Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age
**Disclaimer: I won a copy of this ebook. It was not in exchange for a review.
Unlit Star by Lindy Zart is a coming of age story about Rivers Young and Delilah Bana. Rivers had been the popular football star in high school with the perfect life. Delilah had been the odd girl who didn’t care what anyone else thought about who she was. A tragic accident at the end of high school changes Rivers’s life. Delilah’s desire to take a journey on a train has her accepting a housekeeping job at Rivers’s house. Rivers and Delilah had barely known each other, but that is about to change when Delilah makes it her personal goal to show Rivers how beautiful the world is and how lucky he is to be living in it.
This book will make you cry! I loved it so much that I hated to put it down (though that happened frequently because I couldn’t see the words through the tears!). Lindy Zart chose the present tense with a first person point of view, and I think this story is all the more beautiful and heart wrenching because of it. I wasn’t just hearing Delilah’s story; I was living it with her as it happened. The heartache that the characters go through is so real that I felt like it was my own. The stunning imagery, the emotional turmoil, and the realistic characters and situation kept me hooked on the story. Lindy drew me into the life of Delilah and crafted characters that I became so attached to that I never wanted the book to end. This was one of those books that I think I’m a better person for having read. Delilah and Rivers’s story reminded me never to take anything for granted and to remember to be silly and enjoy the little things – like peanut butter!
I won a copy of this ebook, but I would have gladly paid for it. In fact, I recently purchased a paperback copy of it for my daughter, and I may be buying a couple more for others as presents. This is not a book to be passed over!
Here’s an excerpt from Unlit Star:
I sprint for the door and fling it open, racing toward the edge of the pool. The sun is instant fire on my skin, the air stolen from my lungs as the heat works away at me, instantly wilting me. I have time to think a single word—No—and then I am diving into the cool water. It’s shockingly cold after being under the burning star in the sky. I find his form near the bottom of the deep end and my arms cut through the liquid in fast strokes. He isn’t moving and I wonder how he is keeping himself weighted down. Then I see his fingers digging into a grate in the floor of the pool. Anger and sorrow rise within me, clashing against one another as I swim toward him. The water isn’t that deep, but deep enough. Doesn’t it only take two inches of water to drown? This is six feet of it.
He vehemently shakes his head as I reach him. I grab his arm and tug, and even though he is compromised, he is still stronger than me, easily eluding my efforts to rescue him. One hand shoves me away and the other refuses to let go of his possible form of demise. My lungs are struggling to expand and the chlorine is burning my eyes like liquid fire. I have always been a good swimmer, but my ability has never been tested like this before. I jab my finger up with my free hand, the nails of my other hand digging into his forearm. He jerks away and panic propels me closer to him.
I wrap my legs around his and squeeze as hard as I can, knowing this is a low blow, but I am desperate. My leg muscles are lean and strong from all the walking and biking I do and I use them in this moment without remorse. He spasms in pain, no longer resisting me. His fingers release the grate and I take advantage of his temporary incapacitation to wrap myself around him, and shove us up with only the muscles in my arms. They want to resist, feeling heavy and noodle-like, but I will not give up. It isn’t even an option.
I navigate us through the water until we break the surface. I draw in a ragged breath of air, my chest heaving as I doggie paddle us to the shallow end of the pool. Rivers’ heart thunders against my forearm. He is quiet and still against me. He’s given up. Completely. Knowing that puts a sharp pain in my chest. I blink my eyes and refuse to think about it right now. My ears are plugged and it takes a moment for the shouts to sink in. Monica is wading into the pool, her arms outstretched.
She pulls her son from my arms. “What happened?” she cries. “What happened, Rivers? Are you okay? Is he okay?” She trains panicked eyes on me.
He tries to stand, but sways on his weak legs. I reach for him, firmly gripping his bicep within my hand. His eyes, usually so lifeless, are blazing with heat as they connect with mine.
Not breaking the visual connection, I tell his mom, “He fell.” His black eyes narrow, but otherwise there is no reaction to my words. I don’t lie. Why did I just lie for him? Or was it for his mother? Maybe I lied for both of them.
“What? How? How do you know? How did this happen? I called the ambulance. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I was so scared.”
I blink water from my eyes and keep my tone even. One of us needs to be calm about this—my pounding heart tells me I am a better actress than I realized I was. “It’s okay. It’s good that you called the ambulance. They can check him out and make sure he’s okay.”
