think about the wrong thing. But Molly is trying to make better choices this time around, and I admire that.
♥ The Eiffel Tower scene where it all finally comes out. That’s all I’m going to say about it in the interest of avoiding spoilers, but I’m here for it.
“Telling the whole truth is like aloe on sunburn, the balm of finally being totally seen.”
Who cares if it’s touristy, you’re a tourist in Paris, people.
What I Didn’t:
⊗ This is a short list, because honestly, this book was perfection to me. There was swoon, there was growth, there was heart, there was Europe, there was Gabe. But it was hard to watch Molly be someone who was so completely opposite of her real self. I got it, it made sense, but it was still hard to read.
⊗ Ian’s secret. It almost veered into the territory of a convenient way to get Molly and Gabe back together (come on, you knew that was going to happen), and it might have helped move Molly along, but it wasn’t totally unnecessary. Molly still made actual choices in the end.
Final Thoughts: I loved seeing these characters again. I love that the author didn’t try to sneak everyone from book one into book two, because that’s not real life. I liked seeing Molly with someone else, to better appreciate how much herself she was with Gabe. I liked armchair traveling through Europe with my girl, and watching her start to finally get it right. When 99 Days was over, I thought the ending was perfect. Now I know that it’s really the end of this one.
99 Days: “I hate how colossally awkward it feels between us, like puzzle pieces that got wet and warped and don’t fit correctly anymore.
“You’re good at it, what you do here. You should know that about yourself.”
“This is the worst part, I remind myself. Except for all the other worst parts.”
9 Days and 9 Nights: “I’m a damage-doer, no matter how hard I try not to be. Maybe everyone is, in some way.”
“It occurs to me that maybe this is what friendship is sometimes: saying your piece, then crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.”
“Living in total opposition to something is just a different way of not getting over it.”
“It occurs to me, not for the first time, that we see what we’re expecting to see when we look at other people.”
So who’s read one or both of these? Are you a lover or a hater of these deeply flawed characters?