Whenever I’m With You by Lydia Sharp
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published: January 3
Genre: young adult, contemporary
After Gabi’s parents’ divorce, she moves from California to Alaska with her dad. At first, it feels like banishment—until she meets Kai. He welcomes her into his life, sharing his family, his friends, and his warmth. But as winter approaches, Kai pulls away for seemingly no reason at all. He’s quiet, withdrawn. Then one day, he disappears.
Kai’s twin brother, Hunter, believes Kai is retracing their missing father’s steps in the wilderness north of Anchorage. There’s a blizzard on the way, and Kai is alone out there. Gabi’s frustration over his emotional distance quickly turns to serious concern. This is the boy who saved her from the dark. She can’t lose him to it.
So Gabi and Hunter agree to head out together on a wild journey north—a trip that will challenge them physically and emotionally, as they try to convince the boy they love to return home.
Gabi still feels so new to Alaskan lifestyle, even with boyfriend Kai by her side, explaining fun traditions the other teens do at the start of winter, how to fend for oneself during the winter months, and neat ways to banish the darkness. But Kai starts to act a bit odd, and disappears just before a large snowstorm hits Anchorage. With his concerned twin Hunter’s help, Gabi heads straight into the storm to find Kai, and survive the wildness of America’s last frontier.
I was drawn to this contemporary YA based on the romantic relationship style (the two teens are already together, strong, and established) and the setting (ALASKAAAA). While I found some of the storytelling to be a bit underdeveloped, this is definitely a good, clean YA that reminded me a bit of Sarah Dessen and Jenny Han.
How easily your whole world can change with just
two simple words, spoken from the heart:
I’m sorry. *
There’s also a lot of discussion on grief and the various forms it takes. Not everyone grieves the same way, either in a death or in a broken relationship. Gabi has many issues with her mother (valid ones, too), and is battling coming to terms with her parents’ divorce. Kai and Hunter grieve the loss of their father in different ways — denial and acceptance, in short — and that changes how they interact with their friends, family, and environment.
Two sides to every story: another theme within the novel especially between the twin brothers. Each perspective is important and a major key to the puzzle of Kai’s disappearance. Family dynamics, friendship, and determination were some underlying themes of the book that really struck a chord with me.
Whenever I’m With You is a plot-driven adventure of survival and love in the middle of an Alaskan snowstorm, completely disconnected from the comforts of modern technology and civilization. If you’re itching for a good, quick contemporary read on love and friendship, I’d suggest Sharp’s novel.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Scholastic for review.
*quote taken from uncorrected proof