Come to Me Quietly
Come To Me Quietly is decently written, and that means more than it should given what one always risks when they pick up a New Adult title. For a good portion of the story, I was compelled to find out what happened to mess up the bad boy hero so thoroughly. Unfortunately, the whole thing became weighed down by a tonnage of angst, and without well-rounded characters to keep me intrigued, I felt myself struggling to get to the inevitable ending.
Aleena “Aly” Moore has always crushed on her older brother’s best friend, Jared Holt. He never treated her as an annoying tag-along kid, looking out for her and generally playing the role of her hero. But when Aly was only fourteen, a sixteen year-old Jared was involved in a tragedy so extreme that it destroyed his entire family. He spiraled out of control and disappeared from Aly’s life completely. But he continued to haunt her thoughts, and even if she can’t admit it, Jared is the reason Aly’s never been seriously interested in other guys.
Six years later, Aly lives with her brother Christopher and attends college, studying to be a nurse. When she comes home after a party, she’s stunned to find none other than Jared Holt asleep on her couch. She’s horrified to see what Jared has become, how the years of guilt and self-loathing have hardened him, the raw anguish that he can’t manage to hide from her especially given the horrifying tattoos he wears to remind him of what he’d done. But if anything, Aly’s feelings for Jared have only grown stronger over the years, and she’s determined to show him that he is worth loving.
After all that he destroyed and all of the lives he ruined, Jared knows he doesn’t deserve to live. He doesn’t deserve happiness or a normal life or anything good and clean. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be with someone as fantastic as Aly. However, Jared finds himself drawn to her, seeking the comfort she offers the way he used to seek out booze and drugs. Night after night he steels into her room, letting her touch him but always denying himself the thing they both want most. Because Jared knows it’s only a matter of when, not “if”, he will hurt Aly and destroy any chance of something between them.
This book started out with such potential. The writing was solid. The dialogue rang true, and Jared and Aly seemed like the kind of young adults I could root for rather than wanting to shake them for being completely self-absorbed and stupid. But about 60% of the way through, I began to get the sinking feeling that this was it. All I could expect for the remainder of the book was more of what I’d read so far, which, while well written and initially intriguing, had devolved into not a lot more than navel gazing of the most depressing kind.
Nothing external ever happened. Beyond attending a party or two, the characters did nothing at all. Rather, we are given page after page after page of pure mental torture as Jared wallows in self-loathing and guilt. Oh, the guilt! I don’t think that Jared had a single thought that didn’t in some way express how miserable he was and how he deserved to feel that way, or how he ruined everything he ever touched and how it was only a matter of time before he destroyed Aly. I don’t think serial killers on death row feel as badly about themselves as Jared does about himself. While a certain degree of this self-flagellation was necessary to establish that Jared has serious issues, it became beyond tedious. I ended up skimming a lot of stuff due to sheer redundancy. He’s Tortured with a capital T. I get it.
All writers who utilize a Big Tragedy as the pivotal shaping point of a character’s existence take a gamble as far as when to reveal the details of the event; too soon and the necessary amount of drama won’t be established, too late and the reveal feels anticlimactic. Unfortunately, Jackson’s decision to wait until the last quarter of the story to let us readers know the facts behind Jared’s self-hatred didn’t quite pay off. After so many pages (and pages and pages) of his internal torment, I expected Jared’s Big Crime to be pretty extreme. To be sure, it was bad – certainly life-altering and a legitimate source for tremendous amounts of guilt – but nothing that warranted his level of emotional dysfunction. The guy needed therapy, not a life sentence in a hairshirt. Add in a bizarre twist that came out of absolutely nowhere and my reaction was more eye-roll than tears.
The other big problem I had with this book was a complete and total lack of any kind of character development beyond establishing Jared as the Prince Of Angst and Aly as Jared’s Angel Healer. It is mentioned at the beginning that Aly is studying nursing but loves art and wonders if she should pursue it. That’s all we ever hear about her college pursuits or struggle with her life direction. Aly has a best friend named Megan who shows up once in a while, but Megan’s scenes could have been left on the editor’s floor without any change to the story at all. Once Jared shows up on her couch, Aly’s life becomes all about Jared, all the time.
The only reason we have any picture of Aly at all is because when Jared isn’t busy thinking about how he is lower than the scum on the bottom of some garbage dumpster, he’s marveling at the pure beauty and perfection that is Aly. Not that she ever actually does anything to demonstrate her perfection and true purity of spirit. It doesn’t matter, because Jared is assured she’s too good for him and he’s too irreparably damaged for her. I wasn’t quite as convinced.
This book started off strong writing-wise, but there came a point where it all became a bit odd for me. I realized that Jared and Aly did a lot of strange face touching. Too, perhaps in an effort to put a fresh spin on Jared’s one-track internal monologue, his thoughts became hyperbolic and beyond melodramatic. I had a mental image that he engaged in a lot of writhing.
In the end, I can only offer Come To Me Quietly for those who really, really love a tortured hero and don’t mind reading close to four hundred pages of exactly how tortured he is. And be prepared for a somewhat predictable ending that isn’t exactly tied up neatly but at least allows you enough closure that you won’t feel compelled to read the next installment, which I’m sure will provide more of Jared’s internal anguish.