Published: 4 April 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Gayle Forman meets Francesca Lia Block in this dazzling story about two coma girls and the boy who connects their lives. From the author of This Raging Light, a debut that New York Times bestselling author Morgan Matson calls “remarkable.”
“Something does exist. I saw. It’s a place. Like this but different.”
“Okay, so let’s say we do reach her, that something like that is even possible. Then what?”
“Then we ask her to come back.”
Eden: As far as coma patients go, Eden’s lucky. She woke up. But still, she can’t shake the feeling that she might have dragged something back from the near-afterlife.
Joe: Joe visits the hospital every day, hoping that Jaz, his lifelong friend, will wake up. More than anything, he wants to hear her voice again. But he’s not sure anyone can reach her.
Eden & Joe: Even though she knows it sounds crazy, Eden tells Joe that they might be able to talk to Jaz. Opening themselves up to the great unknown—and each other—Eden and Joe experience life: mysterious and scary, beautiful and bright.
Rating: 4 Stars
Having read Estelle Laure’s debut novel last year, I was anticipating her next foray into young adult fiction. When I saw that it (But Then I Came Back) available on NetGalley I was very happy, but I didn’t realize that it was a sequel of sorts. The summary mentions nothing about this book being connected to the author’s debut, This Raging Light, which I would recommend reading first. It isn’t necessary exactly, but I felt like I benefited from a brief refresher.
Eden, the main character in But Then I Came Back, was the best friend of the main character from Estelle Laure’s debut, This Raging Light. When I consulted my review for that novel, I realized that this book was actually going to be really good because I hadn’t been satisfied with the way Eden’s story had ended in the previous book. Now she is the main character and we get to see her story, different as it is because she is recovering from the coma she’s been in for a month.
The voice of the characters continues to be authentic in the work and with the difficulties that they faced, I’m glad for that because if it had been over-exaggerated, I think the book would have taken a downturn and been a stinker.
The atmosphere was a bit different than This Raging Light; the comparison in the summary to Francesca Lia Block, my introduction into magical realism, is accurate. There are moments where it feels a bit strange, going through Eden’s recovery with her and trying to reconcile coming back to this life and dealing with the feeling that something’s not quite right, not quite in the now. It reminded me of the books I used to love when I was Eden’s age, which I realize now probably had some narrative issues, but are still mellow, enjoyable reads.
Estelle Laure delivered a fluid, realistic book that had elements of the fantastic in it, the afterlife reaching inexorably toward Eden as she recovers from her coma and tries to find her footing in our world, a world she doesn’t feel familiar with anymore. What has she left behind and where is she going? These questions are wrapped around characters both familiar to Estelle Laure’s readers and new to them, providing updates and new obstacles and relationships for them to develop in their own book.
This sophomore novel was a very good read; not quick, but slow in an agreeable way. This author will be one to return to again after having shown her writing chops off with This Raging Light and finessing them with But Then I Came Back.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.