2013 Reads: Thirteen {Dear Cassie - Lisa Burstein}

Monday, March 18, 2013

I had no idea what I was getting into when I received the ARC for Dear Cassie by Lisa Burstein.

First I was unaware that it was even a companion novel for another set of books until I finished this book and went to rate it on Goodreads. I was never at a loss for information to progress the book (though, I was interested to learn/know more about Cassie's friends) nor did I ever feel like parts of this story didn't make sense. It's an excellent stand-alone-novel. Which, as far as I am concerned, is pretty high praise for any book in a series.

Next, the book description doesn't do a lot to set you up to understand what this story is really about. But, having read it, I understand why. This book deals with some pretty tough topics and therefore any real hints at that could give a lot of the story away. Which is why I'm going to take care to try and keep this review spoiler-free.

Even though I was pretty uninformed going into this book, what I took away from it once I had turned the final page was worth it. It may not have been the best book I've ever read, and it certainly had its' flaws, Dear Cassie provides an interesting look at life through the eyes of a flawed and broken teenage girl.


Dear Cassie is a gritty and raw portrait of a sixteen year old girl trying to pick up the pieces of a broken life.

In the aftermath of a prom-night fiasco Cassie has been sent to Turning Pines for thirty days in order to sort out her life (and to avoid jail time). With no friends to turn to (the ones she thought she had either ratted her out or disappeared) and only a brother who cares, Cassie feels as though she is all alone in sorting out this mess of her life.

Turning Pines turns out to be a wilderness-camp-turned-rehab-facility that tests delinquent kids physically and mentally in order to reform them and their habits. She's there with two other girls - one who seems out to ruin her life and another who cannot (or will not) talk - and four boys - one of which who is interested in getting closer to Cassie than she wants.

Cassie has a lot of secrets and she is determined to keep them deeply buried over the course of her 30 day stay at Turning Pines


I really enjoyed this book. I found Cassie to be honest and raw with the reader: she never shied away from speaking her mind or standing up for herself. But, at the same time she was broken and fragile for reasons the reader only slowly comes to know. She is a delicate balance of opposites: tough but weak, outspoken but reserved, a fighter but broken. All of these pieces (and so many more) make Cassie a real and approachable character that you want to learn more about. Cassie is a fragile character with a tough shell and once you're able to crack her open your heart can't help but feel for her.

Troyer was probably my other favorite character. Her ability to get to Cassie without ever saying a word? Her insistence on writing down things for Cassie to understand her and her unwavering friendship make her a dependable and lovable character. Especially as the book goes on and we are able to learn more and more about her and where she comes from.

Nex just gets on my nerves. I think she may have been a little over-written in the obnoxious and anger-inducing areas of characterization, but I get why. She grates at Cassie. She forces Cassie to examine who she is and why she acts the way she does. And most importantly, she fuses the friendship between Cassie and Troyer.

As far as the story is concerned, I found it to be lacking/unrealistic in a few areas:

one: Ben. I could not wrap my head around his instantaneous infatuation with Cassie. The meet in the opening pages of the book at the airport while waiting for their ride to Turning Pines. Cassie blows him off, Ben is intrigued. Intrigued I can understand. But Ben becomes devoted and attached to Cassie so quickly with relatively little personal interactions. I get how this can be considered sweet and why readers would love Ben. I mean, I love Ben. I just don't get where his feelings come from so fast.

two: I still have no idea why Cassie was sent to Turning Pines. Because, from what I can tell, she never tells her parents her huge secret. So, why would she be sent away? I get that she and her friends were arrested on prom night for possession of some pot that wasn't even theirs - and that Cassie's friend ratted her out (re: put the blame on her even though it was in no way her fault). So, was Turning Pines her punishment? Because I totally thought that a lot of time had elapsed since Prom night (she talks about her pizza-place job as a post-prom night job that her parents closely monitored and how her relationship with Aaron developed there) and she essentially was on some sort of probation. So, if that's the case...how/why did she end up at Turning Pines?

three: Cassie's big secret is predictable and easy to figure out in the first few pages. I'm not sure if that was intended or I'm just really perceptive, but it just kinda made Cassie's devastation over it hard for me. I wanted her to talk about it, if only to her journal, earlier. And I don't think she ever got any sort of real closure about it in the end. Rather, it felt just like she's pushing it further away and hoping that she'll never have to deal with it later.

All-in-all I enjoyed this book. Books with Tough Topics can be hard to write and even harder to write well. I think that Burstein created a world with a character that was able to paint an honest portrait of what can be a really tough topic for people to talk about. Burstein did it with an ease and care that makes this book one for YA to read and appreciated. 


I received this galley from the publisher/NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or swayed my review, honest! 

Title: Dear Cassie
Author: Lisa Burstein
Genre: Young Adult; Contemporary; Love
Medium: eGalley/ARC
Date Read: 15 March 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: 5 March 2013
Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Recommended For: Late MS+, Those who like YA Realistic Fiction; 

First Line: Are you there, Smokey Bear? It's me, Cassie.
Favorite Line: "Tough and beautiful, a lethal combination," he said. "You've got the lethal part right," I said. 
Last Line: The forgiveness will come. [whited out, for spoiler's sake]

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