Author: Raine O’Tierney
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages
At a Glance: I can say with surety that I highly recommend I’ll Always Miss You.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Isa Zaman might forgive his parents for taking in a friend’s son if only he wasn’t the most boring teenager in the universe. Macklin “Mackie” Cormack’s only interests are reading and the outdoors. Yeah, right. Isa’s convinced Mackie is either a pyro or a klepto. Plus, as a white kid, Mackie looks ridiculous in the Zamans’ Arab American household. Forced to share a bedroom, the boys keep butting heads until an absurd fight finally breaks the tension between them.
Isa’s just starting to figure life out: this new houseguest, his cultural identity, school, and even girls, when the entire family is uprooted from their home for reasons Isa can’t understand. They move from their tiny city apartment to a giant, old house in a small town, hours away from everything he’s ever known. Oh, and the new house? It’s probably haunted, or so says the blank-faced ten-year-old next door. As if things weren’t weird enough, Isa’s friendship with Mackie suddenly takes a strange turn down a path Isa’s not sure he’s ready to follow. It turns out Mackie Cormack isn’t nearly as boring as Isa once imagined.
Review: In my experience, it is rare to find an adult author who can fully and convincingly capture the rhythm and voice of a teenage boy or girl. It takes remarkable observation skills to embody characters with that certain something that makes them believably young and yet old beyond their years. It is more than a snarky or affected, indifferent tone that is called for; it is an entire way of thinking, an emotional spectrum that is rife with confusion, self-doubt, and a roller coaster of emotions. Raine O’Tierney is able to capture all that and more. Her story, I’ll Always Miss You, is a coming of age tour de force that left me completely satisfied and eager to read more by this incredible author.
Isa is on the cusp of age fifteen, and is at odds with his mother on the best of days. Surrounded by older and younger sisters, he feels a keen sense of need to rediscover his mid-eastern heritage. His parents have been discussing adopting another child, so it is quite a shock to Isa when they inform him there will be a boy coming to live with them—a sixteen-year-old boy named Macklin. Mackie has been bounced in and out of foster homes for several years. His mother is unfit (read crazy), and his father is in the military.
There is a distant connection between Isa’s family and Mackie’s, and so they agree to foster him indefinitely. Immediately Isa feels real stirrings of jealousy and anger over being left out of the decision—one that would give him not only a roommate but apparently someone he would have to befriend whether he wanted to or not.
To say that the beginning of their time together was rocky is an understatement. However, despite the rough beginning, these two boys become friends, and then something more. When the family moves closer to Isa’s older sister, they buy a house that has quite a reputation. Apparently it is haunted and sure enough, before long strange things begin to happen at Isa’s new home. The story now takes a decidedly sinister turn, weaving a ghost story into the slow building first love trope. The two story lines work so very well together, and the writing at this point exceeds what was already an interesting and entertaining story. With quirky and surprisingly compassionate secondary characters, the novel goes hurtling toward conclusion, and it’s exciting ending leaves one just a bit overwhelmed in all the good ways.
I found myself respecting and appreciating the pacing of this novel. Isa had such doubts and the idea that he may be bisexual, or even possibly gay, did not come swiftly or easily to him. Mackie was so stalwart and forgiving. He hid so much of himself and reluctantly let Isa in, always keeping an eye toward the door and the idea that this home may not be his to keep for very long. Watching this love story unfold against the backdrop of teenage angst and self-discovery was so compelling. The subtle introduction of the mystery elements and the ongoing ghost story added just the right amount of creepiness to give this story an interesting twist.
I was so impressed by this story. I felt there was such a level of integrity in the characters that it made this story completely realistic and engaging. I can say with surety that I highly recommend Raine O’Tierney’s I’ll Always Miss You. It will no doubt be touted as one of the top YA stories of 2015.
You can buy I’ll Always Miss You here: