By: Colleen Oakley
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Gallery Books
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): One time a boy kissed me and I almost died...
And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.
One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...
Colleen Oakley’s debut novel, Before I Go, was one of my favorite books of 2015. It immediately became one of my favorite books permanently and I have recommended it to so many people. When I found out that Oakley was coming out with another book, it got added to my to-read list before I even read the synopsis. Once I read the synopsis, I was a bit nervous because it sounded similar to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon which I loved, but I was really excited to check this one out anyway.
What I thought
Jubilee is allergic to people. If her skin comes into contact with another human’s skin she will break out into a terrible rash, and may even go into anaphylactic shock. She also has not left her home in 9 years, and only has occasional contact with her mother over the phone. When her mom dies, she realizes that she has to start her life.
Jubilee is a unique character, and not only because of her allergy. She is also agoraphobic and has a lot of anxiety issues. I haven’t read many (if any) books with main characters who have this level of anxiety. It was also interesting to think about how she has not been able to feel someone’s touch since she was 6 years old, and she is now 27. I think that in that aspect, this book could be an interesting book club choice with a lot of interesting discussion points.
This story is also told in alternating view points with the other chapters being Eric’s story. Eric is a young man who is recently divorced and has two children, one who is adopted and the other who is his biological child. I liked Eric’s story and I liked how his and Jubliee’s relationship developed, but I looking back on his story it feels as though a lot was left unresolved. Eric has moved to Lincoln for 6 months on a temporary job assignment with his adopted son Aja. This is where he meets Jubilee. However, Eric’s problems involve his 14 year old daughter not talking to him and Aja dealing with the death of his parents (2 years ago). It just didn’t seem like we got any resolution on Aja and the difficulties he was having or even the relationship between Eric and his daughter. I think with the amount of storyline that Oakley gave him, Eric needed his own book.
While the allergy storyline was interesting, I wasn’t crazy about the ending or how it was used. It got to be a bit boring at times because it seemed as though Jubilee’s issue was the fact that she couldn’t touch people and that was it. Once she was able to get out of her house (relatively easily looking back on it) a lot of her other issues went by the wayside. I wish she could’ve had more development with her other problems, such as dealing with her mother’s parenting and her death as well as dealing with the fact that she never had a father.
I will say that Oakely did a great job overall with building relationships. I think that the relationships in this book are what held it together for me. I loved seeing all of the characters interact and that’s what I kept coming back for. I think that it just needed to either be more simplified, with the characters having less issues to deal with, or more complex, with Oakley having the characters deal with all of the issues she dealt them.