“We were perfect together. Until we met.”
I can’t help but smile at the lyrics in her letter. She misses me.
In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.
It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…
And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.
Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.
We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?
Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?
F*ck it. I need to meet her.
I just don’t expect to hate what I find.
He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.
Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his phone number or picture or something.
He could be gone forever.
Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.
This is a sweet story that made me happy. Misha and Ryen have their flaws but they’re perfect for each other. They’ve been pen pals for seven years and best friends for almost as long. Worried that any change in their relationship could ruin everything, they’ve set strict rules to prevent any contact outside of their letters. They’ve never met, talked on the phone or exchanged photos so social media is also off limits. I can’t imagine the kind of self-control a person would have to possess to not creep social media in a situation like this but it speaks to how serious they are about the relationship. It’s a special thing for both of them and they’re determined make sure nothing upsets the balance of the little world they share.
This has worked for the friends for years until suddenly Misha stops writing without explanation. Ryen misses her friend and she’s a bit lost without him. It turns out she can only be herself with Misha and everyone else in her life gets a façade. As his silence drags on, you can see how the stress wears on her. She misses her friend but her interactions with him were also a critical outlet for Ryen and she’s starting to crack under the pressure.
They happen to meet at a concert but Misha realizes who she is and ends the interaction before she learns his name. That would have been the end of it except that Misha has just transferred to Ryen’s school. He’s on a mission and his reasons for being there have nothing to do with her but she’s certainly a distraction. He’s going by the name Mason and she has no idea this is her missing friend. They immediately clash when Misha learns that Ryan’s nothing like she described herself. In fact, she’s basically the opposite and embodies everything she professed to hate. He’s disgusted to know his best friend is a fraud and her behavior’s awful so he enjoys putting her in her place.
Ryen doesn’t understand why this complete stranger is so compelled to judge and condemn her but she’s really attracted to him even though he pisses her off, or maybe because he does. She doesn’t really know what she wants except that it’s not the life she has so Ryen’s open to anything that makes her feel. Whether the resulting emotions are good or bad doesn’t seem to matter, she just wants to explore herself. The dynamics between them allow her to let down her guard and get to know herself better, which is something she can’t do with anyone else.
Misha is a sweet guy with a sad life and very likeable despite his smart mouth and the way he taunts her. Ryen’s very likeable too, despite her flaws because it’s obvious that the shallow mean-girl she presents to the world is an act. She’s pretty and smart and loving but so insecure that she’s happy to go through life pretending to be a pretentious jerk merely to be accepted by people she doesn’t even like. Being an outcast as a child was so polarizing and painful for her that this is a better alternative and you feel her pain.
They both have a lot of pain for different reasons and suffer alone, struggling with their own identities as teens on top of it all. I was hooked from the start and rooting for this couple all along. I’ve seen criticism of how he treated her and the sex being unrealistic but I disagree completely. They acted their age and that’s how some young adults treat people they can’t or don’t respect. It may be harsh but being a dick to other kids at school isn’t automatically abuse and it’s not automatically misogyny just because he’s criticizing her. Everyone interprets things differently but I think you have to be pretty uptight or have completely forgotten what you were like at 18 to nitpick this story. The sex scenes were relatively vanilla and seemed pretty realistic for young adults. Even inexperienced people can enjoy sex and, in this case, the love and bond they share is evident in their chemistry, even before they realize it.
The supporting characters were great and really added to the story in a lot of ways. There’s even a minor tie-in to the author’s Devil’s Night series, which was fun. There was a lot happening here but Penelope Douglas handled it beautifully. The pacing was good and the story was clear without any major plot holes. I loved the characters, the message, their journey and the ending. I loved this book and will definitely read it again in the future, as I do with all of my favorites.
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