Release Date: April 21, 2015
Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.
Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”
Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.
How to Love was one of my favorite books of 2014, so naturally 99 Days was one of my most anticipated but also most hyped-up-in-my-mind books of 2015. I was scared to read it. What if it didn’t live up to my crazy high expectations? There was absolutely no need to worry though—Katie Cotugno is a brilliant author. She’s a master at telling stories, especially ones about strong females, and she proved it once again with Molly, Imogen, and Tess in 99 Days. Even Cotugno’s dedication is perfect—“this one’s for the girls.” I feel like every female can relate to some of what Molly goes through in this book, and the way Molly handles herself? Flawless. I’m not saying that she doesn’t make her share of mistakes, but she does the best she can, especially in her world full of double standards and difficult situations. I will admit that I didn’t love 99 Days quite as much as How to Love, but it came pretty darn close.
Molly was practically a member of the Donnelly family for most of her life. She’d dated Patrick since they were kids, she was best friends with his sister Julia, and as a result of always being at the Donnelly house, she was also friends with their older brother Gabe. Molly ate supper there; she spent summers there; she was there when their father died—pretty much any major event in their lives included Molly. Unfortunately, one night with Gabe (after a fight and break-up with Patrick) changed Molly’s relationship with the Donnelly family forever. To make matters worse, Molly’s mother does something unthinkable, which forces Molly to leave Star Lake to spend her entire senior year at boarding school. 99 Days picks up the summer between high school and college, when Molly returns to her hometown and to face the Donnellys (and her former friend Imogen) for the first time since everything happened the previous year. Things get interesting very quickly, to say the least, as she counts the days until she can leave for college.
For me, the thing that makes Cotugno’s books so special is that they are real. Her characters are flawed, even unlikeable at times. There are moments when her books are even uncomfortable to read, but in a good way: she has this amazing ability to tap into the intensity of adolescent feelings. As I was reading 99 Days, it felt like it was just yesterday that I was in Molly’s shoes, feeling as if I was stumbling around in the dark, hoping that the decisions I made were the right ones. Realizing that people who I thought hung the moon had flaws (gasp! you mean the boy isn’t perfect?), and finding out that there isn’t a flashing arrow that always points you in the right direction. Sometimes you’re going to fall flat on your face. I love that Cotugno isn’t afraid to let her main characters be vulnerable or make bad decisions. As much as I was rooting for Molly, I had a sinking feeling that her infatuation with the Donnelly brothers was going to blow up in her face sooner or later. She made some not-so-great decisions during her summer in Star Lake, but damn it, you want to root for her and hope that just maybe it will have a happy ending!
There are so many things about 99 Days that I want to discuss, but if I mentioned them all, this would end up looking more like an essay instead of a review! But seriously, I made so many notes about this one, and one thing specifically that stood out to me was the double standard that Molly has to deal with throughout the book. Molly is portrayed as the bad guy quite often, and I swear, I wanted to throw the book across the room at times because of the slut shaming that she repeatedly faces. She is blamed for “cheating” on Patrick, but is Gabe? Of course not, though he was certainly as “guilty” as Molly. She’s the person who has to leave town, the one who gets her house egged. However, it’s clear that Molly is a good person at the core. Even when she makes (really) bad decisions, she’s driven by her feelings and doing what she thinks is right for her at the time.
There are some AWESOME females in 99 Days, however, so don’t get the impression that this aforementioned double standard overwhelms the book. This book oozes girl power, and I love it. Imogen and Tess, two of the minor characters, are perhaps two of my favorite minor characters in YA recently. Imogen is a strong-willed friend who speaks her mind; she makes sure that Molly knows that she doesn’t approve of what she’s doing, and she also makes it clear that she will NOT drop Tess as a friend just because it may be awkward for Molly. And Tess? My goodness, she’s a rock star. She is so genuine, and despite the awkwardness that results from her being Patrick’s new girlfriend, she is a good friend to Molly and vice versa. Though it’s clear that, due to the circumstances, Molly and Tess will never be BEST friends, I love that there’s no drama or slut shaming between these two. They respect each other, and it’s just refreshing to see positive female relationships in YA in lieu of drama!
If you can’t tell, I’m officially a Katie Cotugno fangirl for life. Since I read A LOT of YA contemporaries, sometimes they all start to seem veryyy similar and repetitive, but Cotugno’s 99 Days (and How to Love– read it too, if you haven’t!) is refreshingly unique. I can’t recommend her books enough. Now comes the hard part for me–waiting a year until her next book! Sigh. :)
Taken from the ARC.
“…I think virginity is kind of an antiquated concept, right? Like some boy sticking it in you changes who you are as a human being.”
“He was my best friend. He was my first love. I had sex with his big brother. I broke his fucking heart.”
“For so long I just belonged to Patrick, the two of us so close we weren’t even two distinct people, like conjoined twins or one of those mutant double crackers you get sometimes if the Nabisco machinery slips up and doesn’t separate them correctly. It was good until it wasn’t, it worked until it broke, but sitting here at the top of the Ferris wheel with the whole world spread out in front of me all I can wonder is what would have happened if I’d spent all of high school–all my life–with Gabe instead. What if I’d gone to lake parties and hung out at Crow Bar instead of hiding out in the Donnellys barn with Patrick, the two of us casting idle judgement and breathing each other’s air? Would I have left so much horrifying wreckage? Would I have had more than just a tiny handful of friends?”
“I miss him so stupidly, absurdly much.”
“It feels like we’re tossing a ball back and forth, like Hot Potato, like neither one of us want to be the one left holding it when it explodes.”