tl;dr: a very touching story about love BLOOMING from the ashes of tragedy
The Ones Who Got Away centers around a tragedy that happened 12 years before this book begins: the most deadly school shooting in America. It happened in the tiny fictional town of Long Acre, which is outside of Austin, TX. There’s a documentary being filmed about the incident, and so several of the survivors are coming back to talk on camera (or off camera) and be interviewed by the documentarian.
Olivia Arias and Finn Dorsey are two of those survivors, and this is a bit of a second-chance romance for them, as they sort of secretly dated in high school. In fact, they were “nearing second base” in a janitor’s closet when the shooting began. When the two heard the gunshots, Finn left the closet looking for his actual date, and he always has regretted this because he thinks it led Joseph, one of the gunmen, to Liv. However, Joseph didn’t shoot Liv, he just left her locked up in the closet. Instead, his mark appears to have been Finn’s date, Rebecca.
After they are reunited in the present day by a scorching hot kiss on a balcony outside of the only hotel in town, they begin to catch up, get to know each other as adults. While Liv looks backward on the idealistic future she had envisioned for herself in high school, Finn offers her some time and space to work on her passions in the summer home he’s renovating while on leave from his high stress FBI undercover job. Then sparks fly.
But Finn has plans to go back undercover in the fall, his drive stemming from his desire to find out how their classmates got the weapons that murdered his classmates. Liv doesn’t know how to deal with her anxiety, her re-emerging feelings for Finn, and the changes she’s making in her life and career.
This was a masterful work. There’s a lot of unpack, in terms of the actual events, the separate lives of all the survivors and how they’ve dealt with the tragedy in their own unique ways, and what their lives will look like going forward. And the romance is great; hot and sexy, but you also feel the true friendship and love the two have for each other, both in the past and now as adults.
Another aspect of the book that I really appreciated was the female friendships between 4 of the survivors. Liv, Rebecca, and their friends Taryn and Kincaid, come together to form a bond of friendship and sisterhood that they have neglected over the past 12 years, and are now looking to rekindle that support system they had in the aftermath of the shooting. Each character is truly unique and comes alive on the page, in a way that supporting characters don’t often do.
My only minor complaint is that we are left without a lot of the context of the actual shooting. Like, for instance, how many survivors there were. What happened to the gunmen? Were any teachers or adults injured? How were they apprehended? I hope that these questions may be answered in a future book. There’s already a release date for the second book, which centers around Rebecca.
I totally loved this book. I’m a bit of an angst-junkie and I recognize that. This book deals with some tough subjects, including mass murder and PTSD. I felt that the way that each character dealt with these things really rang true. The depictions of anxiety were definitely relatable, and the journey each character is on is believable. The book showcases the triumph of good over evil, and I can’t wait to read the next one.
Check this book out at your local library!