ARC review: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candance Ganger

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Birdie and Bash meet at a party on a night that will change both of their lives – not because of their meeting, but because of the tragedy that befalls them later that night.  Although both are dealing with their own separate problems, fate seems to be throwing them together.  With everything stacking up against them, can they overcome all the obstacles they face and be happy together?

So, first off, we all know that we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover.  I judged this book by its cover (sorry) and was really shocked at what I found inside.  The cover, with its cartoon drawing of roller skates, with its bright colors and retro style, made me think that this would be a cute, lighthearted romance, more middle grade than anything.  It is not.

This book is sad and dark and very much not MG.  Even for YA, it’s on the darker side.  This is the story of a teenage boy who wants to do the right thing but is torn by his loyalty to his best friend.  This is the story of a teenage girl whose baby brother is currently comatose in the PICU because of something that may or may not be her fault.  This is a very sad, very emotional book.  It’s so sad and emotional that, at times, it can be very difficult to read.  You would not get that from the cover.

This book explores some pretty dark themes.  The blurb doesn’t make this clear, either.  I have no issue with the part of the blurb about Birdie, or the part about the relationship between Birdie and Bash.  The bit about Bash, though, makes this book sound very different than it is:

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo.

Bash is, deep down, a good guy who’s been dealt a bad hand.  You wouldn’t know it from the blurb, but he lives by himself in a rundown trailer without electricity.  There are holes in the walls.  He can feel the wind on his face when he sleeps.  He expresses concern about literally freezing to death.  It’s no wonder that he’s nearly flunking out when he’s barely surviving.

Bash might not particularly like “Wild Kyle,” but the lazy, entitled, incredibly rich boy is his best friend.  And, yes, Bash tries to keep Kyle on the straight and narrow, but what the blurb doesn’t tell you is that he attempts to keep his friend from driving drunk.  That’s the “something really bad.”  And Bash doesn’t succeed.  Kyle drives drunk, and it sets up the whole rest of the book.

“See his beloved Ma through chemo” really trivializes what’s going on as well.  Bash’s mother is dying. She lives in a nursing home and has begun hospice care.  She is not going to get better.  Bash knows this.

Why do the cover and the blurb work so hard to make this book seem like something it’s not? It seems like a good setup for failure, if you ask me.  For me personally, I want to know what I’m getting into.  If I’m expecting a lighthearted romance and I get death and destruction, it’s going to affect my rating.

I think what I’m getting at was that I was a little unsettled by the plot.  And not because I thought it was shocking – in fact, Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door explores a very similar situation – but because it wasn’t the kind of story I was expecting.

And maybe it’s because I read (and loved) MLND, but I don’t understand the hate toward Bash in the reviews.  He wasn’t driving.  He tried to stop Kyle and he wanted to come forward.  Kyle is just a kid, yes, but he’s rich and powerful and, above all, Bash’s only friend.  I get it.  And more than anything, I just wanted to save Bash from his horrible life and protect him at all costs.

This book may not have been what I expected, but it’s a good story about family, about tragedy, and about the consequences of your actions.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free ARC of The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash from St. Martin’s Griffin via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.