Book Review: Deeper by Robin York

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5 STARS


I came across Deeper, and the part that got me? One word: bakery. I'm serious. Food and books are two separate things that I go weak for, but throw them together in any shape or form...I'm a goner. (It's a great fetish. Join me on the dark side.) Oh, but don't worry. If you're not here for baked goods, the rest of the blurb is just as fascinating...
When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear, hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defense and punches her ex to the ground.

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger—even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re “just friends,” their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself—and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.
I stayed up a wee bit past my bedtime so I could finish this book. I was completely wrapped up in Caroline and West! As soon as I turned the last page, I reached for my phone. The clock said it was a quarter past 1. In the morning. On a Wednesday. This is how determined I was to know Caroline and West's story. I completely disregarded the fact that a certain 5-year-old had school in a few hours and Wednesdays were my day to volunteer as a Room Parent...Oh, but I couldn't stop there. It was also necessary for me to tweet my feelings to Robin York immediately. At 1 in the morning. All I said was, "Wow."

So what exactly had me so caught up? I've never really stopped to think or read about "revenge porn" before. And, well, don't most of us love our smartphones and social media? These days, there are blogs/websites about anything and everything. Your pictures, or things you say, can spread like a wildfire. Strangers suddenly become your judge and jury. As a young woman living in such a Digital Age, everything about the book's premise was intriguing to me. So I dove right in, and once I did, I knew that the intrigue wouldn't be a letdown.

First, I loved the unfiltered, constant-stream-of-thoughts narration. Then, all of the slick dialogue that followed. The point of view switches between the two main characters, but the storytelling just flows. Their thoughts have their own rhythm, a way of making you hang on every word.
I was too caught up in all these questions I didn't have answers to.
What if you go after the love of your life and it ruins you?
What if you don't, and you figure out you're already ruined?
What if there's no right thing?
Nothing, or deeper.
My choice to make.
I was certainly drawn in by Caroline Piasecki, a girl who likes rules. She likes lists and plans. And she's a daddy's girl. Between her and her two sisters, Caroline is the one who can rationally navigate an argument with her dad. As soon as I read those details about her, I had a big smirk on my face. I was exactly like her in high school and throughout my first couple of years in college...that sheltered, orderly air about her. In my family, it's just me and my older sister, and I've always been the one who could "handle" our dad. It didn't take much of an effort for me to be in Caroline's head and to just be her!

Obviously, Caroline brings to mind the "good girl" standard. But what exactly is "good girl" supposed to mean? This is the kind of thing that Deeper breaks down and makes you think about throughout the novel. Not in a preachy way, but in a let's-keep-shit-real way. Caroline was intimate with her longtime boyfriend...What about that is supposed to be shameful? But it's where we start with Caroline. Pictures of her, exposed in those acts, are posted on the internet. She feels betrayed, ashamed, and a need to lay low until she can fix her good girl bubble. For awhile, the voices in her head are ruthless. They're echoes of the vicious, crude bullying that plays out online. You come to understand her pain and her paranoia.
I look like a mistake waiting to happen. Then...I remember I'm a mistake that's already happened.
So I keep going, chin up, hoping my mascara isn't streaky and pretending the men in my head aren't shouting at full volume.
That's where West Leavitt comes in. He shows Caroline that there is life outside the bubble. After glancing at the book's description, it's safe to assume that West is just like any college bad boy, right? No. Don't do that. He may be a brawler, have a dirty mouth, and...okay, deal marijuana...but he is not stereotypical "bad boy." He's not your average "damaged." His "demons" come in the form of a trailer-park childhood, a little sister that he practically raised on his own, and a mother that needs protecting from herself. There are layers to West Leavitt, and once you go deeper, you'll find out he's just as vulnerable and capable of love as anyone. Yup, that's right. You'll not only ache to have him, but also for him and all he's been through.

