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A Reader of Fictions: Review: Nobody But Us

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: Nobody But Us

Nobody But Us

Author: Kristin Halbrook
Pages: 272
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Source: For review from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
Bonnie and Clyde meets IF I STAY in this addictively heart-wrenching story of two desperate teenagers on the run from their pasts.

They’re young. They’re in love. They’re on the run.

Zoe wants to save Will as much as Will wants to save Zoe. When Will turns eighteen, they decide to run away together. But they never expected their escape to be so fraught with danger....

When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can’t run fast enough.

Nobody But Us, told in alternating perspectives from Will and Zoe, is an unflinching novel, in turns heartbreaking and hopeful, about survival, choices, and love...and how having love doesn’t always mean that you get a happy ending. Described as “beautiful, heartbreaking, and exhilarating” by Kody Keplinger, author of The DUFF, Nobody But Us will prove irresistible to fans of Nina Lacour, Jenny Han, and Sara Zarr.

First Sentence: "He comes down the road in his Camaro sliding left to right on the freshly oiled gravel and skidding to a stop in front of my house."

*Warning: This review will contain pretty monstrous spoilers for Nobody But Us, though will not spoil quite everything. To read the spoiler-free version, head over to YA Books Central.*

To be entirely fair, I was not sure if this book would be my thing. The teens on the run aspect didn't really appeal to me, but Nobody But Us was blurbed by two of my favorite authors (Courtney Summers and Kody Keplinger), as well as being compared to If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which I loved. I thought perhaps instead of being melodramatic, Nobody But Us might have the contemplative, deep, emotionally fraught style of If I Stay. Well, I've been wrong before. I really need to stop buying into this marketing that sells you one book by comparing it to another.

Starting with the good, Halbrook writes well, creating two different voices for Zoe and Will. They think differently and have wholly different vocabulary. Multiple points of view in first person are tricky, so I applaud her for doing that this well. The writing's a bit simpler than I personally tend to prefer, and includes the occasional odd word choice, like "vessel" to refer to a car, though that seems like something that my be caught before publication.

I would like to propose changing the tagline to "They're young. They're stupid. They're on the run." That pretty much sums up this book for me. Will, eighteen and finally free of the system where he's bounced from home to home and school to school, decides to take his girlfriend Zoe with him away from their shit-hole hometown and her abusive father. Fifteen-year-old Zoe needs a change, no doubt about that. Her father is a drunken monster, and should be in jail, but that does not mean that running away with Will is an awesome plan. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite of an awesome plan.

Still, teens don't necessarily have much wisdom about the way of the world and everything can seem very immediate. They're young and this seems like the best road open to them, so that's what they do. Fine. I will accept that. However, what I have trouble handling is how incredibly stupid they are about everything once they're on the road. How can neither of them ever have seen a crime drama, which would have kept them from doing a lot of the idiotic things they do?

Zoe's choices can be put down to a youthful naivete, I suppose, and a weakness of character that causes her to cling to the first person to offer to take care of her. Will, however, has a better idea of the law, having come up against it before. He knows enough to get her a fake ID that lists her age as eighteen, though they never actually use this once, and to expect that the cops will be looking for them. Yet, somehow, he expects that they will simply be able to disappear in Las Vegas with just her fake ID, where she can enroll in school and they can live together. Really? You KNOW they'll be looking for you, Will, but it doesn't occur to you that you would need a fake identity too? Or that an IDENTITY is more than a doctored license? How are you going to enroll her in school or do anything without records? What about your social security numbers? Birth certificates? Disappearing is not so easy in the modern age, especially when people know your car.

"Christina, stop being so judgmental of them for not knowing all of this stuff; I mean, they're just teens!" Maybe so, imaginary devil's advocate. Some teens might not know those things, so let's give them a pass on that, okay? Shouldn't they at least be bright enough not to draw attention to themselves as they make their escape? Will, especially, since Zoe seems to have no clue what's going on? Yet, every time they stop, they do something incredibly, mind-blowingly stupid. Being a teenager does not necessitate a complete lack of survival skills or self-awareness.

