Alex doesn't remember the night her mother left but she knows the story: looking for "answers," her mother left suddenly with the goal of getting to Colorado, but she was drunk and didn't make it out of town before she wrapped herself around a light pole. Alex and her sisters slowly grew apart and their dad became a ghost. Fortunately for Alex, she has two of the best friends a girl could ever ask for in Bethany and Zach. They have stood by Alex every time the lack of a mother has come up and always loved her. For years they've been planning a trip to Colorado after they graduate high school. Now in their senior year, Alex's dream of trying to learn some more about the mother she doesn't remember is starting to become a reality.
Enter Cole Cozen. Cole is a transfer and causing quite a little stir among the the coaches and many of the girls. Alex is paired with Cole to tutor him so he's eligible for the sports he wants to play. Alex falls hard for Cole's romantic gestures and good looks. Unfortunately, she also learns all too quickly just how hard Cole can be. Cole is jealous of Alex's relationship with Bethany and Zack (particularly Zack). His emotional manipulation of her soon turns into physical rage. Commonalities in their family dynamics helps Alex make excuses for Cole's abuse. She feels ashamed that she can't seem to predict Cole's mood swings. She also doesn't want to be "the abused girl" and have people judge her for not being able to stand up to Cole. While the physical abuse isn't on a daily basis, Cole's mistreatment continues even when Alex almost completely cuts off Bethany and Zack. However, one day while Alex is working a former girlfriend of Cole's confronts Alex and warns her. Realizing how dangerous Cole could be and that she can't fix him, Alex resolves to break things off with Cole. But, Alex is too late...Cole is waiting for her outside of her work and he had been watching Alex. The beating that follows is pain that Alex has never known; but before Cole can beat her senseless, her manager intervenes. Starting with a stay in the hospital, Alex begins the long road to healing physically, emotionally, mentally, and eventually to Colorado.
Knowing the general ending of the book (it's in most of the summaries you'll find) made starting the book kind of hard. Despite that, I found myself rooting for Alex and Cole at the beginning of their relationship when Cole was nothing but sweet. Reading it was fulfilling, gut wrenching, and emotionally exhausting. Really though, isn't that a hallmark of great writing? Just like with Hate List, this is a book is one that everyone should read to broaden their perspective of the world.