“Nowhere But Here” by Katie McGarry
4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Emily is happy with her quiet, peaceful life. She loves her mom and adoptive father, Jeff, and she doesn’t feel the need to explore her family ties on her biological father, Eli’s, side. Once a year he comes to visit, upsetting Emily’s comfortable routine, and then he leaves and her life returns to normal. After Eli goes back to his side of the tracks, Emily resumes her daily life of peaceful, safe predictability, and she is perfectly happy with the arrangement. But when a family member dies on Eli’s side, her parents take her to Kentucky to say hello and goodbye to someone she hasn’t met before.
What was supposed to be a short visit for Emily becomes a summer stay. The opposing motorcycle club across the tracks are after Emily for reasons unknown to her, and the only way to remain safe is to stay with Eli’s family. The unexpected shift in plans aren’t ideal, but the longer Emily stays in Kentucky, the more this off-beat family grows on her. Emily had always understood that family was more than blood, thanks to her adoptive father, but the bond between this group of people is fascinating to her. As long as she’s been separated from this half of herself, Emily wonders if she can somehow be accepted by this loyal family that has chosen to protect her?
But bigger problems are at hand than whether the Reign of Terror motorcycle club will accept her or not. Lies surround Eli’s and her mother’s past together, and Emily doesn’t know who she can trust. Despite all of her doubts towards the rest of the club, Emily feels drawn to Oz, as if she can, should, trust him. Caught between the Reign of Terror’s and the Riot Club’s age-old war, Emily desperately searches for answers concerning her past and a way to unravel the lies everyone has told her. With the Riot Club determined to see her hurt or worse, Emily wonders how she and the members of the Reign of Terror are going to survive the coming storm.
I am such a huge Katie McGarry fan! She is such an amazing writer and really the only contemporary author that I like to read. I’m sure that there are other good YA contemporary authors out there, but Katie McGarry has been the only author who has continued to keep my attention and capture my heart as I read her books. For me, it has been basically Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Love Before” duology and Katie McGarry’s series in the contemporary world that I have loved to read and reread. That being said, I was both anxious and excited about Katie McGarry starting a new series.
I loved “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You” from Katie McGarry’s “Pushing the Limits” series because of how they made me cry and cheer for her different characters; I especially loved “Crash Into You” because Isaiah and Rachel were so great together, and I loved how each of them grew as individuals. “Crash In You” was one of those books that just completely melted my heart, and it remains a favorite of mine. As much as I love Katie McGarry and her previous books, I was a little scared about starting a new series with a completely different concept. I think that most dedicated book readers eventually feel that way when they are madly in love with a series/trilogy an author has written, but then something new and unfamiliar comes along and it makes them anxious as to whether the new series/trilogy will be as good as the previous one. I was there before I read “Nowhere But Here”; I was really excited for a new, fresh story from Katie, but I was also a little worried that I might not like it as much as her other books. I wasted a lot of energy worrying because “Nowhere But Here” was a fantastic new story to start off what looks to be a great series!
“Nowhere But Here” felt very different from both “Dare You To” and “Crash Into You,” and I kinda liked that. As much as I love those two books, it was refreshing to have the same caliber of writing from a beloved author while experiencing a new concept. I loved how the motorcycle club and the family it had formed was at the heart of this story, and that aspect did remind me a bit of a motorcycle version of “Crash Into You.” I definitely prefer cars, especially when they’re classic sport cars, but the motorcycles were very cool and interesting. As important motorcycles were to the people in this book, family meant more.
