Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.
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*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*
This book broke my heart again and again, and also gave me hope again and again. As someone who deals with something relatively similar (to be honest, I don’t know my exact diagnosis but I could recognise and identify with so much of Reid’s feelings), it was like a balm I suppose?
The book deals with Reid’s life and recovery from some quite rare-to-discuss, and rarely well-written ‘problems’. As it is explained in the author’s note at the end, it was an #ownvoice when it came to this part – Sierra is also living with the condition.
But OH! The book was and is one of my favourites, despite the ending not being really HEA, and more HFN, with not much guarantee for the future. But I loved Joaquim’s character so much! He is patient, understanding, and does not leave just because. I had friends who have stopped being my friends after my first diagnosis of depression and it hurts, still. So it was incredibly nice to see someone, even a fictional character, being there, accepting the ups and downs, trying to understand Reid and support him.
Reid has gone away from home to his grandmother’s condo, to go away from parents, from his ex-boyfriend who doesn’t want to be an ex, and generally because he needed to feel different, or rather, to NOT feel so different. Being an only person with mental illness in a family can be very isolating and there’s always the feeling of wrongness when people know all about it. Your words are taken differently, as are your actions.
And Reid found acceptance, and kind of normality, even though his mental illness is and will never be gone. There is improvement, there are good days, but there are inevitably also bad days.
The book does show mental illness really well, but this is not ALL Reid is. It is just part of Reid, as it is only a part of me. There are other qualities, other traits we have that are more important, and yet sometimes people cannot see beyond one thing. It is also not love-cures-mental-illness kind of book for which I am very grateful.
The writing is in that different way that Sierra does in Idlewild as well. The words take you to the place, to dive, to relationship between Reid and Joaquim. To be honest, this is only the second book by the author that I have read, but both books had dragged me in so much I could not put them down.
I know it is said that Reid is not his illness, and the book certainly isn’t just about it. And I know that is the part my review focuses on most but it is for a simple reason. I could see myself in it, in Reid and I will always be grateful for that as it is probably the first book I saw myself in so much. It is also a book I recommended to my best friends – they keep trying to understand me, but not being as good a writer as Sierra, this book can show them a lot.
Sierra made me laugh, made me cry, and gave me hope. There are quotes in the book I want to put on posters for my room, and the author’s note is also so amazing. I am so glad I have read this book, or even that I had the chance to read it as an ARC.
Sierra is an amazing author and I cannot wait to read more books written by her. And if you need a proof of how amazing this book was…I had to read it three times before I could articulate how much I love it and even now I am not sure I quite achieved my goal 🙂