When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn

When I Am Through with You

Stephanie Kuehn

Smart, dark, and twisty, When I Am Through With You will leave readers wondering what it really means to do the right thing.

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A gripping story of survival and the razor’s-edge difference between perfect cruelty and perfect love.
 
“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”
 
Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.
 
Smart, dark, and twisty, When I Am Through With You will leave readers wondering what it really means to do the right thing.
 


Advance Galley Reviews

I enjoyed the pacing, setting, language and tone of this young adult thriller. But I had difficulty relating to any of the characters. It felt like a screenplay where all the characters were overacted. And as an avid and longtime backpacker (starting in my teens), I found the scenario absurd. I couldn't buy the number of absurdly bad decisions, not just by the main character and his fellow teens, but by every single adult in the book. Just ... no. Statistically, you could throw darts to determine your decisions and have a better record than these characters did. All that said, I read the book voraciously and just kept telling myself to suspend my disbelief. I will for sure read more Stephanie Kuehn in the future.

This was a very interesting story, and also very unexpected, given the synopsis and my own assumptions. I went into this book expecting a thrilling story about a murder committed in cold blood, and that is not what this book is about at all. When I Am Through With You is more of a slow-burn thriller, which doesn't really make sense, but that's the only way I can think to describe it. You go into the book knowing that Rose is dead and that Ben killed her, which for me took away from the suspense, but this novel was still a page-turner. I didn't really feel a connection to any of the characters, but the plot was enough to carry the book. I wasn't completely sold on this book until the very last page. I thought the ending was perfect, and it really makes you think about the story in a new way.

Ben struggles to find his own self-worth while saving his classmates from imminent danger during a school-sponsored hiking excursion in this YA adventure. Ben is a small-town kid who has never left his hometown thanks to a harrowing, desperate act as a child that has left his mother widowed, permanently injured, mentally unstable, and an alcoholic. He feels beholden to her to help make her life simpler in any way he can. Despite becoming codependent on his very self-reliant and confident girlfriend, Rose, Ben is ready for her to move on from him as he feels he will never be more than he already is now. This hiking trip is his chance to prove he has more to offer Rose, and the world, but when everything begins to go wrong it will be up to him to save their lives. Thoughts: I hate to say this, but I was not a fan of this story. I feel it started as an interesting suspense/thriller and became an adventure/survival that wasn't quite as interesting. Maybe it's because I'm not a huge adventure/survival fan, but the characters also began to wear on my nerves and the lack of real communication and the continuous poor decision-making was frustrating for me. There is a demographic of my HS students that might find the fast pace and rule breaking interesting enough to hold their attention, but with the abundance of adult content (several descriptive sex scenes) and language, I would keep the appropriateness level at grades 12+.

I was a little disappointed in this book. The characters were well developed, and relatable, and the setting was nicely described, but the plot was somewhat weak. I was hoping for some twist but that never happened. I also would have liked to know more about what happened with the main character's legal issues. I felt the middle of the story was more developed than the ending: bam she's dead the end. I would rate this with 3 stars because I did like the characters.

This story center around a senior named Ben and his complicated life with his mother and his girlfriend Rose. The story ends up taking us on a camping trip with Ben, Rose and a number of other characters we meet along the way. Each character has their own set of secrets and complications which make this story an intriguing web of lies and betrayal that keep you reading until the end. I enjoyed the way that it grabbed me from the first page and made me want to know more. I wish it was a little longer so i could continue the journey.

