"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."
He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.
All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?
Title: While He Was Away
Author: Karen Schreck
Release Date: May 1st 2012
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
While He Was Away is a story about a girl, Penna, whose boyfriend leaves for war. It is about her struggle to cope with knowing he is facing life endangering situations. In the very beginning we are introduced to both Penna and David early in the summer on the day before he is deployed. Then slowly we progress through the summer, with her discovering new things about her past and learning more about herself as she grows emotionally, and of course as David tries to contact back to her.
First I would like to say that I have experience with the long distance relationships, and they are no fun. Now if I would have added him going overseas to fight in the war to that, it would have been unbearable. I think the fact that this would be a completely life altering and difficult to go through is something everyone could agree on. But, I know what you are thinking, ‘I don’t want to read a book about a girl pining for her boyfriend.’ I wouldn’t want to either. And it isn’t just that, it does involve it, but it also revolves around her mother and her estranged grandmother.
I enjoyed that this novel took a complete different path then I thought it was going to take from just reading the blurb and after reading the beginning of the story. Schreck did not take the well beaten path of the main character getting everything she wants, far from it. In fact, I would say that she is your average teenager that falls in love and grows to learn that maybe the love she thought she knew wasn’t the love unrequited love she thought she had. Maybe time and distance are too much of a hurdle to pass. Maybe love doesn’t conquer all. I know I had to learn that lesson the hard way.
Now, for the reason this book is not a must read. The plot seemed unfocused. While reading, I was almost to the end of the novel, about twenty pages, thirty at the most and thinking to myself, ‘How the heck is this story going to end.’ There were ideas throughout the entire novel that I thought could be explored more, but they were always just side notes, never to go in depth.
Another thing that truly pushed my button was the cover. I mean, to me the guy looks like a white male, when David is a Hispanic male, who apparently is very brown, the guy on the cover, yeah, not so much. I guess I just don’t understand how hard it is to find a guy that actually has some kind of resemblance to the guy in the story. Maybe it is actually difficult, but I am pretty positive I could go to my college and throw a rock and it would hit someone who would be a better fit for this photo. This cover kept making me think she was going to cheat on her boyfriend with a white guy and drive off on David’s motorcycle. I mean, I knew it was a ridiculous thought, but it still it was a thought, one I shouldn’t have had to have.
I enjoyed the novel. It was good, but not great. I feel let down by this While He Was Away, it held so much promise to me, of a girl worrying about the man she loves while he was away. In the blurb it says “But will my sweet, soulful, funny David be the same person when he comes home?” That was a question that when I read, I thought ‘Will he? I want to find out.’ But I never get to know, David never came back, and I don’t mean he died. He was on a 15 month deployment and at the most three months passed. So while I could tell David’s personality had changed from the David in Penna’s memories, to the David skyping and calling, I never got to see them together again. The unfocused plot and sudden end had me confused. I wish there was more direction to this novel because this really could have been great, given the proper guidance. I recommend for those who are interested in the boyfriend off to war topic, but don’t expect a love sweet ending with roses and unicorns, like I mentioned before it just takes place over the summer so there is not a chance for him to even come back yet.
Because the plot was so unfocused, I find myself still confused about what exactly I thought of this novel, but I hope I described it well enough for you so you can know if you would like to read it or not.
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