I’ve never read Ashley Herring Blake’s YA books but maybe I should. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care is her first adult novel and I loved it. I want to make it very clear, before I get more into the story, that it’s a very funny, very heartwarming book. But it’s also, probably, one of the saddest stories I’ve read. It’s a story of missed opportunities and misunderstandings and there’s something extremely frustrating (and relatable) in knowing that a lot of the pain the characters went through could have been avoided.
I don’t do regrets. In life. I try not to waste time regretting events I can’t change anymore. There are plenty of examples of things I could have done differently but I try not to stay stuck in the past and, instead, I learn lessons, I try to do better. I can’t promise I always succeed, past mistakes can be overwhelming and I’m easily overwhelmed so I choose not to dwell on them. I don’t ignore them but I also try not to let them hold me back. Of course it’s easier said than done, and my anxiety will make me relive events from thirty years ago and I’ll want to disappear (think Homer Simpson gif). That’s how I try to live my life, however.
What does this have to do with the book, you ask? That’s what second-chance stories are about. Fixing the past. Whether it’s a second-chance romance or, like with this book, a second chance at a different kind of relationship. Don’t worry, this is a romance novel first, but it doesn’t hurt that there’s more to it as well.
Delilah Green was ten when her widowed father died and she was left with her stepmother Isabel and stepsister Astrid as her only family. Grief overtook the household and while she never lacked for anything material, Delilah grew up without love. Not with a family but next to it. No wonder she left her small town in Oregon as soon as she could. Now almost thirty, she’s a photographer waiting in New York for her big break. When she’s hired by her very wealthy stepmother to cover Astrid’s wedding back home, Delilah can’t say no. She needs the money. And maybe, deep inside, she also needs the connection. What she doesn’t need, however, is to feel like the odd one again, on the outside looking in, as she takes pictures of the festivities and of Astrid and her two best friends, Iris and Claire, the mean girls of her teenage years.
As I wrote above, the foundation of the story is heartbreaking but this is really not a sad book. I was already laughing three pages in. I love Delilah’s sharp tongue and I adore Iris. Claire is adorable and awe-inspiring as she deals with a preteen child and an unreliable ex-boyfriend. Delilah and her together make so much sense, watching them fall in love was delightful. And as much as I wanted to hate Astrid, my heart broke for her, just as much as it broke for Delilah. Delilah uses disdain and sarcasm to shield herself, she wants to be snarky and mean it, and she does, on the surface. Underneath though is all the pain from years growing up fed and clothed and probably safe but in a world devoid of love. She’s petty and I guess unlikeable at first and Claire deserves better than to be used for revenge, a fact Delilah is aware of. This is all so very human and relatable. Delilah is a lot more multifaceted than she gives herself credit for and it makes her very lovable.
I know I tend to focus on the parts that hurt rather than on what’s funny in a book. See my review of KJ’s Change of Plans, for example, I’m one of a few reviewers, if not the only one, who doesn’t mention Curtain Gate. That’s the kind of reader I am, I read with my guts more than with my funny bone. Humour is often used to hide pain (if you’re reminded of Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette reading it, it’s okay, so am I) and it’s that pain I relate to. It’s also from that pain that comes hope and happy ends. It’s what makes HEAs so satisfying. I love a book that breaks me then proceeds to put me back together. If, like this one, it also makes me laugh and cry in the process, all the more power to the author. And all my thanks. For this novel, not for making me wait a whole year for Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail, the next Bright Falls book.