Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
“…but for the first time in my life, the walls around my heart were cracked, just a little, and even though I had my rules, I wanted him to be the one who stuck around. I wanted him to ask for more.”
Brokenness. Each of us carries parts of ourselves that have been broken by past traumas/experiences. To protect those broken parts, we have constructed a wall. Depending on the type of breakage, that wall may be thick and high, or it might be something that can be penetrated by another person. It really depends on the experience or trauma that broke us. This is a common theme in romance. For me, it’s a theme that pushes up against my own broken pieces or soul bruises. And when this happens, magic occurs in romance. At least, that’s the situation for me.
Ilsa Madden-Mills’s newest book, I Hate You, interrogates the idea of brokenness and insecurity. The book gives us the story of Blaze and Charisma. Six months prior to the story, Blaze publically breaks up with Charisma with only the comment that she “isn’t his type.” As the new school year approaches, Charisma, still struggling with Blaze’s actions, questions her self-worth from his perspective. On seeing each other for the first time since the break-up, it’s still clear there is chemistry between them. Blaze still has eyes for Charisma, and he decides to try to build a friendship with her, but nothing more because he finds completion near her. Both of them are conflicted as their friendship progresses. Charisma is still angry with Blaze because she has no real closure to the break-up, and Blaze believes he isn’t the right person for Charisma. Unfortunately, their chemistry is undeniable. Will Charisma and Blaze find peace together at the end of this story? That IS the question.
This story, my friends, is a slow burn. It’s the perfect building of two souls’ need for each other. Blaze and Charisma are the same person just with a different but similar issue. What I loved about this story the most is these characters. In the two books prior to this one, I Bet You and I Dare You, Blaze and Charm provide some of the humor in the story. Yet, in reading I Hate You, we realize that those are simply fronts to much deeper issues. I won’t share their brokenness here because I want the reader to experience it. I don’t want to spoil the depth of their hurts, but you must know that Madden-Mills has crafted these complex, profound characters to draw your heart into their story. I will say that these two, Blaze and Charisma, hit up against my “soul bruises” so much so that I connected with them deeply. I think every chapter found me with tears in my eyes as I empathized with their struggles and hurts. In fact, the final chapter before the epilogue found me lying in bed, bawling like a baby. To me, that’s what makes Madden-Mills a fantastic writer. I’ve read her entire book list, and I continuously go back to her because she realizes people like me on the page, even if their experiences are different from my own. That’s her writing genius.
I love both Blaze and Charisma, but my heart really belongs to Blaze. Madden-Mills gives him this external bravado, but a child-like broken spirit. As such, my heart rent for him time and time again as he missed Charisma’s soul trying to touch his own. This story is definitely about miscommunication. These two think they know each other, but they don’t really know how to read each other. This is what leads to the slow burn of this story. Their story takes most of the book to tell, and it’s really the last chapter before the epilogue where it finds its falling action resolved. Your heart will wrench for these two because they can’t see their potential for most of the book. But that’s the beauty of I Hate You. I’ve read other books that create this same tension, but it stops me at some point. It takes me a bit of time to finish reading the book. However, I picked this book up at 9 p.m. at night, and I didn’t put it down until 4 a.m. when I finished it. I was drawn into Blaze and Charisma’s story because Madden-Mills gives you characters that you need to know will be alright at the end. And, boy, does she offer that here.
In looking at her books, I Hate You is now probably my favorite Madden-Mills book to date. I never begin reading a book to find the “best” one. But Blaze and Charisma captured my heart from the first to the last page. In spending a couple of days reflecting on it, I’ve come to understand why I love it so much. It’s quite simple: my internal broken parts find themselves in the pages of this book. Ilsa Madden-Mills’s careful construction of these divine characters in I Hate You will find purchase in your heart. It surely did in mine. This book is like Charisma to Blaze: “a fire in my hands.”
“She knows my heart. Her name is written there. “
In love and romance,