Ever hit that Note button on your Kindle while you're reading? I hit that button a lot. My notes were basically quotes and reasons to love West...He's fiercely protective. He's smart, curious to learn, determined to fix. West has his own plans and the intense need to stay on track, even if it means give give give but never take for himself. But, in the end, he just wants to matter to someone, to not feel used, to not feel like an impostor.
You can't just put the right clothes on and belong. You're still going to think like a poor kid, dream like one, want like one...I was working. I wasn't here for laughs, or to party, or to find the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

"That's what I want, Caroline...I'm selfish and no good for you, I've got nothing to give you and no room for you in my life, and I want you anyway."
My one complaint, though...(Seriously, out of the entire book, I really only had one.) I didn't quite get the insta-bond, their "from the minute I saw you" feeling. Luckily, this story had one of my favorite parts about book-love: two characters spending practically every moment together, weaving into each others lives. Those moments are both tender and sizzling, sweet and hilarious. You blush. You get butterflies. (Lots of time in that bakery...) It's a testament to how well the POV's were written, that I could easily forget my one complaint, because I ended up falling hard anyway.
"That's what you wanted, huh?" I smile. "Some good old-fashioned wooing?"
"Maybe it's some of what I wanted."
I lean in, on solid ground at last. "I'll woo you until you can't walk, sweetheart."
What's appealing about Caroline and West is their ability to push each other to be open and straightforward. It's a "no bullshit, just talk to me" policy that leads to moments of surprisingly refreshing communication. So when one of them does hold back? What happens? There's no over-the-top lies or nasty arguments for the sake of being melodramatic...The angst is in all the words left unsaid.
I won't ask. I'm not brave enough to push him, but I wish he would tell me. 
I put my arms around him, gather him close, tuck my head against his neck, because I think he needs this.
These two are kindred spirits, both trying to shake off a part of their past and both tortured by something. Always cautiously guarded. And what's book-love without a little dose of denial? ;)
He says he's not noble, but he's got his own code, and he needs the boundaries, the rules, just as much as I do.
The times they do let the walls down, however...Their chemistry is insane. Fact: I said, "This is @%&#ing fantastic." Many times. It may not sound particularly analytical...but damn, it is the truth.
I like her, and I love her, and I want her.
If she asks, I'll tell her.
For now, though, because I want to and she's staring at my lips, I kiss her neck. I find her pulse and pause there...

She tastes like everything I've been starving for.
Lighter moments with each other and with their friends are also a welcome break in between the angsty twists. They are nineteen, after all. (Funny-alert: rugby. Yes.) 

As for how this all ends for Caroline and West...I liked that the plot didn't have a magical solution or rush to an easy answer to these characters' dilemmas. Some might say "this is dragging on" or "this is a bit slow", but everything felt real to me. It worked.

From the beginning, Caroline clearly had work to do...regaining her social life, her confidence, her fight. The last chapters provide the sense that she's on her way and getting stronger. And you feel it. My emotions got to the "PREACH, GIRL!" level of intense.
"I deserve whatever happens to me, forever? I deserve this attack because I asked for it? Do you hear how ugly that is?"
"I never said you asked for it." He sounds different, his voice choked and unsettled.
So I make him look at me. I make him hear me.
"You did."
West, on the other hand, can't escape his troubles anymore. It was inevitable. Just when you think it's all about her journey, it all comes back around to his. There's no easy way to get naked photos off of the internet, but there's also no easy way to carry the kind of responsibility that West does. Other things continue to pull at him.
I look out at the stars...It's the weight of the past, suspended over our heads by a frayed rope...one cut that could ruin everything for me.
There's no shocking cliffhanger, just...a pause. Not the terrible kind that makes you pretend-throw your book at the wall. The good kind that drives you insane with anticipation, something only Book 2 can remedy. (July? July.) You know that there's so much more that could happen, and the wait is going to be the best-worst. (July. Ju-ly...July?!)
I've been here before, so many times, staring at his back as he puts himself between me and trouble. But this time the trouble's come for him.
If you want to read about something different and intriguing, Deeper is for you. If you want a beautifully written story, Robin York's striking style is for you. And if you want to laugh out loud, and feel that ache in your heart, and swoon like crazy...Caroline and West. Are. For. You. The first book in this series takes you down a unique emotional road about two damaged-yet-driven people, and by the end of it, you'll absolutely be craving for more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Robin York grew up at a college, went to college, signed on for some more college, and then married a university professor. She still isn't sure why it didn't occur to her to write New Adult sooner. Writing as Ruthie Knox, she is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance, including RITA-nominated About Last Night and Room at the Inn. She moonlights as a mother, makes killer salted caramels, and sorts out thorny plot problems while running, hiking, or riding her bike.


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AVAILABLE NOW


Deeper, Caroline & West Book 1

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AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER


Harder, Caroline & West Part 2