This was an interesting read dealing with many complex and complicated emotions, feelings and relations. As expected of the author, even this story is a refreshing and unique slice of romance different from the usual troupes and yet having its root cemented in love.
The beauty of this book is similar to that of Gods and Monsters written by the same author. It tackles sensitive, heavy topics and also addressees the complexities that comes with love and how these can be tackled and how they are influenced by external factors or circumstances - upbringing/family/society. Generally in romance novels, families and society are used more like props but Saffron A Kent makes them the Crux of the story, having a strong bearing on how the love story plays out.
This particular book is about bullying and to an extent (body shaming?). The author's note towards the end gives good insight about why she chose to write this story and what message she was trying to put across. It was a bold attempt and to a big extent, I feel the justice was done but yet was it perfect? I don't think so? But it does take away the fun from reading it? Absolutely no. Much like Gods and Monsters, love is shown in a different light. It's not just about love being sweet and strong and oh so romantic, the uglier and bitter sides of Love is showcased here and it's something that's painfully true, so there is no running and hiding away from it. Even Zach/Cleo shared such a love/hate relationship where up until a point it was pure dislike, and an unhealthy obsession with the bully. And on the other hand we have Zach's parents. His mom is so much in love with her husband that despite being a such an ass to her and to his son, blinding my love, she keeps trying to appease and this is the childhood that Zach experiences that makes him question love and see it with pure disgust. and on the other hand, we have Clean(Blue) who whole-heartedly believes in love after seeing the love shared between her parents. But back in school days all she felt for Zach was hatred, especially when he used to stand back and let his friends bully her around without offering to even help or shush them and yet there were so many similarities between then that Cleo realizes only when Zach returns to their two after three years of his sudden disappearance. That's when she sees him in different light and realizes that she had always been in love with him and that there is a very small and feeble line between the two extreme feelings. Zach is a more complicated character and despite having strong feelings for his Blue, he refuses to acknowledge that as love with a belief that love makes one gullible and foolish, much like his mom.
Again, very interesting concepts, especially with the whole dyslexia angle thrown in and his dad being depicted as the real bully. It's effective and also adds another intense later to Zach's nature and upbringing and a different perspective on the school bullying days. And what I really bought was the take on bullying theme and how by using another child as an example they were able to tackle the subject of how to deal with bullying. Full points for that, but where it lacked in my eyes is the actual love story between the two. It was smoking hot and was written well, but somehow the love seemed misplaced. I mean, to an extent I could understand Cleo's feelings (courtesy getting majority of chapters from her POV) but when it came to Zach I was a little lost on how and when his feeling for her morphed into love and what actually made him to realize it and go behind her after rejecting and humiliating her once. There were scenes sewn together to add drama and also for those 'realization calls' but still the climax fell flat for me. Somehow it didn't all add upto a very strong 'love' story. At parts both Cleo and Zach annoyed me a little and though at the end I could resonate with their love, a bigger chunk that could focus more on their present relationship felt missing. I wanted something more though I am not able to articulate what it should have been. More chapters from Zach's POV, especially regarding his feelings for Clean would have helped a lot. Now it feels more like I know one side of the story.
Though I didn't like it as much as Gods and Monsters, it did do justice in touching upon some difficult themes and driving a good moral message.
4 blue twinkling stars.