While I was reading Places No One Knows, I kept hearing Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” in the background. The first stanza kept running through my mind: “WE wear the mask that grins and lies, / It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,— / This debt we pay to human guile; / With torn and bleeding hearts we smile. . .” Brenna Yovanoff’s characters are wearing the mask and playing their parts for all they are worth – you have to in high school. So what happens when the single most real relationship in your life threatens that mask? It can go either way.
Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.
Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.
But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.
I found myself thinking that this was a beautifully written love story, and then I thought that was kind of strange. It is a little stark and the main characters are initially either concealed razor sharp edges or just invisible voids, but it really did feel like such a perfect intersection of two characters who could have been lost forever if they hadn’t found each other. I loved that the dual perspectives offer readers many ways to connect with these characters, and I think the plot is one that creates a lasting investment in the outcome. As far as the magical element goes, it really doesn’t take over the story, so readers who shun books with supernatural elements will still find that this contemporary romance is, in fact, focused on relationships. Themes of truth, friendship and kindness add a nice depth, and they are done right. YA readers will understand that this author grasps the balancing act of being accepted by the wolves who will turn on you in an instant, and acting on that small, still voice that is the truth inside. I found the psychology of relationships that laced throughout the story fascinating, and I think it will appeal to my high school readers as well. This one is definitely going on my classroom library wishlist. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adult reader.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.