Survival Thriller

When I am Through With You by Stephanie Kuehn

Summary from Goodreads:

“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m When I am Through with Youin jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”

Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.


ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

This book is so many different things on so many different levels.  I initially picked it up on NetGalley because of this line:

“A gripping story of survival and the razor’s-edge difference between perfect cruelty and perfect love.”

It is a gripping story that is hard to put down.  It is a story of survival.  It is a story of tragic childhoods and messed up teenagers.  It is a mystery and a thriller.  But ultimately it is about love and sacrifice.

The book is a little hard to get into at first.  Ben is a hard character to like.  He is aloof and seemingly indifferent to his girlfriend of 2 years, Rose.  But as you learn his back story and the abuse he has suffered over the years you come to feel very sorry for him. On the surface he acts like a typical teen from a small town, going to parties, getting high and drunk.  But he craves to be accepted by people, he just doesn’t know how.  He is also plagued by debilitating migraines caused by a head injury as a child. He has never left his small town, so when he is offered the chance to help with the orienteering club at school, he quickly agrees.  His reaction to being in the northern California wilderness is childlike and I think it was at this point that I started to sympathize with his story.  He tries really hard to be a leader to the misfits who go with him, and he succeeds sometimes, like when things start to go horribly wrong.  But for the most part he is a lost soul in the wilderness.

There are lots of other characters in this story, but because everything is related by Ben it is hard to understand and see them for who they truly are.  I didn’t like Rose very much.  I found her to be too manipulative and a demanding spoiled rich kid who expected everything to be handed to her.  I didn’t really understand at first why they were even together.  However, I started to like her a little bit when she helps Ben manage one of his migraines during the trip. She truly appeared to care for him then.  Avery was the only other girl who went on the trip, and she was also manipulative with both Ben and Archie.  The rest of the boys on the trip appeared on the surface to be your typical teens.  They mostly appeared to have only a couple of things on their minds, sex and partying.  I’m still not sure what their motives were for going on the trip.  Perhaps like Ben they felt trapped in their small towns and wanted to get out.  Archie is the instigator of some of their troubles but it turns out as the story unfolds just how damaged he really is.  In fact all of these teens have some serious baggage for such young lives.

I should mention that there is an adult who accompanies them on this trip.  A teacher, Mr. Howe, who at times is a much needed father figure to Ben, but at other times is aloof and practically abandons him to deal with his peers misbehaviors.  I think Mr. Howe was more to blame for some of the things that happen on that mountain then Ben was. 

At the heart this story is one of survival against both man and nature.  It will definitely leave you thinking about the nature of love and maybe even fate.  Yes, Ben does commit the murder he is accused of, but the author leaves it up to you to decide his motives and if he deserves punishment.

This is the first novel I have read by this author, but if this is any indication of her how good her books are,  than I will certainly be picking up more of her books in the future. 


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