Oz was a very interesting male lead. When I first started reading “Nowhere But Here,” I assumed that he was going to be the bad boy character that the girl would help to redeem. I’ll admit it, I was completely wrong. My sister pointed out that Oz, if anything, was like Ryan from “Dare You To,” and I have to agree with that assessment. Yes, Oz was in a motorcycle club, but he was straight-laced, high school graduated, law-abiding citizen. Dare I say it, but he was kind of goodie-to-shoes in “Nowhere But Here”! Honestly, I thought that was smart of Katie McGarry because there are a lot of bad boy characters out there to the point that they are fairly unoriginal, and Oz felt pretty distinct from that stereotype due to his more straight-laced personality. Obviously there will come a book with the bad boy who will get redeemed, and definitely I’ll enjoy it, but I liked that the start of this new series ended up being a little from what I expected in both characters and approach. I ended up liking Oz as a character, and I thought that his loyalty to the club, which was his family, and it was quite interesting.
Emily reminded me a little bit of Rachel from “Crash Into You,” (I got to stop comparing these books!), and I liked her. She had her fears which were the result of some traumatizing events during her childhood, and I thought that it was interesting watching her grow as a person in “Nowhere But Here.” Despite all of the stuff she had gone through and the way everyone was lying to her in this book, she did not choose to cower and hide from what was happening. Emily had her moments of being afraid, but don’t we all? I enjoyed that she felt a bit more real than some of the female characters that I have read in contemporary fiction, and that was nice. Rachel from “Crash Into You” was the most relatable female character that I’ve read, but Emily was a close second.
I liked Emily and Oz together, but what really hit me in the feels about this book was the relationship she had with her adoptive father, Jeff. Jeff and Emily hurt my heart in a good way, and their’s is the best father-daughter relationship that I think I have ever read. They had a truly beautiful and heartwarming relationship, and I kinda wish that there had been more of them interacting in “Nowhere But Here” than with the other relatives on the motorcycle club’s side.
There a fair amount of side characters in this story, all with bit parts except for Eli and Olivia. I hate to say it, but I REALLY disliked Olivia. Maybe it’s because I was comparing my gentle, sweet, and spunky grandma to the very abrasive Olivia, but I did not like her. I felt really bad that she had cancer and I was so sad that she was suffering, but I still wasn’t a fan. Another thing that I didn’t like was that she was really judgemental of Emily’s mom and pushy with Emily when she really had no right to be. I especially didn’t like when she wouldn’t give her granddaughter the full truth, and when she did give her something, it was always in riddled pieces that took a lot of time to put together. Honestly, just be honest and tell Emily! I liked Cyrus, her husband, but the matriarch of this family bothered me. Now that I’ve rambled on about Olivia, I just want say that I thought Eli was a pretty good character. I disliked how much he lied to Emily, but I do get why he did it even though it was wrong of him to do so. Plus he was no Jeff.
This book was really enjoyable, and it was a fast read too! I sat down for an afternoon reading session and finished it just before dinner; considering the fact that it’s nearly 500 pages, it was definitely an addictive read. I really liked “Nowhere But Here” and I thought that it was just as good as Katie McGarry’s previous books while feeling really new and fresh. “Crash Into You” will forever and always remain my favorite Katie McGarry book, but I really liked the story of “Nowhere But Here,” and I am really looking forward to reading the next book in this series. I have a feeling that Razor’s story will be a very interesting one!
Food for thought…
Now my sister was reading “Crash Into You” earlier tonight, and she recognized a name in it from “Nowhere But Here.” McKinley was the family name of Eli, Emily’s biological father, and in “Crash Into You,” Isaiah talked with his mom about his dad and they went to the cemetery where his dad was buried. The name on the headstone was “James McKinley.” Isaiah’s mom told him that James was a great guy, came from a big and good family, and that he died in a car crash before Isaiah was born. The real kicker (besides the same last name) was when Isaiah’s mom said, “James loved motocycles…”—“Crash Into You” (page 456). My sister literally blew my mind with this connection of the two series, and I read that scene for myself to fully let it sink in. I am really hoping that there might be a possible crossover of Isaiah in the “Thunder Road” series.
So far I haven’t read any review that have made this connection, so I am really curious if anyone else picked up on this subtly hint like my (observational genius) sister did. Thanks for reading!