Here are some examples of how Zoe and Will continually do precisely the worst possible thing in every situation:
  1. While eating at a diner, some cops come in for food. The teens freak out and basically make it very obvious that they're hiding something as they leave as quickly as they can. At least they don't skip out on the check, making this the high point in their intelligence.
  2. Will spots a vehicle behind them on the highway that he believes might be a cop car, so he starts driving as fast as he can. Because the best thing to do when guilty and near cops is to make yourself guilty of something else so that they'll be sure to notice you. Yup. Great idea.
  3. They stop at a gas station. Zoe goes in to get food while Will pumps gas. Some assholes start talking to Zoe and one touches her on the ass. Will punches him.
  4. Zoe gets her period and, worried about Will's limited finances, decides they cannot afford the $12 box of tampons (Seriously, why are tampons so expensive? I have wondered this before myself.) and decides the best plan is to steal some from the box.
  5. When Zoe gets caught stealing tampons and shaken by the irate store owner, Will hits him over the head with a bottle of wine.
  6. When Will sees a news broadcast reporting the incident, he and Zoe run out of the dining establishment so fast they leave his wallet behind, causing the waitress and everyone else to look closely enough at them to put two and two together.
  7. The list really does go on, but I think you've got the point.
Will and Zoe's relationship also made me seriously uncomfortable. Yet again, we have a girl in love with a guy she's afraid of a good deal of the time, and we're meant to see them as tragic, romantic figures. No, I don't think so. Zoe, physically abused by her father, is terrified every time Will gets into a fight on her behalf. The formula repeated over and over in this book: someone threatens or hits on Zoe, he punches the person, Zoe cries and shrinks away from him, he promises he'll never hurt her and that he'll keep his rage checked, repeat.

Worse, I have no doubt that, given time, he would end up hitting Zoe. Their interactions had warning bells chiming in my head all the way through. He thinks constantly about how much he wants to make her happy, but snaps at her any time she annoys him. He swears at her, even though he knows how much that upsets her. After some guys hit on her, he accuses her of flirting with them, blaming her, though she was only a victim of their rude behavior. When he does things like this, she accuses herself for his unhappiness, for their bad situation, even though she's clearly not at fault for any of it. Their relationship is incredibly unhealthy and I don't feel like Halbrook made her stance on that as a bad thing clear at all.

What I wanted and expected was an emotionally hard-hitting novel about the horrors of abuse, but instead I found a melodramatic mess that romanticizes what I see as an abusive relationship. The whole thing read like a Lifetime original movie. I imagine many people will enjoy this, given how popular books with similar themes have been recently, but I did not.

Rating: 1.5/5

Favorite Quote: "I've never actually owned a swimsuit. I've never set foot in a pool, and I don't know how to swim. I'd probably run screaming if I saw an ocean wave, but that doesn't mean I don't want to go and see what happens. It might be nice to discover something scary in a way I'd never known before. The heart-racing, in-love-with-the-risk kind of scary. Not the hide-away kind."

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Blogger Bibliosaurus Text said...

Wow, this sounds like something I'd hate. It irritates the crap outta me when characters are the source of their own conflicts. Thanks for the head's up; this book is not for me!

December 8, 2012 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Ashleigh Paige said...

Oh dear. It looks like it's time for me to deck the halls--er, I mean man the harpoons--DARN IT, I DON'T KNOW. You know what? I'll build a fort. That's an appropriate response to a lot of things. I think I'll bask in Just One Day a little longer before I jump into Nobody But Us. Methinks I'll want a stick note rainbow again.

And this was apparently sold in a two-book deal. While scouring the author's website for her position on Will and Zoe's relationship, I found that. Not sure if the second book will be a sequel, companion novel, or unrelated book.

December 9, 2012 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Hmmm...yeah, this one isn't for me. Thanks for taking one for the team! lol

And I think the bit with her being afraid of Will could have been okay if there was a sort of lesson at the end, you know? It's normal for abused people to be attracted to other abusers. That would have seemed really real. But then there should have been a clear message that their relationship wasn't a good idea. Too bad that was handled poorly!

December 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

Annnnnd, yay!

Will and Zoe sound like people I would love to strangle. I mean, in what universe is it romantic for your girlfriend to be afraid of you? Maybe 50 ShadesLand, I guess. Does Will also wear a wife-beater? That would take the cake.

