For This Life Only – Stacey Kade – Simon and Schuster – Published 30 August 2016
A young man struggles to move forward after the death of his twin brother in this gripping, coming-of-age tale about loss, redemption, love, and the moment you begin to see the world differently.
Jacob Palmer died for three life-changing minutes.
And when he woke up, nothing was the same. Elijah, his twin brother, is dead, and his family is broken. Jace’s planned future is crushed, along with his pitching arm. Everyone keeps telling him that Eli’s in a better place, but Jace isn’t so sure. Because in those three minutes, there was nothing.
Overwhelmed by guilt and doubt, Jace struggles to adjust to this new version of the world, one without his brother, one without the certainties he once relied on. And then Thera comes into his life.
She’s the last girl he should be turning to for help.
But she’s also the first person to truly see him.
I really enjoy Stacey Kade’s writing, so For This Life Only was a must read for me. It is just as heartbreaking as the summary makes it sound, as well as uplifting and purposeful. I loved the themes of this story – grief, soul searching, faith, families of the church, expectations and choosing to do the ‘right’ thing even when you’re not sure what that is.
In Jace’s family he is the destructive twin, while his brother Eli manages to effortlessly maintain the levels of perfection their dad craves. Jace wants to play baseball, while Eli will probably follow in their father’s footsteps and become a pastor, Jace is happy to go out partying and drinking with his teammates while Eli will be with his equally perfect girlfriend or at bible camp or writing his next debating speech. They are two halves of a whole. So Jace’s life is shattered when, in a car accident, Eli is killed and Jace is saved. It challenges his view of the afterlife, faith and his family as they too start to crumble around him. But the town’s outsider, the one girl he has been told his whole life not to go near, offers Jace some hope, a person to talk to about his darkest fears and reveals that even Eli was keeping secrets…
Jace is a fantastic protagonist and narrator. He is struggling with the death of his twin, guilt over his involvement in the crash and is scared that Eli might not be in that finally happy place after all. His family is falling apart and that just adds to the guilt. Add to that he can’t play baseball anymore and he doesn’t have anyone to talk to about his doubts. And his father!! I wanted to shake him. Pastors!! Ahggg. Don’t get me started.
In her acknowledgments, Stacey says that writing about something she experienced (growing up in the church) was harder than she imagined, but I think she did a spectacular job. As always, it is so easy to disappear into her books and everything felt genuine and just as complicated as real life.
There weren’t really any big twists or mysteries to be revealed in this story – this isn’t a suspense. Nor really was it a romance, though there certainly is that element. The romance isn’t the main focus of this story but it does provide that gentle shove Jace needs to help him start questioning some major things in his life. It is also very sweet and I loved the moments between Thera and Jace. Their connection was gentle and understanding but their passion was fiery. Loved it.
Overall, as expected, For This Life Only was as touching and beautiful as it was enjoyable and easy to devour. Stacey Kade is a brilliant author and I can’t wait to read what she produces next.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Family, guilt, grief, death, dying, faith, church, twins, brothers, romance, values, morals.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, f***, s***.
Published: 30 August 2016 by Simon and Schuster.
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook. 320 pages.