Have you ever forced yourself to read a book, hoping that it will get better?
Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Karen Schreck’s While He Was Away, it just didn’t get better. At least not for me.
I really struggled to get into this book. I tried to care about Penna and David, she an 18-year-old on the cusp of her senior year of high school and he a high school graduate fresh out of boot camp and headed to Iraq. But you know it’s bad when you hope the hero gets injured during a war.
Yes, I went there. Yes, I found myself thinking, “Please let something interesting happen. Maybe David can get shot? Maybe an IUD will explode near him, causing him injury?” I didn’t hope for a debilitating injury, just … something. I needed some kind of spark to keep reading this book.
The book begins with a motorcycle ride by Penna and David, their last before he leaves for Iraq. The first few days after his departure, Penna is a mess. She doesn’t hear from him, and she is panicked. She and David’s mother stay in close phone contact, each praying to hear from him soon. They do, but contact is sporadic at best.
While He Was Away is basically a love story between two teenagers trying to keep their relationship going under incredible strain and stress. Their romance decidedly is not a fairytale, whether due to him facing life-threatening situations or her fears running amok. You do find yourself rooting for them, although, like I said, there were times I kind of hoped David would call and say, “It’s over,” just so something interesting would occur.
It isn’t that While He Was Away is a bad book; it’s more that it moves really s-l-o-w-l-y, and I was not in the mood for something taking so long to unfold. Maybe if I had a hankering for a sweet, steady story, I’d have liked this more. As it is, I just sort of thought, “Eh.”
Published by Sourcebooks Fire and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.