Review: Photos of You by Tammy Robinson

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When Ava Green turns twenty-eight, she discovers this will be her last birthday. The cancer she thought she’d beaten three years ago is back, only this time it’s terminal: and she’s not going to waste any of the time she has left. There’s one thing she’s been dreaming of since she was a small girl: her wedding. There’s only one problem. She doesn’t have a groom. 

Her friends and family rally around her and decide they will help her throw the wedding of her dreams, just without the actual vows. A mammoth organisation begins. As word spreads, people offer help. In an uncertain time, the whole country seizes the story of a woman whose dying dream is simple, and they unite to give her a wedding to remember. But when a photographer called Lucas Gable volunteers to help document the whole event, it becomes painfully clear that it’s never too late to discover the love of your life.

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Source: NetGalley and Piatkus          Rating: 5/5 stars

At just twenty-eight years old, Ava Green has been given a death sentence.  Her cancer has returned, it has returned with a vengeance, and there is nothing that can be done to help her.  At twenty-eight years old, Ava Green knows she will not see another year, so she had better start living.  Topping her list of living, getting married!

Though Ava’s friends and family initially believe she has lost her mind – she doesn’t even have a boyfriend! – they soon realize that what Ava means by a wedding is really a celebration of her life, on her terms before she dies.  Since she was a child, Ava has dreamt of her wedding day, she has planned for it, imagined it, and, above all else, longed for it.  Ava doesn’t care that she doesn’t have a groom, all she needs on her big day is to be surrounded by her friends and family.  Once her friends and family fully understand and appreciate Ava’s intentions, they not only rally around her, but begin planning and plotting, full steam ahead.

Though Ava has every intention of keeping her end of life celebration private, her friends and family want it to be the spectacular event she has always dreamt of.  To that end, Ava’s best friend shares the new on social media and before any of them can blink, Ava’s story has gone viral and the messages of love, support, and pledges of help roll in.  What’s more, the media has caught wind of Ava’s story and want to document her journey.  Though Ava is initially very resistant to the idea, she comes to believe that if her story can help just one person then sharing her discomfort, her journey will have been worth it. 

As a part of the media coverage comes photographs and a lovely young man, James.  Ava is instantly drawn to James, yet her situation negates any sort of real relationship.  As the days and weeks go by, both Ava and James feel compelled to acknowledge the attraction between them as it is like nothing either has ever known.  Once the acknowledgement in made, Ava lays out all the facts for James, the ugliness that is come, her very short life expectancy, and the pain they are both going to experience as a result of her illness and death.  With bravery, courage, and love in their hearts and minds, Ava and James commit to one another until the bitter end no matter the cost.  Unfortunately, as Ava has already learned in the harshest way possible, life isn’t always fair, and things don’t always go according to plan.

The Bottom Line: Bloody hell!  I intentionally put off reading this book until I had a time where I could afford to ugly cry and then be able to sleep it off the next day.  I needed every minute of that sleep because this book tore me up!  This is in no way a happy or uplifting book, but one rooted firmly in reality.  While Ava is certainly brave and tremendously courageous, she is also a realist; from the moment she receives her diagnosis, Ava approaches her remaining days with clarity and a hard truth that often threatens to bring her to her knees.  I think this aspect of Ava’s character is the part of this book I most “enjoyed.”  With literally nothing left to lose, Ava chooses to live her life out loud with a brutal honesty that is meant to not only prepare herself for the end, but to prepare her loved ones as well.  Make no mistake, Ava has her low moments and there is as much truth and honesty in those moments as there are in the better moments.  Ava’s reality is unfortunate, tragic, inevitable, but she makes every minute, every second count.  I found Ava to be heroic and wonderful, desperate and deliriously happy, funny and sarcastic even in the face of her own end.  To the end, Ava lives her life as she sees fit, as she desires, and as she deserves.  In truth, this book is not going to be for every reader as it will most certainly conjure terrible memories and feelings of loss for those who have lost loved ones to cancer.  I am, blessedly, not among that group and was able to sink into this book and appreciate it from a wholly different perspective.  The subject matter is devastating and I ugly cried my way through the last quarter of this book, but it was worth every tear and every awful emotion.

Releasing February 18, 2020: Amazon| B&N| Kobo| Paperback

 

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