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~A lot can change in the space between devising a plan and carrying it out. That space is called the INTERIM.~

High school seniors Jeremy Stahl and Regan Walters aren’t friends. Not even close. He’s a picked-on, picked-apart loser outcast. She’s a cool kid running with the popular crowd. It’s unlikely they’d ever speak to one another. Too bad he’s madly in love with her. But what does it matter anyway? He’s got no time for love. Only revenge.
Meticulously detailed in the pages of his battered red notebook is his master plan: April 14, 9:30 A.M., two guns, eighty rounds of ammo, backup knives, eleven victims. He’s finally ready to answer every single taunt, jeer, and flying fist—unwarranted abuse that’s spanned six years of his lonely life. He’s justified. He’s ready. But he never readied himself for her.
Regan finds his journal. She reads it, and when he discovers her intrusion, he has to switch tactics. She’s a liability now.
Better fix that.

There’s a quote in here that perfectly describes my feelings for this book and it is:

“I love you. I hate you…Love. Hate. Good. Evil. Right. Wrong…Sanity. Slipping.”

My mind is a complete mess. I was left scatterbrained after I finished and I’m still scatterbrained so I’m apologizing now if my review doesn’t make much sense. Because WOAH!!! I’m feeling all kinds of things – heartbroken, angry, extremely happy, frustrated, scared…this is a book that bleeds emotions and there’s no way I could read it without letting those feelings seep into me too. It’s dark, it’s violent, but there’s lots of love and hope too, and at the heart of the book is a LOVE STORY, so romance junkies, trust me on this one because you will be happy.

However, I also won’t sugarcoat things because this was mostly a tough read (at least it was for me). Having a romance story set around a meticulously planned school shooting made me feel sick yet also was morbidly fascinating. I admire the guts and sheer tenacity of the author to work with such a difficult, sensitive premise and while I read, I could literally feel the passion she has for this story through her words that sliced and cut me deep.

Then there are the characters. I’ll start with the (anti)-hero Jeremy. This guy…gosh, I don’t even know where I should begin with him. I felt compassion, loathing, love, and annoyance for him all in one breath. My heart broke for him for all the abuse he endured at home, and then the bullying at school. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to throttle him or give him a hug when he detailed out his plans to shoot his tormentors. I honestly don’t know what the heck to make of him! I should hate him for wanting to take lives…no, wait, I should agree and sympathize for him because the guys he wanted kill were BAD bad…no, wait, just GAH!! I guess I never really connected with his character because of how complex he was. It’s like he was too remote and too far away for me to reach…

And then there’s the heroine Regan. I cannot emphasize this enough, but I effing HATED this girl for the majority of the book. I won’t deny that she’s innately kind and probably too naïve for her own good, and I may be the only person to think this, but she was too much of a hypocrite for me to EVER warm up to. She’s in with the popular crowd – the same crowd that constantly bullies and puts down people like Jeremy – yet she secretly hates the way they treat others. But at the same time, she’ll remain silent and look the other way when they taunt and make fun of people. And what’s most annoying of all is when she goes around preaching to her best friend, her sister, etc…that doing so and so isn’t nice, or isn’t just, or isn’t ‘the right thing’ and all I can think of is why don’t you take your own advice! Her only saving grace is her positive influence on Jeremy.

As much as I didn’t really care for the main characters, the heartbreaking subject matter and the stunning, evocative writing that pretty much flayed me alive is what made this book so riveting for me. It’s so rare for me to continue on with stories when I’m not fond of either main character so the fact that the author’s writing and plot alone could keep my attention like this scores major points with me.

While I read, there was an alarm clock always ticking in the back of my mind, reminding me that shit will hit the fan at some point and oh gosh…it did, and the whole story feel shifted immediately. My palms got a little sweaty, my stomach knotted, and it was just bloody intense. I could even imagine the anger, the pain, and the hatred radiating from my iPad in these scenes and I told myself over and over again I wouldn’t cry or even shed a tear but nope…bawled like a baby.

This is an entirely fictional read, but sadly, it’s a very real portrayal of what does occur in some schools today. I feel fortunate that I have never gone through such suffering and had a pretty normal, satisfying high school experience so reading this book was an eye-opener. I felt like one of the characters who got bullied, who struggled with hating the tormentors, wanting to disappear, wanting to let out my frustration and anger. The message behind the story, and the sheer magnitude of emotions I felt while reading gets a standing ovation from me.

I refuse to spoil the ending but since I have been asked if there’s a happy ending, the answer is yes and no. I mean…I can’t qualify an ending as happy because this is a book that revolves around a shooting after all. I will say that romance-wise, I think everyone will be happy with the way things wrapped up. I know I finished the book feeling joyful and relieved, but also pensive and somber.

As for the rating, I can’t bring myself to rate it. First of all, I really wasn’t a fan of the main characters (even some of the side characters drove me bonkers) but the writing, the well-executed premise, and the fact that I cried balanced the scale. It was addicting and unputdownable not in the ‘OMG I can’t wait to read more’ sense, but in a ‘this is such a fucking trainwreck and I can’t look away’ sense. I’m unable to straighten out my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feelings for the book which is why I’ve been jumping around the rating scale for a while now. 2 stars? 3 stars? 5 stars? 6 stars? Who cares? I finally realized that I can’t sort out the good and the bad to form one cohesive rating because this isn’t just a plain black and white story; it’s full of gray areas and they’re all different shades. Thanks author for leaving me in such a restless, agitated, disorientated state of mind!