BOOK REVIEW ~ TOXIC BY RACHEL VAN DYKEN
February 7, 2019
Gabe Hyde is on borrowed time. He’s been hiding his identity for over four years-hidden from the world that used to adore him–obsess over him–driven to the edge of insanity by one poor choice.
But that one choice, altered the course of his life forever.
Pretending isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when pretending means hiding your real self from the people that care about you the most. But if anyone ever discovered the truth it wouldn’t just be his life at risk–but hers.
Saylor doesn’t hate men.
He’s a reckless, happy-go-lucky, silver spoon fed pain in her ass. Everything about him makes her more and more confused. Unfortunately they both donate time at the same Group Home. If she wasn’t afraid of flunking, she’d be long gone. She hates that she’s attracted to him almost as much as he hates that he’s attracted to her–and she can tell, especially since their first encounter ended up making her knees so weak she couldn’t form coherent sentences for weeks afterwards. But the closer she gets to him, the more confused she becomes. He isn’t who he says he is, and he’s hiding something big.
What happen when two worlds collide? Two worlds that never should have met in the first place? Some secrets are too big to be hidden forever–the only question? Will his destroy everyone he loves? Or finally bring about the redemption he’s been craving for the past four years?
Everyone has a secret…What’s yours?
What do those stats mean you say? Well that’s how long it’s been since I’ve found “that” book, the one that hits all my 6 stars of brilliance buttons. My Goodreads buddies know how terrible January and half of February was for me…DNF after DNF followed by 1 and 2 star reviews, but after finishing Toxic I can officially say that the book slump is gone! For me, Toxic is the embodiment of what makes up my 6 stars:unforgettable characters, unpredictable and unique storyline, exemplary writing style, offers something substantial and original to the genre, reconstructs my preconceived notions, and above all, evokes the highest level of engagement on my part. In other words, the book made me cry and not many can accomplish that.
I don’t give out 6 stars lightly so let me try to explain to you how I finally got to that rating. At first I planned on slapping a DNF (did not finish) to the book. Both Gabe and Saylor were such difficult characters to connect with on an emotional standpoint and if you check my reading progress on GR, you’ll see how frustrated I got. Another aspect that completely stunned me was how different Toxic’s Gabe is from Ruin’s Gabe, and I walked into the book only ready for Ruin’s Gabe. What happened to the confident, cocky, laidback Gabe I knew? From the very first page, I was confused and conflicted, thinking that I must’ve opened the wrong book because this just can’t be Gabe’s story. The brokenness, the laid out, raw thoughts running through his mind, and the finality in which he believed he was undeserving of redemption hit me hard. To be blunt, I wasn’t prepared.
As a reader who loathes and avoids angst as much as possible, reading this book killed me. I was miserable, having constant chest pains, and couldn’t see straight through blurry tears I didn’t realize were in my eyes. I don’t think my heart has ached so much before. At this point I already dropped the idea of DNFing because there is no denying the flawless writing style. In fact, RVD has one of the best writing styles that is close to absolute perfection. I didn’t want to feel, but her words made me. I didn’t want to cry, but it happened.
Then I got to the crux of the story and I had a complete epiphany. Before I only got pieces here and there of Gabe’s past but there was no connection on my part to link it all together. On top of which, I was still struggling to warm up to the idea of him and Saylor having a relationship; I wasn’t convinced. But wow…once I hit the centerpoint of the story, everything changed. The only way to describe it is a wake up call on my part and then the build up and culmination of events that made everything click.
It’s a chaotic, messy, and twisted mix but that’s just what Gabe’s life is. He is one of the most damaged and broken male leads I’ve read for a while now and what I love about this story is that RVD didn’t shy away from any of the hideous details. Pain, angst, desolation, desperation…every last emotion he felt, I felt.
At this point, the book made a solid 4.5 star read…meaning I was enjoying it a lot but there were minor things that derailed me from completely loving it. Then comes the part where I just lost all my marbles and shit: 79%. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling that overcame me at this point. I guess it’s like…the words themselves are so beautiful you can’t help but live, read, and breathe them but you also know how emotionally devastating they are so you want to look away too. That kind of feeling.
Anyways, I was full out sobbing at this point (and tearing up right now writing about it). And the most magical part about this all is how RVD retains the originality, realism and essence of life and love. Reading this story made me feel like I was getting schooled by a higher power. So the fact that I bawled my eyes out, combined with the other 5 qualities that would normally have made this a 5 star read, shot it to 6 stars of brilliance. But then again, how can I expect anything less from RVD? Toxic is the kind of book I can only read once. It physically and emotionally hurts me to read but the message it sends out is so very profound, life-changing, and memorable.
I rarely leave thank you shoutouts to authors at the end of my reviews but Toxic earned it. So thank you Rachel for writing what I already know will be in my top 10 reads of the year!
ARC kindly provided by author in exchange for an honest review.