Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino
Published by Atria Books on August 8, 2016
Genres: Abuse, New Adult, Romance, Sociology
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From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.
That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.
The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?
SWEAR ON THIS LIFE IS NOW LIVE!
I’m speechless. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I take a moment.
If you read only one book this year, Swear on This Life is the one. You’ll read over and over again and it still won’t be enough. It’s one of those books that stay with you all day and night. I have never woken up remembering dreams about a book I was currently reading. I’ve never woken up anxious thinking about what could possibly be next in the story. I started reading, but couldn’t or wouldn’t put it down. I was enamored with the plot and the characters. Having to set the story aside for an appt, killed me. It ended up being two days before I could get back into it. Let me tell you, I spent many many moments during those two days wondering about the story, where was it going, how would certain obstacles be resolved. Would there be a happy ending?
I was caught hook, line, and sinker. Happily I might add.
One of the most difficult things about reviewing a book, is not giving too much away but telling just enough to catch a potential reader’s’ eye. I hate rehashing the synopsis. I worry constantly that I’m going to give away a spoiler. So I try to tailor my reviews around how the book made me feel. How can I relate it to real life. Swear on This Life made me feel everything. Literally everything. I was happy, sad, anxious, blue, angry, worried, excited, agitated, scared, and full of hope. There were moments when I wanted to put it down and say “forget this” it’s too much and not enough all at once.
Emilene, our story’s heroine is a writer. A writer who doesn’t really know herself and therefore hasn’t been inspired to write. She’s a functioning adult with a boyfriend and best friend roommate. I say functioning because on the outside she appears to be. However, you quickly learn that Emilene has some deeply rooted issues. She comes across as indifferent, aloof, almost uncaring and rude to her boyfriend Trevor. But where she’s indifferent, Trevor comes across as complacent. The status quo seems to be okay for both of them, even in a strangely dysfunctional relationship. Reading those interactions between them made me uncomfortable. I even found myself not liking Emilene at times. It took a while for me to realize she was this way for a reason. It was okay to feel that way about her character at that moment because I didn’t have to like her. I just needed to try and understand her. Trevor as well, he’s exactly that way for a reason.
Cara, Emilene’s roommate, tells her about this book she’s excited to read by some author named J. Colby. Emilene (Emi) isn’t that interested but at Cara’s insistence she begins reading it. Very quickly she realizes that the story is based on her life before. That Emerson is really Emi and the author J. Colby is really Jase or Jackson as he is in the story. Sounds confusing but it’s not. What’s confusing is my emotions. Really means something special when a story can pull you in so many directions, which all make sense, yet leave you totally satisfied. The journey though is everything. Everything. Sometimes it takes something more to make us see, really see what we’re doing, or even where we’re supposed to heading in life.
Renee Carlino did the most fascinating thing. She wrote J. Colby’s bestseller within the pages of Swear on This Life. It’s actually a story within a story and it worked beautifully. Instead of past and present we’re given a fictional yet to Emi a very real story about a boy and girl who lived along a dirt road. It was that story, All the Roads Between, that captured my fullest attention. The story about Emerson and Jackson was riveting, brutal, heart wrenching. I wanted so much for those characters that I often lost sight of main story. There was this attachment I formed to Emerson and Jackson, which surprised me to be honest. My heart was so invested I often found myself disappointed when we jumped back to the present day. But what I hoped for didn’t always happen. Not that I’m bothered, in fact it all played out so much better. Everything happens for a reason right? We never know how one person we meet may impact our life in the future.
Swear on Your Life is a testament to Renee Carlino’s writing ability. There was nothing gratuitous about the story. Swear on This Life is a journey of healing. A story of hope. A story I can’t wait to read again!
*A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*