As it has been almost six months since I read Normal, I did two things before I began Okay: (1) I put my box of tissues right next to me, and (2) I reread the final chapter of Normal to reorient myself to the story. Thankfully for my sinuses, I only needed one tissue and my decision to reread the final chapter was invaluable because it not only put me back in Rory’s mindset and the helplessness/hopelessness of her situation, but Okay picks up right where Normal ended – it opens with the note Rory left to break things off with Sam.
Now don’t assume that because I used far fewer tissues while reading Okay that it was not an emotional of a journey. It was. But because we’re already aware of what Rory suffered and this book focuses on how Rory and Sam move on after the events in Miami, the emotions are more of a positive nature than the devastating ripping-your-heart out ones I experienced as we learned of Rory’s past during Normal. But it’s not all sunshine and roses either because in their course to protect one another, Rory and Sam nearly destroy their relationship and it’s not an easy thing to watch.
Still harboring the guilt over Cam’s death and the misconception that she’s to blame for her abuse at Robin’s hands, Rory tells Sam she cannot handle a relationship with him after all. By trying to protect Sam from Robin and the chaos that is her life, she pushes him away because she decides it’s better to have him alive as her friend than dead as her boyfriend. This is the level of fear that Robin and his threats continue to instill in her. And because Sam loves her so much, he attempts to return to being just friends and it’s not an easy thing for him to do (or me to watch as his heart breaks). But because Sam is a natural-born protector, he continues to do what he can to watch out for her. Even knowing just how much Sam loves Rory, I was still stunned by the lengths to which he was willing to go to protect her. I never expected him to call the person he hated the most in order to insure that Robin got what he deserved. But even that didn’t compare to the gut-punch Sam got when he followed that person after their first meeting. Poor Sam had his world turned upside down so many times in this book it’s a wonder the man stayed sane.
As I said earlier, Okay was just as emotional of a read as Normal, but thankfully it didn’t hurt my heart as deeply. Because this installment is told from both Rory and Sam’s points of view, the heartache they both experience in their attempts to protect one another is front and center. It is painful to see, yet inspiring to watch two people who are young in years (but sadly not in life experiences) willing to sacrifice their personal happiness to insure the safety of the person they love. There were a couple of times when Sam’s reactions to Rory’s actions seemed out of character, but when I sat back and thought about it they were actually perfect reactions for a man his age – especially a man who had never been in an actual relationship. It was a reminder that Sam wasn’t perfect. What Sam was though, was perfect for Rory. We also got to see Rory begin to heal more emotionally. THE phone call and THE box are what made me cry and I was so happy for Rory that she received them. That she was able to reconnect with some people from her hometown and learn that they never stopped believing her, supporting her, or loving her was vital to her and shored up her defenses in ways she never expected. Even though I may have hurt for both Rory and Sam as they found their way to their “okay,” I am so glad that I got to take this journey with them because despite the pain, the sadness, and the heartbreak, there was far more happiness, healing, and laughter. Rory and Sam are a couple that I have enjoyed spending time with, even if theirs wasn’t the happiest of stories to read. I do hope to go back and read ReCap as this is one of those times that I would really like to see how the story played out from the other person’s perspective – Sam’s. As I understand it, Ms. Pearl plans to continue the series, so I look forward to catching up with Sam and Rory again even if they aren’t the focus of the next book. — 5 stars