Things I Can't Forget (Hundred Oaks, #3) by Miranda Kenneally
Published: March 1, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire
Received: ARC on loan from Estelle - thank you!
Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker.
Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…
This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.
Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy… [goodreads]
This particular story is the perfect example of how one author's writing can only get better and better as they continue to publish more novels. I was impressed by the journey Kenneally took as a writer between her first novel, Catching Jordan, and her sophomore novel, Stealing Parker. But this one? It's sealed the deal for me. I am a fan of her story-telling! Things I Can't Forget is a much deeper story, touching on tough subject matters that can be very personal for a reader. I had reservations, wondering if the themes were a bit too much for this audience, but Kenneally proved me wrong. She took on a challenge and succeeded in my eyes.
Kate has just graduated high school and is planning to spend her summer working at the Cumberland Creek summer camp. Her original plan was to be working along side her best friend, Emily, but after a break up in their friendship she's left to conquer the camp fires and cabins by herself. There is a heavy religious theme through out this novel, and I must admit, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this. I don't typically read stories that express their words in this manner, so this was something new for me. Kate grew up in her church, surrounded by her love from God. She's been a devoted Christian all her life and has never tested His faith. This brings me back to Kate's break up with Emily, which ultimately put Kate's faith to the test and left her friendless with a broken heart.
As she keeps her commitment to the summer camp program, she soon realizes that not every one who believes in God practices their Christianity in the same way she does. Often times she's questioning what it all means. How can young people be considered good, Christian teens; yet still want to share a cabin together - both girls and boys. I admit that I had a hard time connecting to this aspect of the story because I was not brought up with a heavy religious background. What may seem not that big of a deal to me, definitely stood out as a sin for Kate.
While working at the summer camp, Kate is reunited with a boy from her previous days as a camper at Cumberland Creek. Matt was such a breath of fresh air to read about. I adored his spirit and his sweet nature. Immediately I knew he would bring great things to Kate's world. He's the type of boy, who sure has made some mistakes, but he's still growing and learning, so you can't help but love him to pieces. Their reconnection was definitely a favorite part of the story for me to read about.
I also admired the way Matt tested Kate. He brought her out of her comfort zone, but never left her side. He was the rock she needed during a time when everything else felt so complicated. But like all things that can be confusing during a teen's life, soon Matt joined her list of confusions. My heart went out to Kate as I watched the struggles she faced. Wondering if what she's been taught her whole life, according to God, is the right thing; or is straying from her beliefs and venturing into new territory such a sin after all. Kenneally portrayed Kate's struggles so vividly that I found myself wanting to shake Kate and show her that it's OK to have your own beliefs. That there's no wrong answer when choosing your own path.
The relationships in this story and the setting of summer camp stole scene after scene for me. For someone who never experienced summer camp like this, it was so much fun to relive my youth through the words Kenneally painted page after page. In a sea of young adult novels, Things I Can't Forget is a nice reminder that we all have separate truths, and we're all searching for that "sign"; so don't give up when you think you've hit your wall -- someone may come along and surprise you, perhaps the same way this author has done for me.
This novel has concluded my casual read-along with Estelle and friends of Miranda Kenneally's books. For someone who was hesitant on whether I'd connect to these books, I highly recommend picking them up and introducing a new young adult author to your literary world. A huge thanks to Estelle for asking me to be a part of this!