Book Review: Just Get Home by Bridget Foley @HarlequinBooks

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Title: Just Get Home
Author: Bridget Foley
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Genre: Thriller, Post-Disaster Fiction

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble  // Kobo // iTunes // Amazon
Google // Indiebound // Harlequin
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Just Get Home
Bridget Foley
MIRA, April 2021
ISBN 978-0-7783-3159-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When the Big One earthquake hits LA, a single mother and a teen in the foster system are brought together by their circumstances and an act of violence in order to survive the wrecked streets of the city, working together to just get home.

Dessa, a single mom, is enjoying a rare night out when a devastating earthquake strikes. Roads and overpasses crumble, cell towers are out everywhere, and now she must cross the ruined city to get back to her three-year-old daughter, not even knowing whether she’s dead or alive. Danger in the streets escalates, as looting and lawlessness erupts. When she witnesses a moment of violence but isn’t able to intervene, it nearly puts Dessa over the edge.

Fate throws Dessa a curveball when the victim of the crime—a smart-talking 15-year-old foster kid named Beegie—shows up again in the role of savior, linking the pair together. Beegie is a troubled teen with a relentless sense of humor and resilient spirit that enables them both to survive. Both women learn to rely on each other in ways they never imagined possible, to permit vulnerability and embrace the truth of their own lives.

A propulsive page-turner grounded by unforgettable characters and a deep emotional core, JUST GET HOME will strike a chord with mainstream thriller readers for its legitimately heart-pounding action scenes, and with book club audiences looking for weighty, challenging content.

Minutes, days, perhaps weeks after a major earthquake hits, every survivor’s story becomes a journey of one kind or another, a journey to get to a specific place or people. In Just Get home, we meet a teenager and an older woman who agree to help each other. They have nothing in common, really, other than a need to not be alone in this effort. If anything, the two don’t even share a goal; Dessa wants only to get home to her young child while Beegie has no true home and no one who really cares whether she lives or dies.

Dessa and Beegie are brought together randomly by, first, a vicious crime and then by another, circumstances that are not surprising following such a sudden disaster. As we all know, fear and uncertainty evoke the worst kind of behavior as well as acts of kindness and it’s the latter that initially create the bond between two such different women. Watching their connection grow during their struggles is a thing of emotional satisfaction and becomes the heart of Ms. Foley’s compelling tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

An Excerpt from Just Get Home

Prologue

Assist the client in gathering possessions.

Beegie saw it written on a sheet Karen had in her folder. An unticked box next to it.

She knew what it meant. Stuff.

But it was the other meaning that soothed her.

The darker meaning. Possessions.

That was the one she worked over and over in her head.

Beegie imagined her case worker holding up a grey little girl, face obscured by black hair and asking, “This one yours?”  Beegie would nod. Yes, that’s my monster. Together they would shove one snarling, demon-filled person after another into the garbage bags they had been given to pack her things. Soon the bags would fill, growing translucent with strain. When they were done, she and Karen would have to push down on the snapping, bloody faces of Beegie’s possessions so they could close the back of the Prius.

But Karen’s box remained unticked. She didn’t get to help collect Beegie’s possessions, real or unreal, because Beegie’s stuff was already on the street when she got home.

Two garbarge bags filled with nothing special. Her advocate standing next to them with her folder and its helpful advice for what to do when a foster gets kicked out of her home.

Nothing special.

Just almost everything Beegie owned in the world.

Almost but not all.

Whatever.

After Karen dropped her off and Barb had shown her “Her New Home” and given her the rundown on “The Way It Works Here,” Beegie unpacked her possessions into a bureau that the girl who’d lived there before her had made empty, but not clean.

The bottoms of the drawers were covered in spilled glitter. Pink and gold. Beegie had pressed the tips of her fingers into the wood to pull it up, making disco balls of her hands.

But she failed to get it all.

Months later, she would find stray squares of this other girl’s glitter on her clothes. They would catch the light, drawing her back to the moment when she’d finally given up on getting the bureau any cleaner and started to unpack the garbage bags.

There had been things missing.

That Beegie had expected.

But what she had not expected was to find two other neatly folded garbage bags. These were the ones she had used to move her stuff from Janelle’s to the Greely’s. She had kept them, even though back then Mrs. Greely was all smiles and Eric seemed nice, and even Rooster would let her pet him.

