My Thoughts On: Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso + Bookmark GIVEAWAY!

Posted June 19, 2012 by Asheley in Uncategorized / 35 Comments

Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso
Published by Atheneum BYR
Publish Date: August 14, 2012
279 Pages
Source:  ARC from publisher

Three weeks ago I tried to run away from home. Now all I want is to go back.

When troubled Taylor Truwell is caught with a stolen car and lands in court for resisting arrest, her father convinces the judge of an alternative to punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. Sunny Meadows is anything but the easy way out, and Taylor has to fight hard just to hold on to her sanity as she battles her parents, her therapist, and vicious fellow patients. But even as Taylor struggles to hold on to her stubborn former self, she finds herself relenting as she lets in two unlikely friends-Margo, a former child star and arsonist, and AJ, a mysterious boy who doesn’t speak. In this striking debut, Laura Lascarso weaves together a powerful story of anger and self-destruction, hope and love.(summary from Goodreads)

Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso

My Thoughts:  I loved the story of Taylor Truwell and her stay at Sunny Meadows. I almost felt like this book was divided into two sections, a before and an after – and they read very differently. I don’t know anyone else that has read this one yet so I don’t know if I’m alone in this thought or not. I may just be plain silly-crazy. For a story that started out full of anger and resentment, Counting Backwards ended with tons of hope and love, and I actually found myself sniffly at the end, trying hard not to cry. I think I may have gotten a bit attached to the characters.

1. The Characters. Lots of characters in Counting Backwards, although there are a few that are most important:

  • Taylor Truwell. We meet Taylor as she arrives at Sunny Meadows, where she is to spend some time in rehabilitation after stealing a car and trying to run away from home. In the court hearing, her father asked the judge to send her to Sunny Meadows because he felt she could benefit from the services they provide. Now Taylor is angry. Taylor only ran away from home because she was trying to escape the life her mother made for her, and she is being punished for it? How unfair! ~ Taylor begins her stay an angry girl, almost resistant to anyone who tries to help her. She is silent when she should be talking, she sneaks around, she hides things she should have, etc. Taylor feels like everyone is out to get her. She makes me angry on more than one occasion, but she has growth and change throughout the book. I love a character that has development, you guys. Taylor ends the book differently than she begins and it is lovely. She isn’t nearly perfect when the book is over, but she is working on herself and it is how that is so interesting. 
  • Margo Blanchard. Taylor’s Peer Advisor. Margo reaches out to Taylor when she arrives at Sunny Meadows. At first, Taylor thinks Margo is a weirdo. Margo is a bit eccentric – dresses weird, acts weird, talks funny – and she seems to have a following of people that do not like her for some reason. Taylor is unsure what to make of her, but cannot deny the displays of kindness that Margo always shows her even when she does not deserve it. Eventually, the two form a tight, real, meaningful friendship. I love Margo and I think she provided a break at times from all of the heaviness surrounding Taylor’s initial angst. 
  • Victor & AJ. Victor runs a secret business within Sunny Meadows – people can buy or trade for things like candy, drinks, cigarettes, etc from him. AJ acts as his bodyguard and his friend. Victor and AJ are Margo’s friends and eventually this means they become Taylor’s friends too. Victor is respected. AJ is also respected – also, AJ does not speak. At all. He hasn’t spoken since he came to Sunny Meadows two years ago. These two are interesting and provide some comic relief. They also provide some additional story lines besides the main story of Taylor adjusting to life within Sunny Meadows. I like them both – but I like one more than the other! 
2. The Story. Taylor arrives at Sunny Meadows angry and apathetic. She’s angry at her father for putting her there. She’s angry at the facility for their ridiculous and strict rules. She’s angry at herself for running away. She’s angry at her mother for making her want to run away. In the first part of the book, I got to know all of the characters and I got to know plenty about Taylor, her choice of friends within the facility, and her plans for her future. 

What I’m calling “the second part of the book” almost seems like an entirely different book. Taylor has developed into a not-entirely-different person yet, but a person that is changing with each page or chapter. She’s learning not to be so angry, to trust more, and that she can control things within her life to a degree (at her age). 

I liked the first part of the book, but I loved the second part of the book. And when I got to the end, I wish it had been just a little bit longer so I’d have just a little bit more. 

