Release date: February 2, 2016
Length: 232 pages
Source: I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Can the truth set her free?…
A part of Mercy died the summer her sister tragically drowned. Now Mercy has a chance to discover if Faith’s death was an accident—or murder. Her first step is to confront the lead suspects: a band of traveling gypsies—the last people who saw her sister alive. But Mercy finds an unexpected ally in Cross, the soulful musician in their ranks. He’s a kindred spirit, someone who sees into her heart for the first time in, well, forever. Yet stirring up the past puts Mercy in danger…
Suddenly someone is shadowing Mercy’s every move, making her even more determined to uncover the facts. With Cross by her side, she is ready to face it all, even if that means opening up to him, knowing he may one day leave her. What she discovers is a truth that rocks the foundation of her small river town—and a love worth risking everything for….
Warning: this book deals with depression, suicide, and loss of family members which may be triggering topics.
I went into this book not really having much of an idea on what to expect. I hadn’t read any other reviews of it and was going into it knowing nothing more than what it is in the description. For that reason, I wasn’t really sure what to expect or whether I would even like it that much, but I really loved this book.
In Place of Never is about a seventeen year old girl, Mercy, who lost her older sister and her mom three years ago. Since then, Mercy, her younger sister, and her dad have become really distant and barely talk to each other at all because they have been unable to move past their loss. But when the Lovells, a group of travelling performers, come back to their town for the first time since the night Mercy’s sister, Faith, died, Mercy is desperate to talk to them and see if they can tell her anything about what happened. But Mercy’s father thinks they’re dangerous and so she has to sneak around him and try not to get caught while also trying to get answers.
One thing I really loved was how much Mercy grows and changes in the course of this book. She starts off still in despair over the loss of Faith but by the end of the book she’s accepted that Faith is gone and is ready to start living her life again while keeping Faith’s memory alive. There’s such a big change in her and I really loved it. In the beginning, she’s kind of a frustrating character. I know it’s because she’s still trying to get over the loss of her sister, but she’s pretty rude towards her younger sister, Pru, and she’s still really pitying herself. It’s understandable, but relatively frustrating nonetheless. By the end of the story, she’s become really close with Pru, closer with her dad, and isn’t hiding herself in her room anymore. I enjoyed seeing her learn to cope with the loss and move on and start living her life again. And there are a few other characters where you see a lot of development – one example being her dad.
Mercy’s family is quite religious (her dad is a preacher and her and her sisters’ names are Mercy, Faith, and Prudence). I liked seeing Mercy still embrace religion despite the fact that she wasn’t getting along with her dad. Most of the books I’ve read where there’s a parent who is very religious and the MC and that parent aren’t getting along (or sometimes even when they are getting along), the MC rejects religion. Despite the fact that I’m not religious at all, I liked seeing Mercy still embracing this part of her and her life regardless of the fact that her dad hadn’t been there for her in a long time and it would’ve been easy for her to kind of blame his dedication to the church for that and therefore push that part of her life away. (For anyone worried that religion is a big focus in the story, don’t worry. It’s not a huge focus, but it’s mentioned kind of sporadically throughout.)
I mentioned before that a group of travelling performers, the Lovells, come into town. I really liked their characters and I wish we had seen more of them. We only really get to know one of them, Cross, very well. We see a bit of the other characters, especially Anton, but I found them really interesting and unique and would’ve liked to get to know them better. Most of them are Roma and what I loved was that Mercy mentions (a couple of times) that G*psies is a really offensive term. There were still characters that used that term instead of Roma, especially characters who had really judgmental views of them and wanted to kick them out of town, and I kind of wish we saw Mercy call them out on it, but I liked that sort of shout-out anyway (I only wish the term hadn’t been used in the summary of the book…).
Mercy gets particularly close to Cross, who travels with the Lovells. I really liked his character and their relationship. They’re really cute together and I also enjoyed seeing how supportive they were of each other. Neither one attempts to change the other’s self-proclaimed flaws. They instead get each other to accept who they are. Cross does a lot to help Mercy come to terms with the loss of Faith but does it in a really supportive way, rather than pitying her or being angry with her for still grieving. I found myself smiling like an idiot during every scene with the two of them because they really are a very cute couple.
I thought the representation of mental illness (mainly depression) was pretty good, too. There were definitely a few times where I kind of cringed at how it was being mentioned (for example, at one point it’s mentioned that suicide is “selfish” which I really hated) but for the most part, it isn’t talked about in a condescending or belittling way. There’s a scene between Cross and Mercy where she’s opening up about how she feels about the loss of Faith and her mom and Cross tells her that mental illness is just as real as any other kind of illness, doesn’t make you weak, etc. which I liked. There was one thing I really didn’t like, though, and that was that it seemed to portray the “cure” for depression as finding a boyfriend. I got annoyed with that because sooo many YA books seem to view romance as the way to get over mental illness and that just isn’t accurate at all.
The plot itself is interesting, although there are (relatively brief) times where the main plot kind of takes a back seat to focus on the romance between Cross and Mercy. Mercy is searching for answers about what exactly happened to her sister, since her father seems to be hiding secrets and no one will give her a straight answer. You get a sense of the impact that Faith’s death had, not only on Mercy, but on many people in the town. The information that Mercy finds out keeps you guessing on what happened on the night Faith died. There were definitely a lot of moments where you think you know what happened, but you don’t. In fact, when the truth is finally revealed at the end, it was really unexpected and was a huge plot twist. I found the second half of the book really difficult to put down because of the suspense and everything else that was going on.
This book isn’t perfect, but it has so much that I absolutely loved. If you like suspenseful stories or mysteries and enjoy (or at least don’t mind) romantic subplots, definitely check this out. It’s a great story that is sure to keep you entertained until the very end.