This will likely be a quick review because I was very disappointed with this book and I’d like to just move past it. Stephanie Kuehn is an auto-buy author for me and so I was obviously extremely excited to get this in my hands as fast as possible and devour it just as quickly. But I feel that the bar was set pretty high with Complicit a couple years ago and it’s just not easy to meet those same standards. I waited and waited for When I Am Through With You to get better, gripping, thrilling and it simply never did. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything redeemable in here. What I liked the most about this book was the bad decisions almost every character made. I know that sounds weird, but in the YA world right now there are too many people harshly criticizing teenagers for acting rashly, without forethought, with their hormones, and it’s like no one remembers what it was like to actually be a teenager. But Stephanie Kuehn does. She perfectly grasped the feeling of knowing you are currently, right now, doing the Wrong Thing, but continuing to do it anyway. She made realistic the act of doing something and not really knowing why, without being frustrating to this adult reader. I also really liked reading from Ben’s perspective. Ben has a pretty dark history; his father walked out on his family, he killed his stepfather, and he’s found himself in a never-ending cycle of guilt surrounding his mother’s poor mental and physical health. He is regularly mistreated by the people who are supposed to love him and he’s internalized it. But what is so brilliant about Ben’s characterization is that he thinks he knows he’s internalized these feelings. He thinks he knows when he’s being manipulated and he believes he’s okay with it. In reality though, he’s being misused and abused in so many other ways but he doesn’t even notice! This makes Ben’s version of events much more intriguing and much more unreliable. However, the events in question were absolutely boring. There’s no other way to describe this book. Now, admittedly, I am not a huge fan of survival stories. It’s not a subgenre I reach for. I didn’t know this was going to be that kind of book when I picked it up, but I still would have read it anyway because Stephanie Kuehn. This book is violent and dark and kind of incredible – in the way that there’s no credibility to the histories of the characters or their actions on the mountain. Despite Kuehn’s beautiful writing, I just couldn’t feel compelled to give a crap about any of it. I didn’t care about the orienteering club, I didn’t care about Ben’s relationship with Rose, or her manic-pixie-dreaminess. I didn’t at all care about Ben’s out-of-school interactions with Mr. Howe and his wife. While I liked Ben okay and thought he was a fascinating character, his life was just boring. I can’t help but believe this book would have been much more interesting from any other character’s point of view, especially those in the thick of it all like Avery or Tomas. A lot of people die. There’s an explosion, a massacre, a miscommunication, a misidentification. Somehow, though, there was never a point at which I couldn’t put the book down and walk away from it. What’s worse is that by the end, the whole thing felt pointless. I thought Ben’s reason for killing Rose came on way too quickly – for someone who supposedly never makes a decision for himself, it doesn’t take too much prodding for him to decide to end Rose’s life. He’s had the wool pulled down over his eyes for so long and then a few hours later just makes a decision based on the tiniest trickle of information? And for someone who is plagued by guilt just for looking at someone the wrong way, how could he feel no remorse for what he did? The whole climax was anticlimactic and there should have been much more time spent getting to the why and internal how of Rose’s murder, since that’s the hook that had us all reading from the beginning. This wasn’t a story at all of how he came to kill Rose. This was a story of Ben realizing that he’d been making shitty decisions the whole time, even if he wanted to pretend nothing was his fault. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t that quick but I had to take the time to explain how I felt. Bored, mostly. Fascinated by how a character can deceive himself. And frustrated by the rushed ending and the very pointless passages involving Mr. Howe’s wife at the end. All of this is made even more sad by the fact that I love Kuehn’s writing and her books are typically wild and bizarre. I do think there are others out there who will appreciate this more than I did, but in the end I felt it was a dull, jumbled mess of tragic backstories, bad decisions, and hiking.

I am unable to access this novel after trying on multiple devices.

Rating: 3 stars In Stephanie Kuehn’s young adult novel, When I Am Through with You, a hiking trip with seven teens and a high school teacher takes an unexpectedly dark and tragic turn. Narrator Ben Gibson has a dark family history which is not fully revealed until late in the novel. His two year relationship with girlfriend Rose Augustine is beginning to feel the strain of his debilitating migraines, his dysfunctional relationship with his mother and his tendency to avoid making decisions. After spending part of the summer apart, Ben is not as excited about their reunion as he feels he should be, but his inertia and desire to avoid conflict keeps them together. Rose is very surprised by Ben’s announcement that he is in charge of the school’s orienteering group and the he, along with teacher Mr. Howe, will be leading the members on an expedition. The members turn out to a rather diverse yet somewhat troubled mix of young men and women and Ben quickly loses control when Mr. Howe takes a shockingly hands off approach once they embark on their journey. It is not very surprising when Ben quickly loses control of the students on the expedition since he easily gives in during confrontations. Although Ben is well aware there could be dangerous repercussions from his classmates poor decisions, he does not make any effort to let Mr. Howe know there is trouble brewing. Mr. Howe is also a large part of the problem since he abdicates a lot of his responsibility to Ben even though he is fully aware of Ben’s shortcomings. Circumstances are ripe for disaster in the face of an unforeseen encounter with a sketchy group of campers, unanticipated bad weather and exceedingly bad decisions by everyone in the group. When I Am Through with You is well-written but the pacing is excruciatingly slow. Ben holds his secrets close and he is not exactly perceptive when it comes reading people. Outside of his relationship with Rose, he is essentially a loner who is essentially clueless about what is going on in his classmates’ lives. With so many unknown variables, Ben is literally and figuratively stumbling around in the dark for much of the expedition. The storyline is rather convoluted and predictable, everyone exhibits poor judgment and Stephanie Kuehn brings the novel to a somewhat unsatisfying and ambiguous conclusion.

Wow! This book had me feeling a gamut of emotions. This started out with curiosity about what is going to happen on the hiking trip because you know that this group of teens is going to go on this trip and things were going to go bad, but you don’t know how or when. Initially, I had trouble connecting with the narrator because his tone was very remote, almost disconnected, but as you read you find out there is a reason for this, that it is a result of a traumatic event in his past. Also, I was curious about what was going on in the heads of the other characters, as it was somewhat of a mystery due to the narrators inability to read others emotions well, and the trip serves as a background for the main characters internal journey to figure out what is going on internally/emotionally with his fellow hikers and himself. However, the writing is so compelling that I couldn’t stop reading. Once I was into the story, I was frustrated with the actions of several of the characters, as many of the choices they made were very self-serving, but by the end, I found myself left with a feeling of sadness that things turned out like they did, as no one intended for things to end so badly. One thing I would say though, and this may be one of the best things you can say about a book, is that I wanted more, even just a couple more pages telling us what happens with the main character’s legal troubles in the end.

