Friday, December 27, 2019

Book Review: Surviving Valencia

By Sara Steven

A car accident robs the Loden family of twins Van and Valencia shortly after they start college. Charmed, bright, and beautiful, they held their family together and elevated the Lodens to greatness. In their loss, a shadow is cast upon the family, particularly on the remaining child, who lacks the easy grace and popularity her older siblings took for granted.

As an adult, her life begins to turn from mediocre to amazing when she is saved by cool, artistic Adrian. The kind of happiness once reserved only for others is finally hers, until pieces of the past begin ruining what seems to be a perfect life. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

There are times when I go into a book with certain expectations on how I think it’s going to go, and where it’s going to end up. Surviving Valencia completely derailed my expectations.

The protagonist is dealing with the loss of her siblings, not only from her own perspective, but in having to try and still maintain some sort of relationship with her parents after this tragic fall out. The parents are grieving, which I felt was written perfectly by way of seeing this grief through the protagonist’s perspective. The way they treat her, which already had been on shaky ground due to their intense favoritism towards the twins. I could see a coming-of-age experience, combined with a means to finding her way amidst being last on everyone’s priority list, bordering at times on potential abuse. But then, the twists and the turns.

Tierney-Bedord is known for her twists and turns- The Port Elspeth Jewelry Making Club is a good example of this. One moment you think the story is going one way, yet through flashbacks in the past, and propelling forward into the present, we discover that there is much more to this protagonist’s story. Her present begins to bleed into the past, slowly, showcasing a mystery that she begins to research into, not really knowing if she wants to. I wasn’t even sure, as the reader, if I wanted her to. We know her as someone who has already gone through so much in her life. Can she handle the rest? Yet this made me feel even more invested in her, in finding out the truth.

I go back and forth on how much I wanted from the ending to Surviving Valencia. On the one hand, I wanted a little more from some of the revelations, yet at the same time, it felt right for the situation and for the character. If there were moments in the story I would want to see revisited, that’s the only one. I felt the protagonist was written perfectly, in a way that really showcases what it’s like to live in someone else’s shadow, even after the shadows are no longer there, and what that means for someone when they become an adult carrying that emotional baggage with them into their relationships and beyond. The back and forth from present to past worked well in telling her story, and in helping us to better understand who she is, and where she has come from.

Thanks to Holly Tierney-Bedord for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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