3. Romance. There is a romance that develops within this story. Go figure! It is slow, slow, so slow. And it is sweet. No triangle involved! I loved it. The romance actually plays a bigger part in the book than I realized it would. 

What I thought initially was just an “issue contemp” actually has a really wonderful romance component to it as well. It is so well-placed and it breaks up the heaviness of Taylor’s rehabilitation and therapy, and I think you all will like it just as much as I did. I liked the guy in particular very much and the way they fell in love, and all of the things that resulted from it. It really was so very sweet to read this romance develop. 

4. Setting. Sunny Meadows is such an interesting place. Since we hear about it through the thoughts and words of Taylor, it is made out to be pretty awful in the beginning of the book. By the end, my thoughts on Sunny Meadows had changed a bit but that is because Taylor had some growth as a person and her thoughts and feelings had changed. I’m not sure that you call it world-building if it is mostly within a building…do you? The setting was fabulous, though, and I really got a sense of where Taylor was living this whole time. I can basically draw a map of the place inside and (almost) outside as well. Plus, as I was reading, even though I was sitting outside in real life, I felt like I was stuck inside for most of the time just like Taylor was. I love that…when an author can make you feel claustrophobic just with the words on the page. I find that talent with words so fascinating and powerful. 

When I started Counting Backwards, I was reading along, enjoying it rather nicely and then suddenly – somewhere – the story just really picked up even more for me. To tell you where and at what point would be a bit of a spoiler, and I don’t really want to do that, but I read pretty quickly after that, basically devouring the rest of the book. 

Counting Backwards has a nice simple language to it, and it tells Taylor’s story perfectly. The author has a great flow to her words and I got so lost in the plot at times that I didn’t realize how into the story I was. I think that with this debut, Laura Lascarso has written the story of a girl who made a mistake and is sorry for it, and with her “punishment” comes love and acceptance and hope and a new chance at life. I’m thrilled that I read it. I recommend it to people who like the issue books with a swirl of romance tucked away in there and the people who like the romance books with a swirl of issue tucked away in there, because it really is a mix of both.

Counting Backwards will appeal to fans of

YA Contemporary
Romance: No triangle! Slow, slow burn!
Stories Containing Issues: No spoilers!
Appropriate for all ages of YA readers.

Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso
is currently available for purchase.

**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you Atheneum/Simon & Schuster!


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About Asheley

Asheley is a Southern girl. She loves Carolina blue skies, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and NC craft beer. She loves all things history but prefers books over everything.

You can find her somewhere in North Carolina, daydreaming about the ocean.

Find Asheley on Litsy @intothehallofbooks!


35 responses to “My Thoughts On: Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso + Bookmark GIVEAWAY!

  1. I'm going to show my judgmental nature…I don't ever recall having read the synopsis of this book because the cover completely puts me off; I don't know what it is, but it really turned me away! Anyway, awesome review. 🙂 The setting sounds very interesting, and completely different from any other YA books I've read. It's going on my wishlist!

    • Randi – I GET IT. The cover is off-putting, and I think that is why I waited this long during this month to read it. I absolutely judge books by their covers every time I pick one up. This is one that – were it not provided specifically for contemporary month – I'm not sure I would have picked it up BECAUSE of the cover. But I would have missed out on a great story, truthfully.

  2. I've seen this book around but this is the first time I've really taken the time to read the blurb and it's also the first time I've read a review for it and I must say I am intrigued!

    Counting Backwards sounds like such a fascintaing premise and the characters sound marvellous. I love when you become attached to them and in a way, they become apart of you.

    Fabulous review, you've definitely sold me! 🙂

    P.S – An issue book with a sweet romance? YES PLEASE. Count me in!

    • Rebecca, this one is really great. I had no idea in picking it up that I'd like it as much as I did. Especially with this cover, because the cover really gives NOTHING about the story.

      However, the cover does give a glimpse of Taylor's hair, which plays a part in the story – so maybe that's why they did the cover that way? I don't know.

      At any rate, I thought it was really great. I got way more than I expected with this one.

  3. Wow you made this book sound good! I would not have looked twice at this otherwise. First, I agree with Randi, the cover is strange. I kept thinking that the woman was wearing a head scarf, but I think that's just her hair. (There's nothing wrong with head scarves, I just didn't get how it related to this story). But the psychiatric facility setting sounds interesting. And I like romance without triangles. The setting reminds me of Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson, which also takes place in a mental institution.