Thanks for the review, Christina. I got excited when this book was compared to Bonnie and Clyde, but at least B&C were intelligent (most of the time), and actually had fun whilst doing stupid things.

December 9, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger Ashleigh Paige said...

And things I forgot to add because my brain doesn't work this early in the morning:

It looks like this will be a victim of my Zoe curse. Books with characters named Zoe (any spelling) have a very high chance of being bad for me. I keep track of names I see often while reading and almost every book I've read with a Zoe in it was a book I disliked. This hasn't happened with any other name.

And since one of the author's friends/beta readers/? called it romantic and it doesn't seem like the author had a problem with that, I'm kind of leaning toward the idea it was supposed to be romantic.

And great review, Christina!

December 9, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

Thank you so much for reviewing this. I had a feeling it would turn out to be like this, but was intrigued by the comparison to If I Stay and thought the same as you: that it might have more substance. Glad to know my first instinct was right and I can avoid it.

December 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Nori said...

wow. This sounded like it would be so good! It's also so sad to read about books that look really good, ending up being really bad. One of the worst things that can happen for me in a YA book is having really, incredibly dumb characters. I get that not everyone can be as intelligent as I want them to be, but these characters seem to be missing some serious brain cells...

December 9, 2012 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

"instead I found a melodramatic mess that romanticizes what I see as an abusive relationship."
That is a glaring red flag for me to run away. fast. What a pity, lovely cover though.

Wait, tampons are twelve bucks in this place?!?! I swear I saw I pack for like four bucks at Safeway (and this is Hawaii, guys...we have to ship everything over and thus, everything is extra expensive.) Stealing tampons is hilarious. Well, if Louis CK can do it...it must not be that difficult. But more importantly, you can probably get tampons at school in the nurses office. Oh wait, they ran away from school. They could've used the education.

If you get the guy to do it, the situation might be so awkward they will let you pass. Or resort to desperate measures and use toilet paper.

Sometimes reading a teenager's (well, I am still a technically a teenager...but...) poor decisions makes me wonder if I would have once had the same logic and acted in the same stupid way.

This just sounds like a weird slapstick comedy. That I might enjoy if it wasn't supposed to be otherwise.

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

December 9, 2012 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Steph Sinclair said...

Annnndddd off my list it comes. I cannot stand romanticized abusive relationships or idiotic characters. I think I will definitely pass.

Also, $12 for a box of tampons? YIKES! I swear, the establishment just likes to screw those of us with a vagina over again and again.

December 10, 2012 at 9:16 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Ah man. Why do authors think writing a douchebag male character will make a book intense? I like a bad boy as much as the next girl but characters like tis make me want to throw things!

And te dumbness.....just say no to stupid!

December 10, 2012 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Blythe Harris said...

*hisses at book*

No no no nonnonononono NO. I would hate this one so much, so thank you so much for this, Christina. And your review came right in time for a blog tour sign up for this, so yay! But ugh. Just reading this made me want to spork my eyes out. I, as you know, absolutely hate stupid characters, and just reading your bullets about what they did throughout the novel, and knowing there's MORE stupid things they do... *shakes head* I can't even. Yes, they're teenagers, but being a teenager is not an excuse for being stupid! Ugh. No. It's honestly to the point where the only reaction I have to this book after reading your review is no. ESPECIALLY after reading that he gets into fights for her and then promises that he'll never hurt her. BUDDY, YOU SHOULDN'T BE PROMISING THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

*stabs book in mind*

No. Ugh.


December 10, 2012 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Where is my popcorn?! I really love when you rant about a book, Christina. It makes the review so interesting, and now I won't forget this book! Tampons...can be majorly blamed for that. :))

December 13, 2012 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Well, Zoe's father is a real issue, but once they're on the road they make everything worse for themselves.

December 14, 2012 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, since it took me almost a week to get back to comments (oops), I now know you felt the same. If they'd not compared to If I Stay, I would not have been compelled to read this. False marketing, you do no one any favors.

