Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein0
What if the last place you should fall in love is the first place that you do?
You’d think getting sent to Turning Pines Wilderness Camp for a month-long rehabilitation “retreat” and being forced to re-live it in this journal would be the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.
You’d be wrong.
There’s the reason I was sent to Turning Pines in the first place: I got arrested. On prom night. With my two best friends, who I haven’t talked to since and probably never will again. And then there’s the real reason I was sent here. The thing I can’t talk about with the guy I can’t even think about.
What if the moment you’ve closed yourself off is the moment you start to break open?
But there’s this guy here. Ben. And the more I swear he won’t—he can’t—the deeper under my skin he’s getting. After the thing that happened, I promised I’d never fall for another boy’s lies.
And yet I can’t help but wonder…what if?
Dear authors who seem determined to make me cry,
I should boycott your books and refuse to buy them because they make me vulnerable. I should refuse to give them good ratings and reviews because they frighten me sometimes with how real they are. But in the end, that just seems impossible to me. It's like I can't help but love the books because I am so invested and involved in the story. Yet I hate the way they seem to make me feel. Just thought I'd let you know.
The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the cover. I used to play around with pictures, adding text that was almost invisible on the image but still you could see the basic outline and maybe read it if you stared at it long enough. When I saw this cover, that was all I could think about and I knew right away that I loved this cover without a doubt in my mind. Then I was certain that if I could love a cover just by looking at it, studying it, I knew that the story just might capture me as well. I actually debated about whether to request the title or not for awhile and then decided that there was no way that I couldn't. I loved the cover too much not to. So here I am, dry tear tracks on my cheeks (thank you very much, Lisa Burstein, you've made it onto my list) and determined to give this book the review it deserves. Although, I know that I probably won't make you cry over it.
Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein is a heart wrenching story of Cassie, a girl who probably punishes herself more than anyone would think she deserves. In her life, all she had was her brother and her two best friends to depend on but by the time everything went down, all she had was her brother. One of her best friends served her up on a platter for a lesser sentence for a crime they all committed and it is was all because of a boy, one who didn't deserve either of them. This boy destroyed Cassie's world and was the final nail in her coffin. Now forced to spend one month in a wilderness rehab, she must face the demons that she hid away under the walls she built around it and the guy who just might be worth her trust. The only solace she can find is in this Assessment Journal as people betray and hurt her constantly. She knows without a doubt that she deserves all of the punishment they give her, in fact she punishes herself just to teach herself that she isn't worth anything. She isn't worth forgiving. But people are determined to help her see beyond her faults and realize that she can forgive herself despite everything that has happened. Will she be able to forgive herself? Can she move beyond the things that weigh her down? Will she allow herself to be happy?
I'm only going to talk about three characters. I do this sometimes but it's mostly because I want to keep a lot of the plot hidden. There are so many characters I am literally bursting at the seams to tell you about but I know that it could potentially spoil some important things that you have to discover through Cassie's eyes. Three characters I selected are by far my favorites, whether it's because of the role they play or just the person that they are. I sense that in a way, I wish I had these sort of people in my life and that's why I love them so much. Screwed up and all, I love them.
Cassie, oh Cassie, is a beautiful example of a person being eaten alive by guilt from the inside out. I knew that she had been through something from the moment I picked up the story to read and it reminded me a lot of how I, myself, and friends have acted when faced with something from our pasts. She deflects people's attempts to become friends all the while desperately wanting to connect with them but feeling unworthy of it. It's hard to read her suffer through her forced rejections, her self-hate, and guilt because it stirs so many different emotions for me. It makes me think of my own problems that I refuse to forgive. It makes me ache because I feel for her in a way that I would for one of my best friends. She faces every sort of up and down possible. She knows instinctively that she may be at this rehab facility for one thing but she deserves it for an entirely different reason. But in her darkest moments she doesn't think that their punishments are enough. She continually punishes herself because she cannot forgive herself. Her biggest character growth of the novel actually happens over the course of the chapters, showing how slow trust really takes to form in the real world. I like that she is so real. I like that what she experiences is so real too.
Ben is the guy who challenges everything that Cassie believes about the male gender in general. He is also being sent to the wilderness rehab facility but for an entirely different reason that you'll discover once you read the book. From the moment he met her, he seemed to be attracted like a moth to a flame and perhaps the relationship between the two of them is more akin to that analogy than I care to admit. He is the type of guy that you wouldn't mind introducing your parents to, the kind that makes you laugh when you want to cry, and the guy that seems to know when to push you and when to leave it alone. He is flawed like so many guys are in real life and there is just something that is so real about him. Unlike paranormal romances or fantasy novels, he seems attainable. In a world where girls dream about having a vampire boyfriend, I dream about meeting a guy like Ben who is perfectly flawed.
Troyer may sound like a boy's name but really it is a girl character's last name and I am not spoiling her first name. You'll find out. She is probably the greatest sort of best friend character that I have ever read about and the best thing about her? She doesn't say a single word. She manages to capture your heart and your attention by simply existing. She manages to be everything that Cassie needs when she needs it. Even when people push her around, she shows her dislike in her own silent way which earns her the title of most interesting by a land slide. Not to slight Ben or Cassie but they just don't write 'em like Troyer every day. Typically best friends are the chatty, energetic, overly excited type and it threw me for a loop when suddenly I was faced with a girl who didn't (couldn't or wouldn't, you'll find out) speak at all. Suddenly all of my previous ideas of the perfect best friend character was shifted in a moment's notice.
So here's my review and that's all I'm spilling, seeing as I've already spilled enough... tears, that is. I really want you all to read and fall in love with this story like I did. It's raw story, full of emotions that can sometimes be unbearable but in the end it is worth it all. I wouldn't change this in the slightest. It deserves to be recognized because it's a beautiful story. A worthwhile tale that shouldn't be forgotten least of all by our generation.