Release Date: January 6th, 2022
CW/TW: Mentions of cancer, suicide, anxiety, parental death and depression
Brad has been living his life trying to fill that void she leaves behind. He searches for friendships to compensate for the ones he had lost and seeks out relationships to get Liz out of his head. Now that fate seems intent on placing them back in each other’s lives again and again. Is he ready to forgive and forget?
But then who he finds is not the same girl he knew so will this version of her change the way he feels?
Will the secrets they kept from each other keep them further apart or will a sudden tragedy bring them closer together and help mend the broken pieces of their friendship?
What will happen when the lines between love and friendship start to blur?
Kaye Rockwell’s debut shook me to my core in all the right ways. Glad You Exist is a young adult contemporary romance and while it tackles all of the teenage woes of being in love with your best friend, dealing with friendships and straddling the line of being a good daughter and a good friend; this book also tackles some really heavy topics. It’s important to go into this book fully prepared for some tears and a wild emotional rollercoaster. It’s also important to note that Kaye Rockwell does a pretty good job of covering all these moments of trauma with a gentle touch.
Told through both Liz and Brad’s POVs, Glad You Exist is first and foremost a story of friendship. Yes, it’s still a romance and Liz and Brad’s relationship is a big part of the story, but I believe that the friendship between the four characters—Liz, Brad, Kyle and Kim—is what holds this book together. It’s been a while since I’ve read a YA contemporary, but I’m glad to report that this book tugged on my heartstrings and made me miss all my high school friends!
When things start going south in her life, Liz pulls away from the three most important people she’s ever known. And she doesn’t do it well, she hurts feelings and there’s a lot unsaid between the four of them, but she believes that it’s for the best and takes a step back to protect herself. Except, the universe (and their families) aren’t going to stand for it, so they get involved and the four of them are brought back together whether they like it or not. With the pretense of working on a social studies project together, Brad, Liz, Kyle and Kim have to spend time around each other and not only do their project, but also address the elephant in the room in the best way possible.
At first, I was unsure about my feelings for Liz. I could see her struggles and her pain, but I kept feeling like she wasn’t owning up to her mistakes in the friendship destruction. But as the book progressed and we see her bloom and grow, my appreciation for Liz also grew. She’s such a strong character, someone that has experienced far too much trauma for her age, but despite all the things that have happened, I admired Liz for stepping up and moving forward to make sense of everything while still keeping her head above water. I liked Brad a lot! He was a patient, kind and generous hero, with so much love for Liz. I felt for him as he watched her from the outside, waiting to have a chance to help her get through the things that she’s struggling with. But that’s what made him so wonderful—he let Liz set the pace for everything from their friendship to their relationship. Their relationship is a slow process, but it was so beautifully crafted. It’s a closed-door romance, but their kisses and flirting are pretty great.
I am in awe of the way Kaye handled this story and wrote these characters, especially for a debut, and I know that whatever else Kaye has in store for us, those books are going to be absolutely great!
Thanks to Kaye Rockwell for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.