Beegie had kept the bags because she’d been around long enough to know that sometimes it doesn’t work out.

In fact, most times it doesn’t work out.

And you need a bag to put your stuff in and you don’t want to have to ask the person who doesn’t want you to live with them anymore to give you one.

But when Mrs. Greely had gathered Beegie’s possessions, she had seen those bags and thought that they were important to Beegie. It made sense to her former foster mother that a “garbage girl” would treasure a garbage bag.

This got Beegie thinking about stuff. The problem of it. The need for things to hold your other things. Things to fix your things. Things to make your things play.

And a place to keep it all.

In Beegie’s brain the problem of possessions multiplied, until she imagined it like a landfill. Things to hold things to hold things, all of it covered with flies, seagulls swooping.

Everything she ever owned was trash or one day would be.

Seeing things this way helped. It made her mind less about the things that hadn’t been in the bag… and other things.

Beegie picked at ownership like a scab, working her way around the edges, flaking it off a bit at a time. Ridding herself of the brown crust of caring.

Because if you care about something it has power over you.

Caring can give someone else the ability to control you and the only real way to own yourself was let go.

So she did.

Or she tried.

Some things Beegie couldn’t quite shed. The want of them stuck to her like the glitter. The pain of their loss catching the light on her sleeves, flashing from the hem of her jeans. The want would wait on her body until it attracted her attention and then eluded the grasping edges of her fingers.

Excerpted from Just Get Home by Bridget Foley, Copyright © 2021 by Bridget Foley. Published by MIRA Books.

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About the Author

Originally from Colorado, Bridget Foley attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. She worked as an actor and screenwriter before becoming a novelist. She now lives a fiercely creative life with her family in Boise, Idaho.

Find the author:

Website // Goodreads // Instagram

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**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Book Review: Quarantine #2: The Saints by Lex Thomas

Quarantine The SaintsQuarantine #2: The Saints
Lex Thomas
Egmont USA,
ISBN 978-1-60684-336-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Nothing was worse than being locked in–until they opened the door…
McKinley High has been a battle ground for eighteen months since a virus outbreak led to a military quarantine of the school. When the doors finally open, Will and Lucy will think their nightmare is finished. But they are gravely mistaken.

As a new group of teens enters the school and gains popularity, Will and Lucy join new gangs. An epic party on the quad full of real food and drinks, where kids hookup and actually interact with members of other gangs seemed to signal a new, easier existence. Soon after though, the world inside McKinley takes a startling turn for the worse, and Will and Lucy will have to fight harder than ever to survive.

Whoa.

This is, without a doubt, a very difficult book to read.  If you have any squeamishness at all about violence, teen sex, sheer brutality for no reason other than pleasure, you should not pick up this book. As for the target audience, yes, it is Young Adult in the sense that it’s entirely about high school kids but I really think it’s inappropriate for younger teens. If it were a movie (and, apparently, it will be if things pan out), it should be rated R. That’s unlikely, of course, since it would be difficult to market with such a rating but I don’t know how they’re going to soften this story for a PG-13 rating when it revolves so aggressively around those elements that make this R-worthy.

That’s the very reason I am torn about this book. From beginning to end, the savagery that is to be found on nearly every page is almost overwhelming, to the point of making me so uncomfortable I wondered why I kept reading—and, yet, I did. Partly, it’s because of the trainwreck effect when you just can’t look away but, as tough as it was to read, this is an intense look at a society gone completely to ruin and that is what kept me riveted.

Certainly, there are flaws. It was impossible for me to really like anyone but that doesn’t mean I didn’t care about them, just that this second book in the trilogy allows for no remaining vestiges of gentleness, kindness, courtesy or decency, the traits that enable us to get along with one another. A few individuals love others in one fashion or another but, for the most part, it’s every boy—or girl—for himself or herself. That is an element that’s particularly noticeable, that the girls are every bit as ruthlesss and cruel as the boys. We do get to know a few of them better, especially Will and Lucy, but I can’t say that either one has grown on me much since the first book. Lucy has at least learned to be strong for herself, almost foolhardy, but Will is still rather whiny, although with flashes of being more likeable.

