Hazel Hayes is someone I’ve followed online for years and is someone who I love and support with my entire heart. She’s an experienced and incredibly gifted storyteller. When she announced she was publishing a book, I thought I’d buy it so show some support, probably read a few pages, then move on. But I bought it, read a few pages, then suddenly it was many hours later and I was a chapter from the end with it clutched against my chest and a few tears on my cheeks.
This is the first book I’ve read where it starts from the end. You know the relationship is doomed from the start and moving back in time to the moment they meant just fills you with hope and excitement for something you know isn’t going to work out. I was sitting there devouring the pages, wondering what led to the inevitable breakup, wondering where their issues originated from, wondering which things affected their ending.
This book is driven by the protagonist, and it’s hard for me to write about when we never learn her name. I loved her pride of her home country and Irish culture and her family and her friends. The story revolves around them as much as it revolves around the breakdown of the relationship. The pain she felt towards moving away from home was something I could relate to and almost hurt more than anything else in the book.
Emphasis on almost. The entire book is heart-breaking. It’s very heavy emotionally, seeing the deterioration of a relationship and a couple falling out of love, and I was oddly emotional at times. Not because I could relate to falling out of love, but because it reminded me so much of the end of a friendship that I hadn’t healed from, and it was striking too close to home. It’s the kind of book I’ll come back to when I eventually experience my first real heartbreak and I feel as if it’s the one that’ll put the pieces back together again.
‘Summer Skin’ is my favourite and, in my opinion, the best chapter in the book. For me, it’s a safe space – a welcome break amongst anxious chapters – and the complete opposite of the other chapters in terms of mood and themes. It feels literally warm. It still manages to capture the reality of the surrounding anxiety and captures a moment in time that can relate greatly to people experimenting with their sexuality.