A review by mgdoherty
Watch Over Me, by Nina LaCour

emotional hopeful mysterious reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? N/A
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

 
The way the title turns from referencing a biological mother/familial relationship to referencing a chosen family 👌 Deeply love this movement and journey. 

The relationship between Mila, Liz, and Billy was rendered so well. It doesn’t feel entirely platonic but neither does it feel entirely driven by desire — it feels driven by love, and that’s as simply as I can put it. As unnamable as it, this was probably my favorite aspect of the book. I love how the three of them lean into comfort and connection without ever entirely putting a boundary around their relationship. 

My pop culture trope osmosis had me expecting the big secret to be about a sinister ghost and for this book to go in a dark, cult-y direction, and I was pleasantly surprised how the book used my own expectations and anxieties against me. It ended up being really cathartic. 

This is entirely my preference as a reader, but I think that ending would’ve hit me harder if it had not switched between reality and fantasy so rapidly in the final few pages.
SpoilerLee’s role was a little bit of a letdown for me, and the way the revelation of his secret came immediately before we dug into rest of the mysteries lessened the ultimate impact for me when the real climax began. It felt like having cake and eating it, too. Like “no, this isn’t real. But also, yes it is.”
 

I would love to discuss that element with the author 👆 because I’m super intrigued by the literary moves that were made in this book. 

SpoilerI appreciate how when Mika apologizes to Lee, she doesn’t cry, and I appreciate why that’s important.
  This emphasis on apologies and forgiveness comes full circle by the end,
Spoilerwhen we see what Mila’s relationship with mothers and guardian figures has been like in the past.
 

One of the themes in here is motherhood and its many permutations —
Spoilerhow Mila is a motherly figure to Lee or how Mila frowns and is upset when their actual foster mother doesn’t know Lee well enough to know he gets cold at night.
 

It feels like there’s a parallel between Mila/her mother/their messy relationship and Mila/Lee/their messy relationship.
SpoilerThe ending is what differentiates these two relationships. Two different conclusions on how such a child/guardian relationship could play out. Promises to watch over your child. Promises to care for, and never ever breaking that promise no matter how broken your heart is. I really want to draw an intelligent conclusion here, but I’m writing this during a snowstorm in a southern state, so I’m too cold to draw a conclusion right now.
 

I guess my conclusion is I like the emphasis on chosen family and on love in all its permutations and on breaking a pathological pattern, and how much of a miracle it is to break free of your own pathology when you’re been steeping in its most harmful version for years. 

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