Review: How I Lost You

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: How I Lost YouHow I Lost You by Janet Gurtler
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 23, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 309
Format: Paperback
Source: YA Books Central
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four-stars

There are a few things Grace Anderson knows for sure. One is that nothing will ever come between her and her best friend, Kya Kessler. They have a pact. Buds Before Studs. Sisters Before Misters. But in the summer before senior year, life throws out challenges they never expected. And suddenly the person who's always been there starts to need the favor returned. Grace and Kya are forced to question how much a best friend can forgive. And the answer is not what they expected.

For some reason, I was really skeptical of Janet Gurtler’s books. This might just have been because the premise for the one where a girl killed a boy with a severe peanut allergy by kissing him is so absurd to me. This is a horrible reason, or maybe it’s not the actual reason. Anyway, Jenni (Alluring Reads) really liked How I Lost You, and we’re pretty close to brain twins on contemporary YA, so I went for it. Thank goodness for friends who push you into reading things, because How I Lost You was great, a rare YA novel focusing on friendship, family and the future more than romance.

Perhaps the most unique element of How I Lost You is that both Grace and Kya are hugely into paintball. Grace’s dad owns a paintball place called Splatterfest, and taught both girls the sport, never expecting them to take to it the way they did. Both girls even hope to go to a specific college with a woman’s paintball team, the Grinders. I actually had no idea paintball was so official, with college teams and tournaments and pro ballers, so I learned a new thing. Grace takes paintball seriously, and is planning for the future. She’s focused and hard-working, trying to make her dreams come true.

Grace, Kya and Jason have been three best friends for years, but recently relations have been strained between Kya and Jason, but Grace doesn’t know why. Grace really wants to put everything back together as it was. Kya keeps acting out more and more, getting drunk and dating increasingly awful guys. Because Grace knows the tragic reason that Kya does these things, Grace lets her behavior slide.

As the tagline on the cover suggests, what How I Lost You is about is the death of a friendship. Though Kya and Grace have been friends for so many years and love each other, they’re no longer healthy for one another. Friendships are powerful and the end of them hurts every bit as much as the dissolution of a romantic relationship. What I really appreciate about Gurtler’s treatment is that, even though Kya does a lot of unforgivable stuff, I don’t feel like she’s entirely demonized, and Grace never gets judgmental beyond the reasonable degree of trying to ensure Kya’s safety. Plus, there’s a real bond between the two, and they do feel like they’ve been loving friends in the past, not frenemies.

There’s a sweet little romance as well, with Canadian Liam. Though it’s not a huge part of the plot, the romance is totally shippable and convincing for a first relationship. Both Liam and Grace are so shy and unsure and a bit awkward and it’s so cute. Also, Grace has all sorts of dirty thoughts about him, which is fantastic, because girls do have libidos and think about cute butts and kissing and more, just like boys do.

I think my favorite thing about How I Lost You is actually Grace’s whole family. There aren’t many YA novels with fully intact, supportive, healthy, loving families, but this is one of those. Grace’s dad is an ex-cop and all about rule-following; her mom is a foul-mouthed free spirit who isn’t very cuddly, and loves to make up random songs. Her brother Indie is following in her dad’s footsteps to become a cop, and he loves razzing his sister. Every weekend, they have a family tradition of monkey pancakes (not entirely sure what these are, but I want them) and the conversation is rambunctious. Also, the way that the family adopts Kya’s friends gives me so many happy feels. The Andersons aren’t perfect or overprotective or neglectful; they’re real and fun and embarrassing parents.

While it did not bother me, I can see the language in this one bothering readers who are sensitive to particular terminology. Kya especially and Grace a bit throw around terms like slut, skank, and whore, which I know makes some people really uncomfortable, so watch out for that. The treatment of Kya’s issues was, I think, fair and realistic, albeit disheartening. However, I do think that the little side plot with Liam’s story was unnecessary. It added in another seriously horrible story but didn’t give it much time, and it felt way too contrived because of how nicely his experiences dovetailed with Grace’s.

If you enjoy contemporaries, but have been wanting one that deals more with family and friendship than romance, I highly recommend How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler. The novel is excellently characterized and does a nice job keeping the tone relatively light while openly tackling dark subject matter.

Favorite Quote:

“She’d been abusing hits from the radio, making up her own words, and singing at the top of her lungs for as long as I could remember. I don’t know how many verses I’d listened to about the horrors of menopause or about starting a paintball business in your retirement years. Mom turned everything into a wacky song.”

Tl;dr – Book in a GIFfy:

this is paintball

5 responses to “Review: How I Lost You”

  1. Hmm, this book seems really interesting, but I’m not sure if it’s for me. Reading about the end of a friendship really makes me sad. Sometimes that’s worse then the end of a romantic friendship. That said, I’m really curious about Grace’s family. They seem amazing. Also, I’m not sure what monkey pancakes are either, but I want to find out.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Friend Me Friday: Bookish GiftsMy Profile

  2. This sounds like an interesting book and one that will hit home with many people because things like this tend to happen when we least expect it. I like the fact that this is a YA book with an intact family in it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
    Jess@Fairday’s Blog recently posted…Answer to Monday’s Riddle: Jolly Old Saint Nick!My Profile

  3. Interesting, I love paintball, so it should be fun to read more about it 😀 And I’m starting to understand which contemporary books work for me and more focus on family & friends is one of the things I look for.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 224. Kendare Blake – Anna dressed in blood.My Profile

  4. Molli says:

    Wow! This one sound great. I read a Gurtler book last year (I’m Not Her) and I think I gave it 3 stars, found it enjoyable. I LOVE that you told us about the family dynamic; I’m SUCH a sucker for functional families in YA because they’re a really absurd rarity for some reason. And I like that there’s a romance that isn’t overpowering.

    I’ll definitely read this one at some point, Christina! yay!
    Molli recently posted…Blog Tour: Review: Neverwas by Kelly More, Tucker Reed, and Larkin ReedMy Profile

  5. I really liked this one too, but I liked Who I Kissed a little bit more. I know it sounds absurd to you, but it’s actually really deep and made me cry (but pretty much any book makes me cry, even if it’s not particually sad).

    Anyway, I loved that How I Lost You main focus was the friendship. I think this relationship usually gets overshadowed in YA but so I was super happy with this one!
    Aly @ My Heart Hearts Books recently posted…Top Anticipated 2014 ReleaseMy Profile

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