Together We Caught Fire, by Eva V. Gibson
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Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Length: 368 pages
Times Read: Twice
Rating: 40 million/5
A forbidden attraction grows even more complicated when the guy Lane Jamison has crushed on for years suddenly becomes her step-brother in this sexy and gorgeously written debut novel about the lines between love, desire, and obsession.
What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?
Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend.
Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.
Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.
I! AM! TOTALLY! IN! LOVE! WITH! THIS! BOOK! There are so many little things that make this book different from any other YA contemp. you’ve ever read, and trust me, you’ll fall in love too.
As usual, read the synopsis above because I’m not going to waste time recapping it.
♥ I mean, before the book even begins, we get trigger warnings. There’ve been a LOT of discussion in the Twitterverse lately about why books should have trigger warnings, but this is the first where I’ve actually seen them in print.
Please note that it is NOT up to authors whether or not these are included. Most authors agree that they should be! It’s generally a publisher’s decision, though.
♥ A few other things right off the bat that you don’t usually see in YA? An open discussion about periods, endometriosis, and the general suffering that some of us go through with the menstrual cycle. Lane knows she’s suffering from endometriosis. She has the symptoms, and her mother had it. Her doctor, however, dismisses her because she’s “too young” for that and this is “all in her head” and it’s just “bad PMS” (which is not even TRUE girls as young as 11 have been diagnosed with endometriosis), but girl, I know how you feel. I had such bad cramps that I used to throw up every month and had to stay home from school, but when my doctor suggested that the pill might help, my hyper-religious parents refused. SOMEONE is always getting in our way, aren’t they?
But Lane and her stepmom have SUCH a lovely scene that sets up their relationship really early on, where Skye sits with Lane on the bathroom floor as she pukes, sends Lane’s stepbrother Greyson to make some ginger tea, and settles her back in bed. And when Lane overhears Skye calling her absence into school, she realizes how much that little bit of mothering really matters to her. As someone who also lost her mother at a young age, I can’t tell you how much this resonated with me–not even realizing how much you wanted someone to take care of you until they do.
♥ Something else that’s very just chill and part of the characters, not a Whole Big Thing: Lane’s father, stepmother, and stepbrother are all practicing Wiccans. There is definitely some drama because Grey’s girlfriend is VERY conservative Christian and can’t wrap her head around this (I mean at one point girl says that yoga is against her religion??), but for the most part it is just a piece of who the characters are, not something they’re struggling with, not a huge plot point.
What I thought of every time someone mentioned “casting a circle”
♥ We also get a main character who, for no discernible reason, has been labeled easy and a slut at school. We thankfully don’t spend much time at school so we don’t see much of it, but we do hear about it through text messages from an ex, little comments from Grey’s girlfriend Sadie, and, most annoyingly, Grey himself.
But Lane is no pushover, and she’s not okay with this shit. She ALWAYS stands up for herself.
“Someone like me? Finish that sentence, Grey McIntyre, I fucking dare you.”
♥ Look, I know there’s supposed to be a hard choice between Grey and Connor, but here’s my hot take: Grey is a garbage person.
Check out these differences in the way the two speak to her:
Connor to Lane, after seeing some texts from a guy she had dated over the summer who is now harassing her and using abusive language:
“I think the word you’re looking for is ‘unsubscribe.'”
“He’s not giving you shit at school, is he?”
Compared to Grey to Lane, while being unfairly jealous of Connor:
“Or you, being a sl–” He bit the word in half, the two remaining letters flaring an even darker red across his face.”
“I’d rather have a firecracker than an ice queen. Trust me, Elaine–if Sadie were as cold as you, I’d have slit my wrists ages ago.”
Each time I read this, I spent most of the book being pissed at Grey and not understanding at all what Lane sees in him. Grey has a girlfriend from the beginning, but still feels like it’s his right to be insanely possessive, territorial, and jealous of Lane. He does begin a decent redemption arc by the end, but…
Homeboy is MEAN for a good long while, because homeboy is jealous and hurt and doesn’t understand why he is either of these things, because he does love his girlfriend. He can’t process what he doesn’t understand, so he continues spiraling, taking it out on Lane basically because he’s being a baby.
I will concede that Grey is consistently called out on his shit (“Tell Grey hi from me, and also to go fuck himself”…”Connor says hi, and that you should fuck yourself.”) and by the end has recognized, apologized for, and rectified his behavior, so he is someone who can learn and grow and thus does not have to remain a garbage person forever.
“These past couple months, my head was in a real bad place–like, the one core tenet of my moral compass is do no harm and that basically all went to shit the second I moved in here. Now I have this laundry list of things I fucked up, that I can never take back, and it’s killing me.”–Grey McIntyre, in a rare self-aware moment
♥ But Connor? Connor gets under Lane’s skin from the beginning, as their lives intertwine and enmesh through Grey and his girlfriend, who happens to be Connor’s sister. Connor pushes Lane, asks her to face her fears, gets her to do something about them.
“To paraphrase…the best way around a problem is to go right the fuck on through it. So–yeah. Let’s fix it.”
Connor lives and works in an artist workspace/warehouse, and Lane knits hats, scarves, mittens, chokers, blankets, etc. for her family’s booth at the farmers’ market, so they’re both creative people. Lane takes to spending a lot of time at the warehouse, where she feels safe and can work on her craft with people who understand.
There’s also a scene that’s not not sexy involving some yarn and a crochet hook
♥ But here’s the part that’s really different than most YA. I’ve read a lot of books with trauma in them, but there’s a lot to unpack in this one. Grey suffers from insomnia, up for hours at a time in the middle of the night. His girlfriend, whether or not she wants to admit it, is being verbally abused by her father and their religion at home, if his language in the one or two conversations we hear is any indication. Connor was kicked out of his home at 16, and spent 14 months living on the streets before he found salvation in the warehouse. And Lane? Lane’s mother committed suicide when Lane was only 5 years old, and Lane was the one to find her. She has very vivid nightmare flashbacks, and what I would consider PTSD.
She knows that she should want to get help. But when you’re suffering from trauma, sometimes it’s hard to want to get better. Your mind can convince you that you’ll start to forget the things that were good, if you heal from the things that were bad.
“Still, some part of me didn’t want to heal-it wanted the wounds and blood and memories, and the unending, unparalleled fear that, so far, had kept me going.”
When I was 11, my mom died. Not by suicide, but there was still plenty of trauma to go around then, and in the aftermath. And Lane is right–the wounds start to feel like part of you. I’ve been through therapy for years and years, and there are still pieces of the trauma that I don’t want to give up. It’s been a part of me for so long, that it feels like it belongs there now. So what Lane is going through? It feels very valid.
Final Thoughts: I think it’s clear that I adore this book, if the length of this review is any indication. It’s so well written, it’s so complicated, so sexy, so darkly romantic. And the author is a true delight to interact with. This is her debut, and I hope you’ll all pre-order a copy! Pre-orders are SO important to authors, especially when we want them to be able to publish more books!!
“That’s all any of us are, I think-more or less screwed up, at any given moment. It’s all chaos.”
“Life is nothing if not a shitshow of everything you’d rather forget entirely.”
“Lane, if you could maybe locate your chill, that would be great.”