After reading the description, I was ready to enjoy a novel about what happened on that mountain! However it wasn't about the incident during their school trip. It was about these teens and their feelings. If you are into that kind of reading experience than this novel is perfect.

This book surprised me in so many ways, I could not put it down. Dark, violent, heart-rending, just overwhelming emotionally, especially the ending. Ben has been neglected and abused, leading to his stepfather's death which in turn causes a car accident (intentional) leaving his mother dependent and giving him horrific migraines. Rose, his girlfriend mistreats him and takes advantage of his neediness. An orienteering trip to the mountains with his mentor and several peers, including Rose, turns into a dangerous confrontation and fight for survival. Twists and dark secrets are revealed culminating in Ben's ordeal on the mountain. The pact between the girls in his life seems unrealistic, even for immature and naïve teenagers. Definitely a worthwhile read.

The target audience for this book is teens, so I'm a couple decades past that target but reading about these characters brought me back to those difficult years. The concern about what other people were thinking and doing, the inability to see past the immediate challenges of family, teachers, grades, high school relationships... it's a confusing time in life. Especially when, like many of the characters in this book, your family life has been far from nurturing. The main character in When I am Through With You is Ben. We find out right away that Ben has been charged with murder, and that he's not sorry about it. Other than some brief backstory on how he met his girlfriend, Rose, and how he came to be involved in the fateful weekend trip, with people he wasn't exactly friends with. Most of the novel takes place a few suspenseful days spent camping and mountaineering with a group of high school students and one teacher that starts out according to plan, but goes spiraling into chaos due to unexpected situations, misunderstanding, mother nature, young love, and most of all - bad decision-making. When I look back at my teen years, bad decision -making is a recurring theme, as I expect it is for most people. That's why I find books like this especially intriguing. There's so much pressure at that time in your life when you have so little life experience that it's not hard to imagine how easily the wrong mixture of circumstances, hormones, uncertainty, and peer pressure can turn into tragedy. This is a story of just that, in a very compelling and suspenseful read.

What a pleasant surprise. I’ve never read a YA thriller before, which is why I requested this one on a whim. I was curious. But honestly, my expectations hadn’t been very high. More fool me. When I Am Through with You is told from the point of view of Ben, a high school senior who’s waiting to go on trial for murder. As his story begins to unfold, we first learn about Rose, his girlfriend of two years who he allegedly ends up murdering. We also learn all about the school hiking trip up in the mountains that went wrong, as this compelling story of intrigue, adventure, and betrayal develops. This is one of the most addicting books I’ve ever read. It had me from the very first page. I cared about these characters, who were at once sympathetic and realistically flawed, and I was intrigued by Ben’s complicated relationship with Rose. I was drawn into the host of fascinating characters – whip-smart Avery; mean and self-loathing Archie; kind-hearted but unfulfilled Mr. Howe, the history teacher who leads their expedition. Each of these characters is multifaceted, and has their own story to tell. I’d never heard of Stephanie Kuehn before, but I can say with certainty that I will be reading more of her books in the future. I thought her prose was intelligent, compelling, and quick-witted. The pacing in this novel was outstanding – I sat down to start this yesterday and when I blinked hours had gone by. Kuehn brought the scene of this treacherous camping trip to life – I truly felt like I was with this group of students on that mountain. It’s been a while since I’ve read something with such an immersive setting. I highly recommend this to fans of adult and YA thrillers alike. The only thing that served as a constant reminder that this was YA were the ages of the characters – otherwise, I found this novel surprisingly mature and dark and quite twisted. I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin First To Read in exchange for an honest review. Big thank you to Penguin Random House and Stephanie Kuehn.

**Thanks to First to Read for providing me a complimentary copy of WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU in exchange for my honest review.** GRADE: A- 4.5 STARS Ben killed his girlfriend Rose, and he's about to tell you why. A heartbreaking story of abandonment, child neglect and domestic violence made Ben who he was. His father left when he was two, his stepfather nearly killed his mother, Ben accidentally killed him before his mother not-accidentally tried to kill him all before the age of eleven. He cares for his alcoholic mother, still suffering from injuries from the car accident that didn't kill Ben. He plans to sacrifice his future to continue taking care of her, despite how terribly she treats him. Rose also treats him badly. Mr. Howe, a kindly teacher takes Ben under his wing as assistant to a hiking club, which is how the teens ended up on a mountain. Not everyone would come down alive. Stephanie Kuehn is an automatic preorder for me, so I was thrilled to get an ARC copy of WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU. She drew me into this mystery from the beginning with Ben's confession to killing Rose. I like and empathized with Ben and often wanted to tell him he was worth more than he thought he was. My other favorite characters were Mr and Mrs Howe. While some of the scenarios in the story stretched credulity, I cared what happened to Ben and the other kids. If you like mysteries and complex narrators, WHEN I'M THROUGH WITH YOU is unputdownable.

 


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