It’s been a while since a novel grabbed me and drew me in as immediately as Carry Me Away by Rob Grindstaff. I wasn’t sure I’d like the book, and I had meant to spend an hour reading before bedtime to decide if I was going to read further. I ended up staying up late because I didn’t want to put it down. I am a fan of coming of age stories in general, and this one is a fine example of the genre.
I engaged with protagonist Carrie from the first chapter: she is smart, funny, and curious in her approach to life, even when she’s holding life at arm’s length. Her central conflict is the knowledge that she doesn’t have long to live and needs to cram in as much as life can give her in a short period of time. This makes her driven and willing to experiment but emotionally cautious. Carrie is so well written that she feels very real.
The book can be a real tear-jerker and is certainly jam-packed with tragedy, but it isn’t an overwhelming downer. It begins with Carrie’s stoned 16-year-old brother flipping the family car, killing himself and critically injuring Carrie, so it couldn’t avoid a high level of emotion and still be well-written, but you will also find a laugh (or at least a smirk) creeping up on you throughout.
Although the story is written in first person, the author fleshes out the history of the other characters through well-done, comfortable techniques to give the history of Carrie’s racially mixed (Caucasian/Asian) family and culture. Also, because Carrie is a military brat, she spends a great deal of her young life traveling the world and we get to share in her visits to exotic places. Because of this, the book felt broader in viewpoint than just Carrie’s limited teenage perspective, adding a nice richness of background to the story.
I rate the book at 4.5 stars instead of 5 only because I found one of Carrie’s relationships (with a much older family friend who has had a close relationship with her since birth) to be a bit creepy, as in, “ewwww, you did not just say you’ve been waiting for her to be old enough for you”. However, I got over it by then end of the book because of Mr. Grindstaff’s otherwise excellent writing.
Strong language and sexual scenes make this inappropriate for younger teens as well as adults who are not comfortable reading about sexual encounters, particularly those of a bisexual nature. Mature teens and adults who enjoy an emotionally affecting story about love, loss, and forgiveness will dig it.
You can purchase the Kindle version of Carry Me Away for $4.99 or the paperback edition at $14.99 from the Carry Me Away page on Amazon.com.