After two books, we still know pretty much nothing about what’s happening outside the school, just dribs and drabs, not nearly enough to understand if anyone is trying to find a cure or even how far the virus has spread. I also find it hard to believe that the parents, who are now in charge of keeping the kids alive, make no effort to identify themselves; just knowing that some of them still have families would give these kids hope.

Most of all, the violence in The Saints is nearly unbearable, particularly because something vicious happens constantly, either physically or psychologically. I think the authors’ point is that, when you live surrounded by such violence, it becomes second nature and you lose your humanity. While that is generally true, we have all heard of people who rise above such a life and that’s what is lacking here, the few kids who would stand fast against the violence. In an interesting if pointless diversion from the usual horrific behavior, one scene, which actually does not involve an altercation between kids, is exceptionally stomach-churning and, to me, was truly gratuitous; as an obvious allusion to Lord of the Flies, it is completely unnecessary to the story and only draws comparisons to that earlier book.

All that aside, I did find much to keep me reading in spite of my reservations and I applaud the authors for making a very harsh story eminently engaging in spite of the gore. If I still had a bookstore, I would be extremely careful to whom I would recommend this but it would most likely be those readers who can look beyond the surface to what lies beneath. This is truly a modern-day morality tale and I’m very curious about what is to come in the third book, coming out in Summer 2014.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2013.

Book Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

Quarantine The LonersQuarantine: The Loners
Lex Thomas
Egmont USA, July 2012
ISBN 978-1-60684-329-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

 

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

I have such mixed feelings about this book that I hardly know where to begin. The truth is, there is a lot wrong with it but I still kept right on reading, couldn’t make myself stop. What’s up with that?

For one thing, for a post-disaster scenario, which is pretty nearly always completely unrealistic, this one is way out there in left field. Here you have a school full of teens that have been cordoned off from the outside world. So far, so good. Why this has happened is at first a mystery to the teens and I can buy that, too. What gives me serious pause is what happens within minutes of the teens first realizing something is wrong. Can you imagine our government quarantining an entire school so fast and so competently? Also, why do the adults on the outside cut off all communication with the kids and why do they fail to provide the necessities of life on a regular basis? Well, I suppose these questions are a large part of why I kept reading—I needed to know why even more than what.

In some ways, Quarantine can be compared to Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games, especially in the extreme violence and anarchy that develops and yet…it isn’t really anarchy. The gangs that these 1,000 teens form, based largely on their school hierarchy during normal times, rings true because teens tend to want to belong to groups. The violence is to be expected also when you understand just what they’re up against if they want to survive. The gangs are very distinct and this is one of the aspects of the story I really enjoyed. Each gang has a name and distinguishing colors, each has a leader, each has a responsibility for one or more aspects of life under quarantine, each is feared by the other gangs. There are a couple of gangs that are expectedly in the forefront, particularly the Varsity and the Pretty Ones, but the authors do a great job of building the reader’s empathy for all of them in one way or another.

Another thing the authors do well is come up with details that make the reader really understand the perils these kids face and how they react, such as the way they dispose of bodies and the barter system they develop. Protagonists Will and David are much like most brothers, full of love and antagonism, and the obligatory love triangle with Lucy actually comes about more naturally than in many other young adult novels. I did feel, though, that the extreme hatred Sam has for David is a stretch and Will’s self-centeredness and unwillingness to do his part is a bit much but these elements do add a great deal to the premise. Character development outweighs plot and that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I had issues with the way the government/military respond to the situation and with the behavior of the virus, especially how fast it kills and how it is spread, and these are the absurdities that most bothered me in the construction of the story, along with the difficulty I had tracking the passage of time. On the other hand, the pace of the book is breakneck and I can truly say I was never bored. What goes on with the kids is both disturbing and compelling and that is what made me have to finish. Despite its shortcomings, Quarantine is a thriller you don’t want to miss but, because of the violence and sheer darkness, I’d recommend it for older teens and up.

I must admit I also couldn’t resist a story whose first line is “Someone must have bitten off her nose.” Now that’s a grabber if I ever saw one so I guess I’ll have to read the next book, especially if I want to find out where the cliffhanger in this one is going to take us next.  And I most certainly do.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2012.