Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way.
I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA, preferring to focus on the supernatural side but I think I might have been losing out based on the strength of This Is Not Forgiveness. Set over one summer this follows the life of two brothers – Jamie, sensitive and just about to start in life and his older brother Peter, disillusioned, recovering from an injury received in the armed forces and struggling to fit into civilian life again. And the girl who connects them, Cora...who is not exactly as she seems.
I thought this would be a love triangle, teen romance book and while there are plenty of relationship issues, I never felt like it was a romance book at all. Both Peter and Cora are damaged souls – looking for something in their lives to make sense, to have meaning. Jamie is a dreamer, unsure of what he wants in the world. Between them there is a bizarre chemistry and confusion of feelings and desires. As the summer progresses we see how each of them impacts the lives of the others. I was left reeling from the emotions which varied from first love/lust to despair to apathy, depending on which of the three narrators I was reading. Rob’s story particularly was disturbing – and very relevant to the modern world. I really felt for him but at the same time struggled to like him and his actions especially considering how much older he was than Caro and Jamie. Caro came across as particularly manipulative but more a result of lack of family support than a true desire to control others.
A subtle reflection on modern society’s attitude to families, treatment of soldiers and even teenage relationships in the twenty-first century, this story will take you by surprise and completely blindside you. It’s not exactly comfortable reading, but it is worth it. Well written in a natural style, I will be looking out for more Ceclie Rees books.
Recommended for fans of Lauren Oliver and Gayle Forman. 8 out of 10