Published: 7th September 2018
Publisher: Self Published
Format: Ebook courtesy of the author
Too much is an overdose.
After a mandatory six month hiatus, Hollywood’s favourite It-Girl, Emery Grey, finds herself back in the spotlight she’s trying to avoid.
The cameras are still flashing, her mother is bribing her and she’s in a PR relationship with the devil. Combine that with the therapy sessions and medication, she’s drowning under the pressure.
Lucky for her, her behind-closed-doors boyfriend, Colton, is happy to dive in and help. However, Emery doesn’t want him to hang on if it means pulling him under too. But how do you let go of the life raft that’s keeping you afloat?
The Lucky Ones is Ashley Chegwyn’s debut novel,an ambitious narrative dealing with mental illness, rape, domestic abuse, and family abuse. Because of this, I’m leaving a trigger warning here that this book does go quite deeply into the above issues and it might conjure up some unwanted memories and feelings for some readers.
The Lucky Ones is a book that I’m struggling to make my mind up about. On some fronts, I adored this book and really got what Chegwyn was going for…. but other points left me feeling a bit confused, and left me wanting more. I’m going to preface this review by stating, I devoured this book cover to cover in one sitting. So while this review, will be a more critical in some aspects, I want to be upfront and say that I did enjoy it as a whole. Chegwyn has the makings of a natural story teller, there are just a few issues with the crafting of the story that brought it down for me and stopped me from rating this book higher.
Emery and Colton’s story is one I believe whole heatedly needs to be told. Mental illness is often misrepresented and misunderstood in present society, in fact it’s treated as almost a non-event, that the ‘victim’ could almost ‘get-over-it’ if they just tried. We, as a more educated society in 2018 are hopefully a bit more aware now that the reality of mental illness is not at all like that.
Emery Grey is the daughter of a well known actress in LA, and if everything had gone to plan, she would have been graduating high school and moving on with her life when the book opens. However, the best laid plans are often derailed, and Grey has spent the last six months in hospital after trying to take her own life at a pretty important party some six months prior. Leaving the confides and safety of the hospital, Grey is unleashed on the world of high profile, big money and manipulative society, where looks and your perceived reputation is more important than the truth and how you are doing.
Colton, a fellow schoolmate of Grey’s is left reeling after her admission to hospital. On the eve of graduating, with the whole world before him, Colton takes the big leap and becomes every damsel-in-distress’ prince charming and hero by sacrificing everything he has and is to look after Emery Grey, a girl he has found himself irresistibly drawn to. The instinct to protect is strong within Colton, but is he strong enough and will be enough to get Emery Grey through the aftermath of the most horrendous and darkest time of her life?
One of the first things I noticed about this narrative, was the entitlement of the characters. Emery Grey and Colton live in a very different world from the one I interact with each day. Rich kids living it up in LA, never wanting for money, but lacking everything that really matters in life – love, respect, peace and more importantly family – the pair become their own family and try to do the best with what they have. In theory, that’s fine, but it comes across in parts as a bit whiny at times, a point that may hinder many readers in less fortunate circumstances. I know at the beginning of the novel I struggled to find empathy for the pair – there was a long wait before Emery’s past was explained and the books subject came to life.
All of that said, I didn’t buy the media’s interest in Emery and Colton. The blurb has her listed as an ‘it-girl’, but Emery goes to great lengths to distance herself from her fame loving and manipulative mother. While I can believe that her mother orchestrated a number of the events, including the fake relationship melded into the narrative, I could never see the media’s attention post her release from hospital. Why is her relationship morning news interview-worthy for example? I didn’t really get that aspect of the story except for a thinly vailed plot point.
Likewise as a HUGE fan of slow burn romances, Colton and Emery’s relationship wasn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. The pair has a shaky start that isn’t very well developed. In fact, the beginning of the novel has Emery trying to work out what they are, and not long after there are allusions to the pair having slept together. It’s all sort of brushed past, as though the author was rushing to get to the more important parts. There were still some moments of gold between the pair, especially the ending, but … I wanted more.
Chegwyn has gone to great lengths in her pre-book launch PR to explain that the heart of this book is based on, and inspired by, real events. While the characters and their environment are fictional, the ideas, feelings and heart of the novel is a very real thing for Chegwyn who has lived parts of this book in a prior relationship. Because of this, I understand the need for Emery and Colton’s world to be so far removed for the author, and for the the distance in setting etc. But I can’t help but wonder, if it wouldn’t have been a stronger story to have Emery and Colton being every day people dealing with the upheaval in their lives? Alas, I fear that might be my own personal bias from the LA stereotype coming to play here.
The strength of The Lucky Ones lies in Chegwyn’s ability to create an honest dialogue between two teenagers on the cusp of everything the world has to offer, and their hesitation to take it. Emery Grey is balking at the world. She wants nothing to do with, and given throw away lines of backstory we can a piece a somewhat brief glimpse at why that is. What’s more, Emery and Colton have pure souls in a world tarnished by the beckoning call of bright lights and crowd given acclaim. The pair want to stand on their own feet. They want to be left alone. To heal, and piece themselves back together again. It’s an admirable quality.
These two characters have a quality that entices and engages the reader, a certain ‘it’ quality that hooked me, a glimmer of something that I can’t put my finger on, that kept me both at distance and somewhat invested right up to the very last page, where my heart exploded from ALL. THE. FEELS. Seriously, these two creep up on you, plant themselves firmly within your heart without your knowledge and they pack on hell of an emotional pack right when you least expect it. So much so, that now a week after finishing the book, I’m still reeling from their unexpected impact. Question what happened, and what happens next.
Which brings me to the pacing and revelations of the novel. While The Lucky Ones is a quick read full of heart and soul, there are issues with the pacing of the novel and the timing of the big reveal. In some regards I feel like we needed more development in Emery’s backstory and the event’s that she faced alone. There are many fleeting references throughout the story – some particularly poignant and well done, such as the bracelet reveal on the beach, but a lot are throw away lines lost in the drama of LA. While it didn’t necessarily affect my reading of the novel – remember I read it in one sitting – I still wanted, no, needed, more from the novel at times.
That said, while I felt the secondary characters introduction to the story were too easy, I really enjoyed the layers of plot Finn and Mia added. They helped to round out Emery a bit more, and suggested that there was more there than was written on the page to all of the characters.
Despite my indecision on this novel as a whole, I am curious to see where the author will take this series from here. There was a moment of pure gold, where I was hit right in the chest by her narrative that shows that with time, I think Chegwyn will be a force to be reckoned with in the New Adult scene. The story is there on the page, her story telling ability strong, with a bit more craft development , there won’t be much that will hold her back.
The Lucky ones is a narrative that sounds similar on the surface to countless other YA novels. There are cliche moments, a couple of pacing issues, and a truck load of teenage angst, but its a book that speaks to a higher purpose. A book that seeks out lost souls, offers a hug and seeks to remind them that they aren’t alone. It’s a book that will hit home for way too many people, that doesn’t shy away from the uglier and hard truths of the world, and mental health issues. While I constantly sought out more from the novel, I have to remind myself that this is a debut novel, from a voice that deserves to be heard. It’s a story with the world of promise and hope, and one that I think Chegwyn will continually improve upon.
To learn more about Ashely Chegwyn, visit the following social media pages: