A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

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Title: A Million Miles Away
Author: Lara Avery
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 320
Source: ARC provided by Hachette Book Group Canada
Add to Goodreads / Amazon.ca / Indigo

Overall: 5 STARS

Twin sisters Kelsey and Michelle Maxfield look identical — but they couldn't be more different. Kelsey is the captain of the dance team and loves her cute college boyfriend, Davis. Michelle is a free-spirited artist and flits from one guy to the next, the latest a soldier recently deployed to Afghanistan. Despite their differences, Kelsey and Michelle can't live without each other — until, in an instant, everything changes.

When Michelle dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. As the only one who knows about her sister's boyfriend, Peter, Kelsey takes it upon herself to find him and tell him what happened to Michelle. But when she finally connects with Peter online, he thinks that Kelsey is Michelle and says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey can't bear to break his heart with the truth, so she lets Peter believe that she is Michelle.

Kelsey keeps up the act, pretending to be her sister, and soon she can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.

Lara Avery delivers a breathtaking story of love and loss that is guaranteed to sweep you off your feet.  

My Thoughts:  
Kelsey and Michelle may be identical twins, but they're complete opposites in personality. While Kelsey trained hard for spot as co-captain of her high school dance team and has a steady relationship with her boyfriend Davis, Michelle focused on her art and always has a new guy she seems to be in lust with at the moment. Everything changes when Michelle's life is abruptly cut short in a car crash on her way home.

As life continues on without Michelle, Kelsey doesn't know how she can possible move forward, too. Her parents are lost in their own grief and can barely look at Kelsey's face, a reminder everyday of the daughter they mourn. Davis and her best friends try to be supportive, but they don't really understand her pain. Only Peter, Michelle's current boyfriend who recently deployed to Afghanistan, hasn't learned about the accident.

When Peter finally connects online and mistakes Kelsey for Michelle, she can't bear to tell him the truth, so she lets him believe a terrible lie. Kelsey knows it's inexcusably wrong, that this will only cause Peter more pain in the future, but she keeps telling herself it's not the right time to tell him about Michelle. A million miles away in a war-torn country, active duty is taking its toll on Peter, and only the thought of returning home to Michelle is keeping him alive.

There are a lot more layers to Kelsey's character than I first assumed. In the opening chapter of the novel, we meet Kelsey as a pretty, popular girl who loves to party, and I was ready to write her off as stereotypical. Michelle's sudden death is a brutal awakening to Kelsey, and she doesn't know how to deal with it. It's only with Peter that Kelsey feels she can still find a way to connect with her sister and keep her memory alive. It's also only with Peter that she feels encouraged to explore and diversify her interests, that she doesn't have to be known as the twin who dances or has average grades.

It doesn't happen right away, but how could Kelsey possibly resist falling for Peter as the months pass by and she waits for his sporadic letters, emails, and video chats? He's falling in love with a girl who's no longer alive, and Kelsey is caught in a trap made by her own lies. Would Peter ever forgive her? I absolutely dreaded the moment Peter would inevitably learn the truth! Their romantic story may be unconventional, but I absolutely rooted for them to find a way to be together from the very start.

It took me by surprise how much I loved reading A Million Miles Away. It's an underrated YA contemporary novel that definitely deserves more love and attention. The narrative unfolds naturally, and the pacing is absolutely spot on. I did worry that extra drama would be thrown in for drama's sake, but I was so relieved that didn't happen. Lara Avery's A Million Miles Away is an emotional, heartbreaking read about love, loss, and picking up the pieces when you feel you'll never be whole again.

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