According to the PTSD Foundation of America, one in three soldiers is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Heather Demetrios shows her readers firsthand what it’s like to love someone with PTSD in her novel I’ll Meet You There. As someone who has both dated and is a sister to men in the military, I have seen how being involved with war can affect a person. The worst part about these brave men and women falling ill to PTSD, is that less than 40 percent of them will get help. Another alarming result is that on an average day, five active military members will attempt suicide. PTSD is a problem that won’t be going away anytime soon whether it’s caused from war or other traumatic events. Demetrios brings to light this disturbing illness that affects the lives of our veterans every day.
I’ll Meet You There follows the life of recent high school graduate, Skylar, who is dreaming of attending art school in San Francisco in order to escape her poverty stricken life in a small town, Creek View, in central California. We follow her life through a first person narrative which begins with a party after graduation. At this party is where she sees Josh Mitchell for the first time since he left for the Marines. He had just come back from Afghanistan, but left one of his legs there. Everyone is shocked when he makes a grand entrance displaying a prosthetic leg. Skylar remembers him for being an asshole in high school and decides she wants to keep her distance. After the party, they continue making small talk and eventually develop a friendship.
Demetrios allows for us to get inside of Josh’s mind and the horrible events he encountered in Afghanistan by giving us small chapters from his perspective that are placed throughout the entire novel. In these chapters we learn about the friends he made in Afghanistan and the friends that he lost. An example of his mood state:
“Now I look at the pills lined up on my desk and my empty room and my metal leg. The moon’s not big enough to wish on. Nothing is.”
Demetrios depicts the battle he is having with himself so emotionally it has the reader wanting to climb into the book and comfort Josh. Although we can’t do that, Skylar does it for us. He makes a close bond to the hotel owner, Marge, who lost her son to the war just years before she meets Josh. Marge plays a motherly role in Josh’s life because he reminds her of her lost son.
Not only do we see how PTSD can affect such a young person, but we also see how having addicts for parents can affect someone. Skylar loses her father to a car accident when she was young after he had been in a drunk driving accident. Her mother struggles to stay sober and support Skylar and her dreams. The novel shows how the friendships Skylar makes with Marge and Josh keep her motivated. The novel pushes us on a roller coaster of ups and downs and keeps us turning the page for more. Demetrios impeccably captures the essence of an 18 year old woman’s thoughts and actions which took me back to my own youth. Skylar struggles to find balance between her dramatic mom, her friendship and love interest with Josh, and her passion for art. This story follows her confliction about what is most important in her life. Without giving too much of the plot away, I can say that Skylar falls hard for Josh and leaves her feeling like this:
“My heart sort of lifted at the brief image that flashed in my head of Josh being lovesick over me, but then I remembered he was a bastard.”
The novel is filled with these quirky lines that make you feel smitten with their attraction as though it were your own.
Although this is an epic story about friendship and love, it is also enlightening about PTSD and alcoholism. Demetrios discusses two topics which aren’t taken seriously enough. If you don’t appreciate the novel for its enduring friendship and romance, or for the exciting teen drama, then at least appreciate that it brings light to a subject that affects so many veterans today. I’ll Meet You There will keep you going back there for more!
If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, please seek help from a doctor or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255.