{Review} HOW I LOST YOU by Janet Gurtler

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O P E N I N G H O O K:

THE BOYS WERE WATCHING US, trying to get us to make mistakes. I knew from the swear words they were flinging around that they'd underestimated us. Inexperienced players shouted a lot. Kya and I didn't. 

A surge of excitement blasted through me, and I grinned behind my paintball mask. Playing paintball made me feel alive, like licking a lollipop of adrenaline and wanting to explode with the rush. With my best friend, Kya, at my side, I sensed what it might be like to be invincible.

(pg. 6, US e-ARC edition)

What impressed me the most about HOW I LOST YOU was the way Janet Gurtler dealt with losing a best friend. She mentioned once that when you lose a best friend, you experience the same emotions that come from breaking up with a significant other.  They've been there for you through thick and thin, and letting go is hard.  We've all experienced it.  It's always painful, especially when you truly love your friend. Whether you're on the receiving end or the one severing the cord, losing a good friend sucks. Sometimes, you have no choice. When friends become toxic and destroy your own life, it's time to let go...but that doesn't mean the break won't be painful!

HOW I LOST YOU centers around best friends Grace and Kya. They're always together, and even play paintball together, two fierce girls able to dominate in a male-oriented sport.  Grace knows exactly what she wants when she graduates: to play paintball in college with The Grinders, an all-female team.  There will be two open spots, and she knows they're meant for her and Kya.  Kya, however, is growing more irresponsible due to turmoil that rises in her life, and the team may no longer be willing to take a chance on either girl. Can Grace stop Kya's destructive behavior before it's to late to fix things?

There are so many deep, heavy issues lying at HOW I LOST YOU's heart. Even minor things stand out and become memorable. For example, it was intriguing to see a minor character with MS, and the way the disease impacts the life of the woman's son, James, the third amigo who cuts Kya off long before Grace has the heart to even consider it.  While there is a little romance mixed into the novel, it's never the focus. Instead, everything centers around the friendship between Grace and Kya. I really appreciated the way Gurtler chose not to overpower the book with an obligatory romance, but rather highlight a different sort of love, one able to equally resonate with readers. Grace wants nothing more than to believe the best of Kya and to support her in every way she can. She knows where Kya is coming from and is the keeper of Kya's deepest, darkest secret.  She hates the way Kya's always so needy, though, the way Kya won't put Grace's needs ahead of her own. It's always Grace giving; she never gains. The girls have cute little mannerisms such as the "Butt Dance" whenever Grace says "But," though they also have unfortunate nicknames for one another that can, at times, be distracting. At first, it seems that Grace is fine with this, but as the novel progresses, we see just how deeply Kya can hurt her, and just how much leeway Grace has given her to do so over the years. In a way, even these minor annoyances become important.

And the paintball! I had so much fun reading about the sport through Grace's eyes. It's not something I've ever played or really thought twice about, but Gurtler brought it to life. The tension, the drama, the action. There were so many great moments, and paintball became a major character in its own right over the course of the book. I had no clue there were professional college teams, and feel I learned so much! The way Gurtler introduced me to a new sport and invited me to care reminds me of the way Miranda Kenneally is always able to do the same thing through her excellent novels. Both authors have a lot of heart and aren't afraid to shy away from tough topics. I'm glad to see so many brave authors in contemporary YA right now!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The girls on the cover look a little girly-girl in their short skirts, but in the book, these gals spend most of their time armored up in paintball gear.

I like that the cover features two girls, since the book is largely about friendship, and a romantic cover wouldn't have been appropriate.

I also enjoy the colors used; the red bubble and the white/yellow font is fun and breezy for summer! (Same thing with bare feet!)

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

There are a few things Grace Anderson knows for sure. One is that nothing will ever come between her and her best friend, Kya Kessler. They have a pact. Buds Before Studs. Sisters Before Misters. But in the summer before senior year, life throws out challenges they never expected. And suddenly the person who's always been there starts to need the favor returned. Grace and Kya are forced to question how much a best friend can forgive. And the answer is not what they expected.