    • Lauren, like I was telling Rebecca up above, after reading the story, the only plausible explanation I can come up with for the cover is that Taylor is part Native American, so you know her hair would be important, and there is an event involving her hair in the book? Maybe that's why they chose to close up on her hair? I don't know. In truth, I judge covers, and would have walked past this one because it doesn't draw me. However, the story was incredible. The setting was stellar – just written so well, and the progression of Taylor's character was so well done. I loved the book, and as I said, particularly the second part.

      I have Ultraviolet on my Kindle but I haven't read it yet. I liked this one, though, so maybe I should give Ultraviolet a go. Is it contemporary?

      This one almost reminded me a little bit of Harbinger, which is NOT contemporary, in terms of the setting.

    • Wow you are really chugging through these books this month! I am impressed.

      As for Ultraviolet, I'm struggling with what to tell you about it that doesn't give anything away. It wasn't my favorite book, but for a very specific reason that I can't say (but you might love that thing – I don't know enough about your reading habits to know). I did really like the institution setting and the condition that the main character has is really fascinating. But it's one of those books where you don't know where the story is going and then something happens to change everything. It *may* have a supernatural element. But you'll have to read it to find out ;).

      I'll definitely put this one on my list though!

  4. I didn't really want to read this book. I thought Beh! But after your review, I might have to pick it up. I like romance and some issues. If you had tears then I'm in. I love it when an author can make you feel emotions. Thanks!

    • Kelly, I was so surprised at myself when I got to the end and was choked up! I didn't realize I had connected so much to Taylor and one or two other characters. I was reading outside in PERFECT weather, and here I was wiping my eyes! WHO DOES THAT??? Haha.

      Seriously, it's really great. It's a great marriage of issues + romance. I recommend if you like a mixture of the two! 🙂

  5. It sounds like the change that Taylor makes from the first part of the book to the second really makes sense. Sometimes in books these personality adjustments just seem to happen and aren't presented in a thoughtful, careful way. I would like to read the book to see how her change is developed.

    • This change in Taylor is really well done. There is time spent on giving us an accurate picture of what Taylor is like once she gets to Sunny Meadows, and then there is a lot of care spent to show the ways she changes and how that happens, and who helps with those changes. It was just so great, I loved it so much. I wish it was a tiny bit longer, but sometimes that happens when I get to the ends of books. 🙂

  6. I was SO excited to see that you'd included this one in your contemp month! This was one of the top 2012 contemps on my list that I had my eye on, but like you, I hadn't seen anyone else reading it yet. I'm so happy to hear that you enjoyed it so much, and that while it started out difficult it ended up hopeful. Those are the type of 'issue' books I like best, as they feel real but not quite so depressing. Will certainly be checking this one out!

    • Heidi, in my most dramatic voice, and totally serious, I'm telling you that this book was so, so good. I really really enjoyed it and wished it was just a teensy bit longer because I wasn't ready to give up the characters just yet. There was good development across the story with Taylor and there were a couple of really good secondaries, and I just thought the setting was superb. It was issue for sure – but there was enough romance and even some funny here and there – so that it wasn't too heavy. I'm *thinking* you'll like it. I'll be glad when it starts making the rounds out there so I can see what other people are thinking. The only thing I really wish to see a little different is the cover because I don't think it is very representative of the story, but the story itself – great.

    • Alexa, this is a fantastic book. A debut, too. I am recommending it to lovers of issue/romance mash-ups. The setting is great, the characterization is great, and the character development of Taylor, the MC, is phenomenal. I just loved it – and I was actually almost a little sniffly when it was over. I wish the cover was a little different, but overall it was a superb book. Great debut!

  7. I really was no all that interested in reading this book but one of my friend told me about it and after hear it from her I am really wanting to read it. It really does sound good and the cover it really pretty.

  8. I have never even heard of Counting Backward, but the fact that it takes place at rehab sounds fascinating. Like, I like reading books with unconventional sort of settings like this.

    Also? I like when love is nice and slow.

  9. Actual character development? Say what? No love triangle? Huh? A romance that goes at the pace that it should? In a YA? Holy moly? I love the premise of Counting Backwards. It seems like it would be an uplifting story. After reading your review, I am even more sure about this book. Actual issues that get resolved and leave the reader with a feeling of Hope are not found often enough, so I can't pass up the chance to read this one. Thanks so much for your review!

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