Rivers’ arm stiffens beneath my touch and I squeeze it hard. He will endure a physical examination so his mother can be confident he is truly all right—physically anyway. With the stunt he just pulled, he owes her that. It is also obvious that mentally he is not all right.
“Let’s get out of the water. I think I hear the sirens. Why don’t you meet them at the door, Monica, and explain the situation?”
She hesitates, her eyes locked on her son.
“It’s okay,” I tell her soothingly. “I’ll stay with Rivers.”
We manage to get Rivers onto the deck, and from there he struggles to a bench, each step slow and painful for him. Seeing his bare legs for the first time is shocking and I fight to not look away. I knew it must be bad, but I didn’t know what to expect. He usually has them covered with a blanket, or wears lounge pants. Chunks of muscle are missing from the back of his left calf—jagged, mismatched areas of pink flesh the result of doctors patching his skin back up as best as they could.
The backside of his right leg has similar gashes of pale, angry flesh the length of his thigh with the skin around it puckered up in protestation of being sewn up in such a way. The consequences of being at the mercy of merciless boat blades is a collection of gouged-out flesh and scars that line almost every surface of his legs. The propeller made mincemeat out of his lower limbs.
He falls onto the bench and winces, maneuvering his body around so he can sit. That sympathetic part of me that I can’t seem to shut off around him wants to help him and I clench my fingers against the urge. I know he wouldn’t appreciate it anyway. I hate seeing people in pain and I finally have to look away from him. It literally makes me feel sick—my stomach gets all jumbled up and the urge to heave hits me, like now. It’s like I can feel their pain with an empathetic knife into my very heart. I suck air through my lungs with jerky, shaky breaths.
Monica gently touches my shoulder, our eyes connecting, and then she walks toward the house to admit the EMTs. Her look was a silent thank you. I want to tell her I don’t deserve a thank you for saving someone who doesn’t want to be saved, for someone who won’t even appreciate it because he doesn’t appreciate his life. I want to tell her I didn’t do anything to be thanked for. But she is already gone and my time is up.
I look at Rivers. His legs are straightened out in front of him and his features are twisted in pain, but even without the grimace on his face, it is contorted in ways it never used to be. He must have hit his head against something sharp as he fought for his life, maybe the underside of the boat or even a river rock—possibly an edge of a propeller blade. The left side of his face has a pink scar that starts under his eye and ends near the corner of his mouth. It’s thick and angry looking, like the river was upset it didn’t get more of him than it did, though it still managed to leave its mark. He’s lucky. Two inches higher and it would have been his eye. Another healing gash goes from his left temple up to the crown of his head.
He isn’t pretty anymore.
It has to bother him. The crowd he hung around with in school was all about looks. They had the right hairstyles, the right brand of clothes, the right faces and bodies. I’m surprised Riley even came to visit him with his body and face marred the way they are. Maybe she really does care about him. The thought causes me to blink and I shrug it off, turning my attention back to him. I wonder if he realizes how fortunate he is. I wonder if he cares. I sort of think he doesn’t, what with tossing himself into the pool to drown and everything. And how shallow is that? To think your life is over because you don’t look like you think you should. I wonder how I would be, in the same situation. Then I think of my current situation and I know I wouldn’t be the way he is. I realize that is where we differ the most—I’m glad for every day I get, and he wishes the promise of a new dawn would fade into oblivion.
I lower my face so that we are at eye level. “The next time you decide to end your unwanted life, swallow some pills. Make it easier on all of us. Only make sure you do it when I’m not around so I don’t have to try to save your ass again.” I stomp away, water trailing down my head to my legs as I move, leaving puddles in my wake.
I don’t expect him to answer and his low words halt my footsteps. Not just his words, but the fact that he’s actually speaking to me. Shock goes through me at the sound of his rough voice. It is the uneven timbre of a voice grainy with disuse.
“No one asked you to save me.”
Anger spins me around and I stare at him for a long time. I think about the gift he has; the gift he is willing to throw away, and the unfairness of it burns through me in shades of black. There are so many people who have no choice in whether or not they live—he was given another chance when he was pulled from the destructive clutches of the river, and yet here he is, not grateful for it. That sickens me in ways that make my stomach roil.
“I didn’t do it for you,” I finally say.
About the author:
Lindy Zart has been writing since she was a child. Luckily for readers, her writing has improved since then. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two sons, and one cat. Lindy loves hearing from people who enjoy her work—and also coffee, wine, Bloody Marys, and pizza.
You can connect with Lindy at:
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