Review: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry (Thunder Road #1)

I cup her face with one hand and caress her soft skin. "I like how you smile and how you laugh. I like how you love and defend your family and I like how you're trying to love mine. I love how you trust. But mostly, Emily, I like how I feel when I'm around you."

Shit. My heart bursts as the words tumble out. "I'm falling for you."

Prior to starting the Thunder Road series, a novella entitled Red at Night was the one and only work by Katie McGarry that I read, although I finally smartened up and bought her Pushing the Limits series (the UK editions, which turned out to be cheaper than the US ones) on Kobo a couple of months ago. The Harlequin: More Than Words e-novella merely gave me an inkling of how adept the author is when it comes to storytelling and character development, because by the time I finished Nowhere But Here, the first novel in her Thunder Road young adult (YA) series, I found myself in awe at how, with the tale of a girl finding herself curious about the biological father she didn't grow up and whom she believed abandoned her and her mother, she was able to draw out a varied collection of thoughts and feelings from me, and I'm confident that this sort of result wasn't merely limited to me or a limited number of readers. 

This may be a YA novel, but in no way, shape, or form is it limited to just that reading audience because I do believe that it resonates with an older and more mature reading audience as well. I'm 42 and I felt for both Emily Jennings and Jonathan, who goes by the road name Oz and whose last name I don't recall being mentioned in the book, empathizing and sympathizing with the trials they were facing as well as being familiar with how they were acting and reacting to things thrown their way because I was a teenager once myself. There were moments that I admired their tenacity and desire to stand by their convictions, but there were also times that I grew frustrated with their bullheadedness. But then I had to remind myself that these were two teenagers--Emily was seventeen and Oz a year older than her--who still had quite a lot of growing up to do, especially with them having life experiences limited to overly familiar surroundings.

Emily has known one set of truths all her life and these were truths her mother reinforced time and again. While she may wonder about her father, Eli McKinley, she holds a great deal of resentment toward him, believing that he wanted nothing to do with her, his signing over his parental rights and not making a move to see her until she was ten as proof that her judgment of him is irrefutable. But then she travels to Snowflake, Kentucky--the hometown of both her mother and biological father--and as determined as she is to hold on to everything she has known as gospel truth, she begins to unravel secrets that have been kept from her and the reasons for the lies and deception could cost her the family she loves in Florida, the family she's just starting to truly call her own in Kentucky, and the boy, who is to be a future member of the Reign of Terror MC, that she never expected would change her life and whose love she reciprocated. 

I've read more than my fair share of motorcycle club romances and this isn't the first one with teen main characters either, but this series starter is in a class of its own. Yes, the blossoming love story between Emily and Oz is sweet and swoon-worthy, but it's the story about Emily trying to reconcile what she's always known with what she's now learning about her personal and family history that makes it such an emotional read. Emily loves her Dad, even if he isn't her biological father, but she keeps her paternal relatives at a distance, even if they do share blood. She knows that family isn't always about the DNA you share but it's also about the connection you form and keep. There's a scene in the book that had me shedding quite a few tears because the idea that just when she was finally creating a bond, it would soon be taken away by circumstances beyond anyone's control got to me, pulling at my heartstrings relentlessly.

There's a twist in the story, one that I honestly didn't see coming, and it becomes such a pivotal part of Emily's growing up process, helping to open her eyes at what she's always had and could have easily lost and robbed her of the opportunity to appreciate and embrace it. I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories that have that perfect storm of romance, angst, levity, and family with the additional bonus of a dash of suspense thrown in and this wonderful book had it in spades. Not only did I fall in love with Emily and Oz, but I also adored the Reign of Terror MC, which was a family that had members that were already born into the life and others who chose to be part of it. The McKinleys--Eli and his parents, Olivia and Cyrus--the Terror family, and the new generation--Emily, Oz, Razor, Chevy, and, even Violet and Stone--make up the cast in a series that I'm now heavily invested in. Nowhere to Run is a five-plus-starred 2016 top read. ♥

Date Read: 31 March 2016

Learn more about Katie McGarry.

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