There were so many different facets of Who She Was that I appreciated. I’m feeling listy so I’m going to just go ahead and change things up for this review a bit. Oh, Who She Was, how I enjoyed thee, let me LIST the ways…
1) The relationships.
Of course I will start with the most obvious example of this. Charlie and Trevor. Stormy Smith somehow blended two of my favorite contemporary romance themes, hate to love and best friends to romantic love, into some kind of hybrid with Charlie and Trevor in Who She Was. I loved that there was so much history between the two, and they already a kind of intimacy, but at the same time, after so much time had passed since they were last close, paired with growing up and dealing with all the curve balls life has thrown their way over the years, they were also like strangers coming together for the first time. I’m sure that you yourself have experienced that strange phenomenon of running into someone you used to be very close with when you were younger after a long time has passed. They’re the same in a sense, but also this completely different person with new quirks, beliefs, issues, etc. that make them someone new too. I really enjoyed watching them get to know each other again, along with seeing clips from their past and seeing how much they have grown and changed and were still changing along the way.
Okay, so with the obvious out of the way, I also have to mention my appreciation for the side characters as well. I really dislike when characters simply exist to make the main characters shine even more. That was not something that happened in this story. Darcy and Sam were so great. I liked that they were important to this story in their own right, and they each also had their own little story going on in the background. They were growing and shining right along with the main characters. And bringing important and fresh perspectives along the way.
Lastly for this column, I would like to point out how very well done the hard relationships were done as well. The unhealthy ones that people struggle with throughout life. I feel like sometimes the severity of these relationships are muted in books like this where you expect the budding romance to be the main focus, and many times these other relationships are merely scratched at the surface to further the romantic plot. I appreciated the time taken to analyze these relationships in this story. The consequences, the burden, the way they can shape the person you are and are becoming. They are important too, and their voice was loud and clear.
2) The music.
Music, to me, has always been an important thing in my life. And not because I play it. I learned hot cross buns on the recorder and heart and soul on the piano, but I never quite made it into the musician category. Music is important to me for the sheer fact that it moves me. It has been forever linked with the way I feel. I have a huge appreciation for it, and my tastes are eclectic. So many times you can tell my mood simply by what I am playing in the moment. I have music that speaks to my rage on a bad day, music to soothe when I am feeling chill, music to amp me up and get me in that party kind of mood, etc. And music is linked to so many memories throughout my life. I vividly remember learning to roller-skate with my Walkman (yes, I am that old) to Billy Idol’s Mony, Mony. I remember doing the Macarena, Hustle, and Electric slide at my middle school dances, all be it terribly because I have no rhythm but it has never stopped a gal from trying and having fun. Brown-eyed Girl is reminds me of summer nights grades 1-4 and the dad garage band that would play this song every year literally out of a garage during our block party. First concert to first kiss, so many amazing things have been imprinted in my brain to the sound of an unforgettable melody. So, yes, the music being such a core part of this story, and so very important to the characters, it was moving to me. I loved the way they sometimes communicated best with each other through their music. And ultimately, I really respected the way that they choose to define what the music meant to them and how they’d like it to fit in their lives.
3) Location, location, location.
The author’s personal connection to the setting of the story was apparent in this story. The passionate way she describes the place with such detail really enchants you. I love that you can have that very real connection with this story too. Like this is a place you can visit and see what the characters have seen, and maybe even feel what they were feeling about this place too. I can honestly say that Stormy Smith has successfully added another destination on my personal list of places I would like to visit one day, Des Moines, Iowa. So thank you for that, Stormy.
4) Giving a voice to a taboo subject.
I don’t want to be all spoilery here, so unfortunately I can’t really talk much about this particular subject. BUT it is a reality. And I really respect the author for having this element in her story. One thing I truly believe in this life, is there are no taboo issues. That’s not to say there aren’t issues that require some extra thought and care, but I don’t truly believe any subject should be kept quiet or not discussed. Discussion is a good thing. Even the difficult topics, my god ESPECIALLY those. THINK about these things, LEARN about these things, TALK about these things PLEASE. Maybe if we can do that more, some of these things would happen just a little less. So, thank you, Stormy. Thank you for including this in your story. Thank you for taking such care and consideration with a difficult subject that many people shy away from.
So yeah, those are a few of the things I really liked about Who She Was. I did struggle a bit towards the end of the story when I felt like some of the things the characters were doing seemed uncharacteristically profound for them. I get that they were growing as people and learning, but it felt a little like them being suddenly hit with this deep wisdom beyond their years, rather than more steadily paced realizations, or maybe wo many huge breakthroughs didn’t kind of seem to happen so close together that could have made it seem a little less out of character. It almost felt too neatly wrapped for me. I would have loved to see these characters maybe keep a few things unresolved, or rather just not resolved yet. I didn’t think there was a need to have it all so prettily packaged at the end. But the flash forward at the very end was pretty gosh darn sweet and I was happy for that addition to the story. All in all this was a very enjoyable read, and I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next!
I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.