Monday, April 27, 2015

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Release Date - April 21, 2015
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 384 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me. 
99 Days is going to produce strong reactions in readers, no matter how they feel about the book itself. Katie Cotugno has crafted a messy, murky story that has a complicated situation at it's core. She's created characters who will push you outside your comfort zone, and hopefully, make you see this not black and white situation through different eyes.

Human interaction can be messy. It can be flawed, imperfect and mistakes can be made. We're layered, and complex. Katie Cotugno takes this and creates characters who feel authentic. Ones who make horrible decisions that just happen to feel right for the characters. As much as you may not agree with those choices, they make complete sense as you're reading. KatieCotugno shows through her characters that nobody is perfect, and that everyone makes mistakes sometimes.

Seething anger coursed through my body while reading this novel. The amount of rage filled texts and tweets I sent to people is probably borderline scary. The harsh light that this novel shines on double standards, as blood pressure raising as it is, is extremely important. Molly is vilified. She's the evil temptress who came between two brothers. She's the girl who couldn't keep her legs closed. She's the one to shoulder all the blame. Gabe, the golden boy, gets pretty much a free pass even through he did exactly the same thing that Molly did. They hurt the same person, and each had a connection to him that was forever altered. He played a part in what happened as much as Molly did, however it's not his car getting keyed, or his front lawn being toilet papered. My constant all caps messages to my friends of "Blame Gabe, too" was something I felt was expressed throughout the entire story. The notion of 'blame the girl' is what this story is really about underneath it all and Katie Cotugno captures that unfair bias pitch perfectly.

Molly is wracked with guilt. She's incredibly harsh on herself, and even believes the taunts of 'dirty slut' that follow her. This novel shows, however, that she's only human. Humans make mistakes. Humans will sometimes make awful decisions. Yes, she hurt Patrick. Patrick should be angry at her (AND HE SHOULD BE ANGRY  WITH GABE!). Everyone else, however, should not have an opinion. Katie Cotugno adeptly shows how the stigma sticks to Molly and follows her like a scarlet letter A branded on her chest. The most heartbreaking aspect is that Molly hasn't forgiven herself for what happened. She continues to berate herself, and question her self worth.

As we see Molly make the same mistakes again it'd be easy to grow frustrated with her. She certainly makes some unwise decisions, and it may seem like she's repeating those same mistakes over and over again. However, looking underneath everything you see that it's necessary to Molly's journey. Molly runs. It's what she does. It's her coping mechanism. She runs so she doesn't have to deal with things, or work through them. She ran after sleeping with Gabe and never sorted out her feelings, or the issues that they brought to the surface. Of course it makes sense that she would have to work through them to move forward. Of course it means her making those mistakes again so she can learn from them properly. As much as we want her to makes the choices that are better for her, the character growth she is to experience during the novel depends on her reliving what happened. If she is to come to a place of acceptance and self forgiveness she needs to actually deal with everything, instead of running away.

The friendship between Molly and Imogen is the bright spot of the novel. We see forgiveness and communication. Imogen was hurt when Molly just ran away with no word before she came back. At first I was worried that Imogen was being distant from Molly because of what had happened with Gabe. Instead, we find out how hard it was for Imogen when Molly left. We see how hurt she was. Molly genuinely apologizes and Imogen and her work through their issues. It's not automatically the same but they are working through things. It contrasts how everyone else treats her and hits home the message of forgiveness and understanding.

A novel with a lot to say about double standards, forgiveness and the mistakes we make. There is a lot going on under the beachy setting, and not all of it is pretty. It's messy, uncomfortable but honest. It may make some readers uncomfortable, but that is because it's challenging the way we perceive things, and how we relate to flawed, imperfect characters. 

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