So I need to be up front. Unlike most of our reviews, I’m going to put the majority of this one behind a “read more” post… Why? The book features a lot of triggers, thankfully depicted correctly and thoughtfully, but at the same time I don’t want to trigger our readers. So I’ll give you the summary then do the actual review.
Kayla and Brock are two people with a ton of baggage between them. Both of them are recovering drug addicts, both of them have had unhealthy and/or abusive relationships, both of them struggle to find their place. But they have family in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And a chance to start over. But starting over means that they have to face their family and former temptations. Can they find strength in each other to piece themselves back together?
Gravity is not an easy read, and I knew that going in. But for anyone looking at this review, this book handles the tough subjects of drug addiction, sex addiction, sexual abuse, child abuse, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.
So what did I actually think? For the most part, I enjoyed this book. The author realistically covers the challenges of addiction and the difficulties in recovery. Which is something I applaud. The descriptions of withdrawal are chilling in their accuracy (ants marching up and down the spine, the anger, the bargaining) as well as the self-harm coping mechanisms employed by one of the characters. The whole ritual was accurate to the point of being almost too real.
It was a hard read.
The book helps shed light on a very real illness. Make no mistake about it, addiction is an illness. It needs to be respected as such, and in this book it is. Brock and Kayla aren’t demonized. They’re people. And their addiction is a part of them, a large part of them, but it doesn’t define them. They have other parts to them that aren’t their addictions. Both of them are nervous about letting down the ones they love, and both are afraid of letting people in for fear of hurting them. Our leads are not perfect and they’re definitely not typical. First off, both of them are older. Brock is 38 and Kayla is 42. Brock has some very man’s man tendencies but he’s also soft inside. Nurturing. This is shown to great effect with his toddler niece. Kayla is both fragile and strong. She’s got a stubbornness which is appealing, but also shows a willingness to change and step outside of her comfort zone. The portrayal of mental health is positive. It casts getting help in a positive light. It casts therapy in a positive light. This is critical since Mental Health stigma and the belittling of rehab can and do lead to deaths. This choice by the author was very important, and it’s the reason why I picked up this book. After all, it’s something near and dear to our hearts. Just look at The Language of Flowers.
Ultimately we need more atypical romance leads!
Romance is about fantasy, but it’s also about the reader being able to see themselves as the leads. When the leads are all cast out of the same block of perfect, it’s an escape, but it’s not always fulfilling. There need to be more books featuring imperfect characters finding love and acceptance.
Because people aren’t perfect. We need to see ourselves in the leads. We need to see people who look like us, think like us, and live like us finding love and acceptance. It helps us love and accept ourselves. My favorite thing in this was how carefully the author, and by extension, the characters treated sex. It was sex positive in a refreshing way. Kayla’s past was something she was ashamed of, but it wasn’t treated as shameful. The distinction matters. The repeated verbal consent was sexy as heck. Consent is sexy. And it shows respect and caring more than a million diamond rings. My least favorite thing was the setting. As a resident of Grand Rapids, I looked forward to seeing little details of my town sprinkled in. The business was very clearly an amalgam of Founders Brewery, HopCat, and Grand Rapids Brewing Company (the bar in particular has GRBC written all over it from the banquet room to the brewery in the back).
However, instead of seeing my hometown, I saw “Generic city” with my town’s name slapped on it. For example… there’s the line about the lead going to ‘whole paycheck’ which is a shout-out to Whole Foods… except Grand Rapids doesn’t have a Whole Foods. The closest is 60 miles and an hour drive away in East Lansing.
In addition, part of the story takes place in September/early October in Downtown Grand Rapids… but no mention of Artprize is made. There were a lot of inaccuracies as well… too many to list (seriously, I ranted about them). Here’s the reason why… it shows disrespect. If an author tried to do this with New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or even San Francisco there would be people clamoring all over them for getting it wrong. The same standard needs to be held for any REAL city used. If you want to go generic, that’s fine… just give the place a different name, a fake name. The setting is as an important a character as any of the human characters. It provides a sense of place. There’s a reason why Vic’s Tasty Treat was set in East Grand Rapids. The setting matters. The lack of respect toward the setting led to me knocking the story down a star.
In all, I enjoyed the book and the positive portrayal of people with addiction. So I’m happy to give this: Four Stars
***I received an ARC through NetGalley.
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