Title: Better Together
Author: BL Maxwell
FREE with KindleUnlimited
Since being thrown out of his home by his parents, Caden has been struggling to survive on the streets.
He lives in constant fear, stresses over his next meal, and dreads trying to find a safe place to sleep at night. He eventually finds an unlocked car and settles in to sleep, but is soon interrupted when someone steals the car. With little choice but to ride along, Caden soon learns that first impressions aren’t always correct.
Seventeen-year-old Damario has been raising his little brother and sister by himself since his parents were deported. He never knew how hard it was going to be paying the bills and making sure there was always food on the table. Or how hard it would be to hold his family together when they all depended on him to do it. He finds himself stealing cars to make ends meet, but he never expected to find someone sleeping in the back of one of them. And he really didn’t expect this stowaway to change his life.
When Damario brings Caden home, it was supposed to be just for a shower and a hot meal, but he can hardly kick him out onto the streets again. There is no way he could have seen that by saving Caden that night, he was also saving himself. When Damario’s world starts to fall apart, they both realize that the answer to all of their problems is helping each other, and although the world tries to drive them apart, they really are better together.
He handed over his stack of coupons, and the cashier started entering them all. By the time they were done, we only owed fifty-seven dollars. I looked at Caden in shock. He looked at me with the same expression, and then he started smiling and that smile turned into a laugh.
“Good job! You saved around seventy percent today,” the checker congratulated him. He’d done it. He’d figured out how to save us a ton of money on food. And this was just his first time. Hopefully, we could both start working on it, and we would get even better at it.
We were returning home with more bags of groceries than we’d had since my parents had left. I reached over to Caden’s leg and squeezed it.
“You did so good. I’m really proud of you.” He got the strangest look on his face. I realized that he looked like he might cry. He was hurting. I turned into a parking lot. Once I was parked, I faced him. “Hey, are you all right?” He turned to me again, and after unbuckling his seatbelt, he launched himself into my arms. “Hey, hey, it’s okay. I don’t understand. Caden, what’s going?” I could feel him shaking in my arms, trying to get control of his emotions, but I still didn’t understand why he was so upset.
Finally, while his face was tucked into my neck, he started to explain. “I tried my whole life to make my dad and mom proud of me. Nothing was ever enough. If I got a B on a report that I worked really hard on, they’d say I could have gotten an A. When I made the baseball team my freshman year, I played outfield. They said I should have gotten on the infield instead. Literally nothing I did was good enough. No one I cared about, besides my sister, has ever shown me that I was enough, that I was good enough. That they were proud of me. No one until you.”
Better Together is a story about two sweet, considerate, and intelligent—but very lost—seventeen-year-old boys who were left on their own but for very different reasons.
As far as Caden’s situation goes, I will never understand how a parent can toss their child away in any circumstance. Whatever happened to unconditional love? Nowadays, it’s becoming all too often that we hear about teenagers kicked out of their homes after coming out to their families. Home—home is supposed to be every child’s safe haven—the one place where all the garbage from the outside world never gets to enter. I’m reeling from the actions of Caden’s folks, but shocked by the lack of reaction from his mom. Well then, off to the streets he goes.
Damario is also on his own, but not by choice. As you can read in the blurb, sadly, his parents were deported. Now he’s the sole caretaker of his younger brother and sister, trying his hardest to juggle adult responsibilities in order to survive.
Caden and Damario together create a story of perseverance, kindness, and doing the right(ish) thing. I stress that because of how Damario actually found Caden. Let’s just say, in this case, desperate times call for desperate measures. Even with it all, Damario takes Caden home with him and trusts him with his own siblings.
The relationship the two of them build together as they join forces to financially support their family of four turns into so much more. This is where the beauty of the story begins. Together they make sure the children are their main priority—homework completed, lunches made everyday, and someone always available for the trips back and forth to school—and it’s all done with the love and support that each of their own parents couldn’t provide. The list of chores and responsibilities goes on and on, and honestly, I can’t imagine any teenager having to take that on for countless months. Side note: Caden’s mad coupon skills were truly impressive!
And … in the craziness of their day-to-day life, somewhere along the way these two beautiful, selfless souls fell in love. Don’t expect hot, steamy sexy scenes: First of all, remember, they are young and completely inexperienced so they’re stumbling along just like most of us did at that age; and secondly, they’re exhausted! Parenting, working overtime, household chores, school for Damario and GED studying for Caden are quite overwhelming … you get the picture.
Despite all the struggles and sometimes poor decision-making, in the end, their drive and determination along with the love and support of one another, Caden and Damario have made it—and with flying rainbow colors because they really are better together … I loved the epilogue—Their happily ever after was so well-deserved and perfectly written! Squeeeeeee!
A heartfelt storyline, plenty of attention to detail, and characters who anyone would fall head over heels in love with all helped to make this a four-and-a-half star read for me!
Reviewed by Lisa Cullinan ~ Bourbon, Bikes, and Books
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