Review: ‘The Twenty-One’ by Lauren K. McKellarPosted: February 16, 2016
I look both ways before I cross the road. I knot my laces twice. Boring? Sure. But it’s also settled. Stable. Safe.
And I like safe.
Because broken bones may be hard to heal, but broken hearts are even harder. And when the man I loved and lost reappears in my life, I won’t fall for his charms again … will I?
Joel Henley just might be my biggest risk yet.
My name is Ellie Mayfield. And this is my undoing.
Before I started reading this book, I asked the author whether I’d need to have the tissues on standby. She said maybe. MAYBE. Afterwards, she clarified that tissues may not have been absorbent enough. Related to this, I have a Goodreads shelf called “made me cry”. There are now eleven books on there (I don’t cry that easily while reading), and three of them are by Lauren K. McKellar.
Needless to say, this book is one that will give you feels. Many feels.
At the start of the book, Ellie (who is a side character in McKellar’s How To Save A Life) could best be described as a bit of a doormat. Her mother is an a-grade cow and her younger sister is manipulative and getting worse. Ellie doubts herself when she shouldn’t and lets her family take advantage of her, putting her own desires to one side and seeing herself as bound by a promise to her dying father to look after them both when he’s gone.
That’s when we meet Joel Henley, Ellie’s high school boyfriend. He left her suddenly when she was 16, and within the blink of an eye manages to again sweep her off her feet, dragging her along with him as he works through a bucket list of twenty-one things he wants to do before he turns twenty-one. Everything seems to be going swimmingly till maybe halfway through the book … and that’s when (as is traditional in these sorts of books, I guess?) the wheels come off.
From that point on, everything gets harder on all fronts — but there are sweet moments too, bright spots in the gloom like stars in the night sky. That comparison isn’t just me being poetic; stars are a theme throughout the book, one I like to think McKellar put there deliberately for that exact reason.
I really liked Joel. I especially liked the way that he helps Ellie to stand on her own two feet, take (reasonable) risks and discover the spine that she forgot she had all along. Her character growth as a result of his influence is wonderful to watch, and those moments where she put her foot down and said no to others were simply glorious.
If you’re a fan of heart-wrenching stories then pretty much anything by McKellar is worth a look. Most of her books largely stand alone, so you don’t need to read How to Save a Life to be able to follow this one, but I loved that book too, so you definitely should.