December 14, 2012 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

EXACTLY! I kept expecting the lesson to appear. Zoe thought about how abused women are attracted to abusers and would wonder if she would do that, but would never actually connect that to Will in any meaningful way. I'd be reading along like "YES, YOU CAN DO IT," and then she would look at the scenery or make out with him, and that would all be over with. *headdesk*

December 14, 2012 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It is NOT romantic. I mean, even in 50 Shades, is she afraid of him? I thought she was more in awe, but I don't think he really scared her. He probably does, though I don't remember if he was described that way specifically.

These two did have fun when they made out or when they jumped on the bed this one time. NO JOKE.

December 14, 2012 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Christina said...


Yeah, I'm just not sure. I want to believe that no one would want this to be romantic, but...

December 14, 2012 at 11:39 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Not If I Stay. Not at all. Bonnie & Clyde + Beautiful Disaster.

December 14, 2012 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Seriously. Every single time they interacted with anyone they made the WORST possible choices. There's no need for them to be that stupid. It's a bad situation without additional drama.

December 14, 2012 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Actually, I don't like the cover, though Zoe does look like that, with the bangs and everything.

Well, okay, maybe not 12, but they are like 7, which is pretty ridic. They COULD have used the education. Will was planning to enroll her in school, and I was loling everywhere that he thought that would be possible. You need medical records, transcripts, a GUARDIAN.

Toilet paper does not work well.

I don't think so. You're better than they are. You would probably have reported your father as abusive.

Maybe if you think about it that way it would be fun.

December 14, 2012 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

The establishment hates lady parts, it's true.

This would definitely make you rage.

December 14, 2012 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

He's not as much of a douchebag as some. I mean, I do get the sense that with a better upbringing, he could have been a decent guys, but he's a ticking bomb as it is.

December 14, 2012 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, I SAVED YOU! You would have been SO PISSED. You shouldn't NEED to promise that, and you certainly shouldn't have to promise it over and over because you keep acting out with violence, even though she told you how much it scared her. THIS WILL NOT WORK OUT WELL.

December 14, 2012 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

*passes popcorn*

December 14, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Lilian said...

I have bangs too...

Obviously, Will didn't have the foresight to plan anything ahead. HOW COULD YOU RUN AWAY WITH SOMEONE LIKE THAT?!?!

"Toilet paper does not work well."
I agree. *awkward silence*
I wonder what ancient women used...

To be honest, I don't know if I would have the guts to report my father if he was abusive. I think it's an Asian thing to keep it a family matter.

Might be a good strategy to use for the 3rd Divergent book, which I KNOW I'll pick up just so I can join the cool party.

Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

December 17, 2012 at 6:56 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Well, Will did try, but he has no idea how the world works, so it plays out just the same. I COULDN'T.

They must have used cloth, like they did for baby diapers. *shudders*

True, that's a problem in Asian culture. Of course, it's likely an issue in any family where you grew up with that, because you've been made to feel you deserve it. As I am now, I would report his ass, but if you'd been brought up that way...?


December 18, 2012 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Tanja - Tanychy said...

Oh this is too bad! I wanted to read this book badly because of If I Stay reference but dammit! I also have to stop doing it - getting the books just because of marketing! I'll let this one pass.

January 8, 2013 at 4:18 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

15 and 18 year olds are not as clueless on how the world works. Reading a book with silly or rather, stupid characters are a pain in the *ss and a waste of time. And the boyfriend keeps on getting into fights?? And the girl is scared of her boyfriend but ran off with him?? I don't like the sound of this book.

Thanks for this review.

January 10, 2013 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Run! It's NOTHING like If I Stay. That marketing is a big fat lie.

January 11, 2013 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

That's how I feel. They should have known at least some of those things. It wasn't so much that I expected them to craft a perfect plan, but all of that stupidity combined seems really over the top and insulting to teens in general, especially since one of them is supposed to be clever.

Yup, he fights all the time, and that scares her, because it reminds her of her abusive father.

January 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger Bea Tejano said...

Wow, I was planning on reading this since I just simply adored If I Stay! Well after that maybe not anymore LOL thanks for the review:)

January 13, 2013 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

The If I Stay comparison is a vicious LIE.

January 14, 2013 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ah what a disappointment! I've been looking forward to reading this book for a while now... I'll still pick it up, but I guess I'll need to lower my expectations. Thanks for the great review!

February 10, 2013 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Lowering your expectations is pretty much always a good idea.

February 11, 2013 at 9:36 AM  

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