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Find yourself in the pages of The Atlas of Us

An illustrated book cover with a dark sky background, abundant with stars. Two characters facing each other on either side of the cover, each leaning against a tree. A fire in the middle with the title The Atlas of Us billowing up in smoke from the fire

From NetGalley

“A complete knockout. Readers will be thinking of this story long after they finish the final page.” —Adalyn Grace, New York Times bestselling author of Belladonna
“Utterly compelling and impossible to put down.” —Rachel Griffin, New York Times bestselling author of Bring Me Your Midnight
“I’ve never read a book that felt so much like picking up pieces of a broken heart—powerful, poignant, and true.” —Axie Oh, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea and XOXO
Atlas has lost her way.
In a last-ditch effort to pull her life together, she’s working on a community service program rehabbing trails in the Western Sierras. The only plus is that the days are so exhausting that Atlas might just be tired enough to forget that this was one of her dad’s favorite places in the world. Before cancer stole him from her life, that is.
Using real names is forbidden on the trail. So Atlas becomes Maps, and with her team—Books, Sugar, Junior, and King—she heads into the wilderness. As she sheds the lies she’s built up as walls to protect herself, she realizes that four strangers might know her better than anyone has before. And with the end of the trail racing to meet them, Maps is left counting down the days until she returns to her old life—without her new family, and without King, who’s become more than just a friend.

I have never been quiet about my love for Kristin Dwyer, as an author, a cheerleader, a friend, or a hair model. Which is why I was so excited when her publisher approved my request to read an Advanced Reader Copy of The Atlas of Us. But I will try for the sake of us all to remain impartial and unbiased (heh)...

In a beautifully vulnerable and raw follow-up to her debut, Some Mistakes Were Made, Dwyer takes her characters and readers on a journey of grief, growth, and every kind of love there is. Dwyer’s incredible ability to create flawed, relatable, characters is front and center in The Atlas of Us.

We start with Atlas, who doesn't want to be where she is but is left with no other alternative. This is her last shot. That's what a lot of the other young people with her at Bear Creek are there for, it would seem. Another chance--to make up for something. She's dealing with, or not really dealing with, an unimaginable loss and losing herself in the process.

Even lost and unmoored, I found Atlas's character compelling and real. It's not every day that a narrator admits to being a liar in the first chapter of a book. And while that should've translated into making her an unreliable narrator, it only made me like her more.

She and the rest of her band of misfits, all with their own reasons for spending weeks moving fallen trees and marking burnt sections of the California mountains, repairing trails together. And they're miserable for almost the entire time as one would expect. Because, in reality, they're doing hard things, but that's what's so great about this book. No matter how lame it sounds to type; it's the hardest task that help heal us sometimes.

The way Dwyer has weaved this through, not only the plot but Atlas's arc, is so powerful. Every external stepping stone she overcomes is paired with an emotional hurdle. Whether it's about being honest with herself, seeing the truth in one of her trail-mates, or reconciling with her grief, we the readers bear witness as she navigates her pain.

It's been established that Dwyer has a keen sense of romance, and she's utilized this skill like a weapon in her writing. Some Mistakes Were Made felt like a gaping wound getting poked repeatedly until, after MUCH SCREAMING, it was eventually stitched back together. The Atlas of Us feels like watching someone put used gauze over a bullet hole and expecting it to heal on its own. Lies are the gauze in this book and all they do is delay the inevitable. Eventually, Atlas, King, Books, Junior, and Sugar, all had to admit that in some way or another, they were hemorrhaging.

But if lies are the gauze, love is the medicine. And that's why this book is so beautiful. The pain that we watch Atlas and her gang process and work through, feels so much more triumphant because of the love that blossoms. Friendship, romance, and self-love. We wouldn't believe the payoff at the end of this novel without reading how hard the characters worked to get there.

We still get the swoony, anxious, soul-aching, romance Dwyer is known for. However, there's no denying that the soul of her second book has a different resonance, a different level of brokenheartedness. This is the kind of book that becomes a cult classic. The Atlas of Us will speak to its readers in ways that will stay with them years after they've closed the book.

That's all I can say honestly without waxing poetic about how much I love and admire Kristin Dwyer (the rhyme was an accident).

I'm telling you to read this book!

I recommend The Atlas of Us to anyone who's ever had to heal from a loss, who loves a good and achy romance, or anyone who just loves a great contemporary read. I recommend it to your mom, your cousin, your hairdresser's niece. EVERYONE.

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