Published by Indie on September 23, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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-Does your sister let you touch her, Gemini?
-Barely, but, yes, more than anyone else. I remember even in preschool when the teacher would grab her hand, she’d stare at the spot where their skin connected as if it were an affront to her existence. Just stand there and glare like she wanted to hurt someone.
-Junipera suffers from a rare phobia.
-Please, what does June not suffer from?
-When did she start chasing storms?
-In third grade she started obsessing about the rain. Full blown? I’d say after hurricane Katrina she never looked back. And she didn’t just chase them, June became those wild storms.
Junipera and Gemini Jones, Irish twins born during the month of June, survive a childhood of neglect and poverty by looking out for one another. Destined for a group home, the girls are rescued by a rich aunt and uncle who move them from Northern Minnesota to Fairfield, Connecticut. One sister thrives while the other spins out of control. A violent assault leaves Gemini searching for clues, but what she finds might be questions that are better left unanswered.
Alaric was used to being tossed off, so it didn’t surprise him or especially hurt his feelings when his grandfather passed him on to another group home. Three months had been enough for the old coot. Buyer’s remorse. Maybe driving him to school every day put him over the edge. He took the high road and took in the kid, but then soon realized it was a crazy idea. Too much of a responsibility. Besides, he hated people, let alone a grandson. Alaric was needy and Thorn didn’t do needy.
He did miss the room he’d quickly become attached to. He missed choices for breakfast and the hum of the loud refrigerator. He even kind of missed how his grandfather grunted instead of speaking full words, how he’d catch him studying his face like he was trying to decipher a code. Alaric knew he looked like his father, that the fact both pleased and aggravated his grandfather. A second chance the man didn’t ask for and obviously didn’t want.
Alaric realized he was slipping in his game. He shouldn’t have feelings for a bed or a ceiling after only a few weeks of staying in the same place. The trick was, he’d let himself think it was permanent and allowed himself to believe his home wasn’t going anywhere. Turned out he was half right—his home wasn’t going anywhere, but apparently, he was. Alaric reminded himself that nothing was permanent, change was the only guaranteed constant in life.
The other thing he missed were his nightly summer visits with Gem and June. Even though they pretended not to know each other at school, in the few months he’d been there, June and Gem had snuck over almost every night to watch the television in the garage. They shared snacks and laughs, secrets and intimate moments of fun. Although he’d never hung out with girls before, he’d imagined it would be boring, tedious and maybe even petty. How wrong he was, because Gem and June were electric, their curiosity was infectious, their fearlessness—almost troubling. He was, admittedly, a little bit scared of them. Especially June, whom he’d seen eat a bug, let a spider crawl down her turtleneck, poke a dead cat with a stick and turn it over so they could see the maggots, try a sip of beer from a can someone discarded on the curb, ride Freddy Bullet’s dirt bike down the dirt hill at full speed with her legs held out to the sides, hold her head under water in a bucket of freezing water, touch tongues with a teenager from the middle school who dared her to, drive her mother’s car to the other side of the street for alternate side parking. Phew! He would never challenge June to something he wasn’t readily willing to do. Because June would do it and leave him crying in the dust.
Junipera and Gemini turned ten and eleven in June. Alaric was ten in August. Midway through the year, Albert Thorn felt guilty about abandoning his grandson and came back to get him. Alaric was most excited about seeing his neighbors, Gem and June. He felt closer to them than he did his only living relative. Their reunion was spectacular. They smiled so hard their cheeks hurt, eyes dancing with the possibility of another summer spread out before them.
Life wasn’t easy, but they lived it fully and sometimes secretly. Fun was a reality they trusted much more than adults or rules or the surreal transformation that was growing up. If something appeared fun, it carried with it a truth that spoke directly to their hearts. A joke. A puddle to be splashed, a doorbell to be rung and ditched, sidewalk chalk to spell out pastel curse words, the pink heart dotting the I on the word shit, slides to slide upside down and two by two or three if they could fit, wrestling matches to reenact the ones they’d seen on TV—June could do full body slams until purple bruises appeared on her hip bones—they’d gossip and whisper stories from warm lips to ears, candy, costumes, screaming, running, laughing until tears or until June wet her pants. The magic of summer and having friends to share it with; they didn’t take it lightly and reveled in its bewitching yet innocent power.
Alaric would make videos that starred June and Gem. They didn’t reenact stories, he just documented their interactions, the two girls giggling and telling inside jokes, yelling at the television to egg on their favorite characters, fighting over seats or sticks or candy—Alaric found everything they did to be fascinating. He liked to zoom in close on both of their faces, record the flashes of expression and subtle eye movements that informed their unique communication. Once he filmed June outside dancing in the rain. He and Gem stayed in the shelter of the garage overhang while Junipera soaked her white nightgown all the way through. She threw her arms to the sides and spun in circles, tipped her head back and opened her mouth. Thunder crashed around them like the crack of a cosmic whip; purple lightning split through the dark sky making them both jump and cower. June was oblivious.
“Junipera, come back in. It’s dangerous and you’ll get sick,” Gem screamed at her sister.
Alaric panned to her face, which was twisted up in concern, then back out to June, who was laughing openly at the sky in some kind of trance-like rapture. Her feet were covered in mud up to her ankles, her nightgown soaked transparent and advertising her blue underwear. Gem could even see her navel. Greenish lightning zapped through the rapacious clouds and moments later, another clash of thunder shattered their ears. Gem and Alaric bumped shoulders as fear moved them involuntarily. The lightning lit her up in intervals like the glitz of a macabre disco. The vibration of the storm rumbled low in their bellies and when the thunder struck it shook the earth beneath them.
“June, I’m serious. Get back in here!” Gem screamed. Alaric filmed her face, concentrating on her brown eyes filled with panic. “What if she gets hit?” Gem asked him, her palms turned upward in defeat.
“Well, then she’d stop dancing for sure and you and I could go save her.”
I’m going to start this off by saying that I had to sit on this book for a while and really think about it before I wrote the review and gave it a rating. Which honestly, I think that was for the best because once I finished Touched, I was a bit thrown off and didn’t really know how I felt. If I didn’t let it simmer, I might have missed out on really feeling some of the things that I needed to feel.
Let me explain. I think the first thing that held me back was the time jumping. While I felt it was necessary, there were points that I didn’t understand why we were going there at that particular moment or why we didn’t go to a different time when I felt that was what I needed. It really comes down to preference. Again, I think it was necessary but it held me back a little bit. But after sitting on it for a while, I was able to get past that and see the real beauty of what Touched actually is.
There’s so many different subjects tackled and all wrapped into a raw and sad story that is beautifully poetic. You’ve got poverty, addiction, assault and possible mental stability (one the outside looking in). Yet you have one of the most eclectic and amazingly beautiful group of characters that could ever be imagined.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that every single person who reads this book will related to someone. Maybe it’s June. She’s unique and has some qualities about her that make some people question if there a deep rooted reason on why she has these particular qualities. I for one, absolutely love June. She’s sucks you in with her personality. She wants to live life to the fullest and is always chasing after freedom. Plus, you gotta love her free spirited mouth. That girl had me laughing so many times.
Maybe people will relate to Gem, who was destined to be the mother of the group and to naturally take care of June due to their crappy upbringing. She has a hard exterior and is a naturally care giver but deep down, she’s craving for someone to look after her. Her dedication to June is amazing and heartfelt.
And then there’s Alaric. I’ll leave him for you guys to discover completely all on your own. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Alaric is the one person that could bring June and Gem even closer, if that’s possible.
This book is emotional, raw and powerful. It isn’t pretty for a lot of it but at the end of the day, the beauty outshines the darkness.