Title: At the Stars
Series: Evergreen Grove #1
Author: Elisabeth Staab
Format: Paperback & eBook, 278 pages
Published: May 5, 2015 by Elisabeth Staab
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses
A GIRL TRYING TO LEAVE HER PAST BEHIND
I was a normal teenager who loved music and dancing, until the day I was attacked in my favorite record store. A few years later when my mom succumbed to depression and took her own life, I couldn’t stay in my hometown with all the memories and the curious stares. I decided to get in my car and just go – except my car decided it was done going outside a tiny place called Evergreen Grove. That’s where I found Jake. Or I guess Jake found me.
A GUY WHO CAN’T LET HIS GO
For the last eight years, all I can think about is the day I ended another man’s life. Then I manage to save Cassie’s, and I feel like maybe I’ve got some kind of second chance. To do what I couldn’t before, or maybe even for something bigger. Something like love. If only I could feel like I deserve her...
Cassie's mother has died and in an attempt to find herself again she decides to take a cross country trip and find a town to live in. Unfortunately, her car has other ideas and decides to leave her stranded only a couple hours away from where she began. There at her lowest she meets Jake; he helps her with her car issue and brings her in out from the cold. Years ago Jake left his hometown trying to outrun his own demons and now like Cassie, found himself in the small town of Evergreen Grove. Cassie doesn't want to stay in Evergreen Grove but finds herself slowly settling in and Jake doesn't want to let Cassie into his heart but can't seem to stop it from happening.
First off, I wanted to give this book the biggest hug for not having the leads fall to insta-love. That's right, a New Adult with no insta-love! Cassie remarks occasionally on Jake's looks but the story is really about the growing and gradual closeness that they start to build together. Now, this is a two hundred page story that covers roughly a four month period, so things move a smidge fast but I believed in the evolution. Overall, Cassie and Jake talk, share, and listen to one another; it was moving and sweet.
Cassie had a traumatic experience in her past and with the recent death of her mother, she was feeling a little lost. What I liked a lot about her character was how real she felt, true to her age and experience. The circumstances surrounding her mother's death were a little vague but I liked how the author focused on the continuous healing process she is going through instead of her mother's death and the actual traumatic event from her past. While Cassie found herself liking Jake more and more, she still didn't lose sight of herself. There is a great scene where Cassie kisses Jake, wants more while Jake backs off but instead of mooning over Jake's feelings at that moment, she focuses on how freeing and great it feels to want more with him. Jake was a great character himself in how he treated Cassie. He was broody but not aggressive angry and even when he was a tad dramatic over why he wasn't good enough for Cassie, his overall demeanor towards her was lovably sweet.
The part of the story that was a bit dubious was the buildup of why Jake felt he couldn't be with Cassie and the flatness that was felt when it was finally delivered. Either the issues he had with his stepmother or the issue stemming from his boxing days should have been cut. Making room for both left each feeling incomplete and blown out of proportion. It was tagged on angst in a story that was working well as a cool babbling book read. By this I mean the bulk of the story was smooth and sweet in a way that pleasantly entertained you while gently gliding through the little bumps in our characters lives.
This was a great New Adult read that utilized a few tropes from the genre but wonderfully stayed away from the more questionable ones (insta-love, slut shaming, and aggressive/controlling behavior). Jake and Cassie feel everything a little too deeply and are learning how to live with childhood traumas, all issues and emotions you look for in a New Adult; characters finding their selves and one another. This is a pretty clean read where we get just a peek into the bedroom but the quality verbal and emotional interaction between Jake and Cassie makes up for it a bit if you feel you’d miss that aspect. A few townspeople and Dante, a friend of Jake, are highlighted with intriguing backstory nuggets thrown out that could lead to future stories. The ending wraps up somewhat quickly but I'm definitely looking forward to future books in this series.