Title: When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Suspense
Length: 303 pages
Book Rating: C
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
A gripping story of survival and the razor’s-edge difference between perfect cruelty and perfect love.
“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”
Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.
Smart, dark, and twisty, When I Am Through With You will leave readers wondering what it really means to do the right thing.
In Stephanie Kuehn’s young adult novel, When I Am Through with You, a hiking trip with seven teens and a high school teacher takes an unexpectedly dark and tragic turn.
Narrator Ben Gibson has a dark family history which is not fully revealed until late in the novel. His two year relationship with girlfriend Rose Augustine is beginning to feel the strain of his debilitating migraines, his dysfunctional relationship with his mother and his tendency to avoid making decisions. After spending part of the summer apart, Ben is not as excited about their reunion as he feels he should be, but his inertia and desire to avoid conflict keeps them together. Rose is very surprised by Ben’s announcement that he is in charge of the school’s orienteering group and that he, along with teacher Mr. Howe, will be leading the members on an expedition. The members turn out to a rather diverse yet somewhat troubled mix of young men and women and Ben quickly loses control when Mr. Howe takes a shockingly hands off approach once they embark on their journey.
It is not very surprising when Ben quickly loses control of the students on the expedition since he easily gives in during confrontations. Although Ben is well aware there could be dangerous repercussions from his classmates poor decisions, he does not make any effort to let Mr. Howe know there is trouble brewing. Mr. Howe is also a large part of the problem since he abdicates a lot of his responsibility to Ben even though he is fully aware of Ben’s shortcomings. Circumstances are ripe for disaster in the face of an unforeseen encounter with a sketchy group of campers, unanticipated bad weather and exceedingly bad decisions by everyone in the group.
When I Am Through with You is well-written but the pacing is excruciatingly slow. Ben holds his secrets close and he is not exactly perceptive when it comes reading people. Outside of his relationship with Rose, he is essentially a loner who is rather clueless about what is going on in his classmates’ lives. With so many unknown variables, Ben is literally and figuratively stumbling around in the dark for much of the expedition. The storyline is rather convoluted and predictable, everyone exhibits poor judgment and Stephanie Kuehn brings the novel to a somewhat unsatisfying and ambiguous conclusion.