Title: Miles from Kara (Charleston Haven #2)
Author: Melissa West
Publisher: Penguin / InterMix
Publication date: December 2nd 2014
Source: Arc received via Netgalley – thank you!
In a nutshell: It won’t give you the feels.
|Kara Marcus is desperate to forget the past and move on. But she can’t escape her choices—especially when she finds herself falling in love…
Since the first day she stepped into her childhood Southern Baptist church, two truths have been engrained in Kara Marcus’s head: sex before marriage is bad and murder is a sin. And that’s why Kara can never forgive herself for what she did at the age of sixteen.
Now, as second semester of freshman year comes to a close, Kara has stood by her high school boyfriend, Ethan. But as they seem to grow further and further apart every day, Kara realizes that she has feelings for someone else: Ethan’s roommate Colt.
Suddenly, Kara’s clear-cut world shifts out of focus, and she’s torn between what her head tells her is right and what her heart is desperately pushing her to do—even if it means committing another undeniable sin…
I started this book assuming I would quickly be swept off by a brilliant plot and well-developed characters. I mean, Pieces of Olivia was – by far – one of the most fulminant NA books I have ever read, so I expected Miles from Kara to be a deep, humorous and edgy read as well. Too bad only parts of my expectations came true — to be honest, I was largely disappointment by where the story was leading to.
First off, I believe Kara’s story reads better after getting to know Olivia and Preston first. Without that background, Miles from Kara probably might not read as strong since it is crucial to understand the friendship dynamics.
As a reader we meet Kara right in the middle of a midlife crisis: Her relationship with her boyfriend Ethan is about to fall apart; insecurities of whether she chose the right major (psychology) or not dominate her life. Also, she is struggling with the aftermath of an abortion she had as a sixteen-year-old teenager.
In order to find out if she chose the right subject field, Kara decides to volunteer in a counseling center where she finds herself unwillingly confronted with her own past: Assigned to look after Maggie – a girl struggling with a teenage pregnancy herself – Kara quickly ends up in a vortex of emotions and cannot help to face her own demons.
Considering the fact that abortion is a taboo subject in many ways, Melissa West did a great job in dealing with this complex topic. Her writing makes you realize that not everything is black and white, and I really respect her for being able to make the best out of such tough issues.
That being said, I really wished I would have enjoyed the dynamics in her and Colt’s relationship more. Colt was too much of that oh-so-perfect boyfriend type, making him a not-so-interesting character. Romance plays a major role in the book, however it sometimes felt as though it pushed the main plot away. It did not feel like the romance part and Kara’s inner demons would complement each other, making me feel a little bit annoyed halfway through the book.
It was not always easy to follow Kara’s understanding of sin. Kara is such a broken character — yet she is strong in her own way and conceals her brokenness with her bubbly and always-happy breeziness. Her approach of dealing with guilt however was often based on selfishness, denial and repression. Although the book is all about finding yourself, we barely see Kara undergoing the process of self-reflection: There are certainly some kind of “attempts” of her to do so, but they are often simply just whisked off — instead, she turns into an insecure hormone-driven and emotion-fixed girl again. See, on the one hand she constantly blames herself for having an abortion, but then on the other hand she cannot stop addressing reproaches to her mother by trying to tell herself she was forced to kill her and Preston’s baby. Mysterious character, much? I think so.
Also, the ending felt a little bit too rash. Yes, she eventually finds all her strength to give voice to her grief and guilt by talking to the people she has to talk to. But exactly those conversations were too oversimplified to compromise the mixed emotions Kara has had for years.
On the bright side, I was very pleased to see that we meet many characters that have already played a more or less significant role in the previous book again. It was amazing to see that Rose (Olivia’s turned Kara’s therapist) has not lost her sense of dry humor, and that Prestion and Olivia are still crazy for each other.
Ultimately, I find it really hard to rate this book. I expected more turns of events in this book, probably a darker and more twisted story; instead, it is a story about optimism and finding happiness (with lots of cliched romance). Miles from Kara is not West’s strongest work to date, and it failed to give me that I-can-so-relate-to-the-characters-moment, but it definitely gave me some bright reading moments.