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One Lonely Degree by C.K. Kelly Martin

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I loved this book.

After a traumatic experience at a party, Finn hasn't been the same. Nothing has. Her world is slowly unraveling in ways she can't quite reconcile. Her parents' marriage is disintegrating and the reappearance of a childhood friend, Jersy, brings with it new and terrifying feelings made even more complicated by the fact that her best friend, Audrey, is dating him.

Audrey is the person Finn trusts most in the whole world--the person she'd be totally lost without--and Finn would never do anything to jeopardize that. So she steps back and tries to enjoy her rekindled friendship with Jersy as much as possible, knowing all the while it can't ever go to the next level. But when Audrey leaves town for the summer, Finn's world continues to collapse around her and she finds herself turning to Jersy more and more. Finn doesn't know who she is anymore, and what will happen next, but when she's with Jersy anything seems possible in the best kind of way...

But what about Audrey?

C.K. Kelly Martin is an amazing author. There was so much I admired in her extraordinary debut, I Know It's Over, which left me tangled up, inspired and empathetic toward a young man dealing with his first real heartbreak (made that much more complicated by an unexpected pregnancy). I have been looking foward to One Lonely Degree ever since, eager for a new and different story and hoping to come away just as tangled up and invested and inspired.

I'm happy to report that I did.

C.K. Kelly Martin has done it again.

When I cracked open One Lonely Degree, Finn's voice immediately swept me away, making the book impossible to put down for long periods at a time. I had an instant gut response to it that I can't quite shake even now, a day after closing the last page. We were total High School Attitude twins. Similar cynicism, same kind of resistance to change, same coping mechanisms, same kind of dependencies on other people. I've been Finn.

At the same time I've been Finn, I've also known Finn. Her codependency on her best friends, while justifiable, exhausted me on their behalf. I was relieved for both Audrey and Finn when Audrey left for the summer because as much as I admired the support system and small world they created for each other, they needed that space to grow. Finn needed to engage in her surroundings in a way that would enable her to recover from her trauma and Audrey's distance helped her do that.

Martin explores the theme of friendship with an expert hand. There's a certain sad nostalgia in Finn and Audrey's arc that made me remember all the friends I've distanced from in various ways. It's hard to describe, but I think we have all had these kind of friends at some point in our lives--people you need for a time, that help you and change you forever, but that you maybe can't have forever. This dynamic was presented in a way that was incredibly honest and incredibly true.

Jersy was a fantastic male lead. His relationship with Finn was electric and emotional. He is a somewhat reckless type, who observes, engages and takes the cards he's given with the kind of ease that makes it easy to understand why Finn was so drawn to him. Jersy was also believably flawed, with a complicated past of his own, and he and Finn dealt with their situation with utmost, well, reality.

That is one of my favourite things about Martin's writing. It's highly realistic YA fiction. One Lonely Degree is a pulls-no-punches slice of real life that no one will have to look too hard to see themselves in. At its core, this is a novel about change. Dealing with change. Adapting to it (or not). Surviving it. Holding things close. Keeping them. Learning from them. Letting them go. Taking what's left.

I think most of us have complicated relationships with change and I think the topic is delved into beautifully in this book. Martin knows how to pinpoint certain emotional truths and explore them in this incredible prose that makes the writer in me incredibly jealous.

One Lonely Degree is heading up my 'Favourite Reads of 2009' List. 

You gotsta read it.

Now.

P.S.  This will either make a ton of sense to you or it won't, but it makes sense to me which is the important thing ;) , but I swear, Regina Spektor's On the Radio (watch a performance of it here) is like the song equivalent of this book.  Which makes me love it even MORE!
#1 - May 30, 2009, 11:52 PM
« Last Edit: May 30, 2009, 11:57 PM by courtney »

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