Review: ARE YOU MINE? by N.K. Smith


Human connection? Who needs it?

Ever since she can remember, wealthy but weary Saige Armstrong has felt different from her peers in Pechimu, New Jersey. With only one good friend to her name, she has navigated the complicated halls of high school and is now faced with the timeless question: Now what?

Fox Harrington, a fun-loving, socially charismatic graffiti artist uses his passions to color his world exactly how he wants it. He knows exactly where his life is headed. That is, until he meets Saige.

A summer project links the two together, making a tentative friendship bloom into romance, but despite their affection for each other, fundamental beliefs and ways of thinking threaten to destroy all they have built.

In this tender story of young love, N.K. Smith delivers a striking tale of two people standing on the precipice of adult life.

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My review:

When Saige and Fox meet at a graduation party, they certainly don't seem like a likely couple. They're leaving high school behind, but the labels they acquired from their peers still linger. Fox was a popular guy, despite being held back in school, and Saige was the unfriendly loner, the stuck-up rich girl. But those labels rarely encompass the complex people beneath them.

When Fox first approaches Saige, she's hostile and rude to him, but Fox doesn't get upset. He's actually intrigued by her. As fate would have it, they're about to spend a lot more time together. Saige's best friend Myka has an idea. She wants to write a steampunk graphic novel, and she needs the help of Fox and Saige. She wants Fox to do the art, while Saige will write the text. As they work on the project, Saige and Fox begin to peel back the labels applied to them during high school and discover the real people beneath.

Fox is a gifted artist. Aside from his drawing and painting, he has another artform-- one that's somewhat unconventional. He calls it "beautifying the urban landscape." Saige calls it graffiti, but she has to admit, it's beautiful, and each piece contains an image of a fox-- his signature. He's been working on a graphic novel of his own, but he has a secret:

I take a breath, then put the black pen to the paper and scratch out There was a tree and underneth sat a gril. 
Damn. I erase the sentence and try again.
A gril sat under the aoktree.
Damn. I erase again, then grab a blank sheet of drawing paper and finally just sketch the girl sitting under an oak tree.
Nothing’s changed. No magical cure for the way my mind works. My dyslexia still screws up my attempts at writing down my thoughts and ideas.

Fox's dyslexia and difficulty reading was the reason he performed so poorly in school. If he ever wants to write his book, he'll need the help of someone who has a way with words. 

Saige has struggles of her own. She was raised by her grandmother after losing both of her parents, two tragedies which left terrible scars on her heart. She reacted by withdrawing, protecting herself with a stand-offish demeanor.

I remember sitting in the library with my earbuds in, but not listening to any music. Sometimes I use the earbuds as a shield. If people think you’re busy listening to something, they won’t bother you.

Saige deals with her social anxieties by drinking and smoking pot. She has little direction for her life. Her parents left her a large inheritance, so she has no financial pressures. She has a vague ambition to become a writer, and considers going to college for it, but hasn't made any concrete steps toward that end. Myka is trying to push Saige to enroll, but Saige seems content to float along wherever life takes her.

“You never commit.”
“I like keeping my options open.” I glance at the open laptop, at the list of majors offered by New York University.
“But at some point, you’ll have to make a decision.”
“I’m deciding to not decide at this time.”

As unlikely as it seems that these two very different people would get together, the growth of a relationship between Saige and Fox seems natural. Fox and his goofy little jokes melt some of the ice around Saige's heart. A friendship develops as they begin to work on the project, and from there, into a tentative romance. 

Fox has doubts of his own, despite his outward appearance of confidence:
But Saige isn’t the kind of girl I can just go straight in for a kiss with. I mean, she’s probably the kind of girl who would smack me if I tried and she wasn’t ready for it. I’m at a loss on how to do it, since I can’t imagine having a long drawn out conversation with her about if she wants to be anything more than the author of my graphic novel. Hey, Saige, so I was thinking about kissing you. How do you feel about that? 
She already thinks I’m stupid. Well, at least she used to think that. I’m sure while she thinks I have a low intellect, stupid isn’t a word she’d pin on me.   And now that she knows about the dyslexia, I hope she understands that what goes on in my head isn’t exactly what the world sees or what gets translated into grades.

Fox is a sweet guy, responsible and hard-working, a romantic at heart. He's a gentleman who refuses to take advantage of Saige when she's intoxicated. He gently coaxes Saige toward sobriety:

“Nope to dope, Saigey. Try this party sober.”
She looks a little pissed that I’ve taken her pot away, but I intentionally don’t acknowledge it.
“Why?” Saige asks.
“Because you’re so fun and nice when you’re sober.” 

But Saige struggles with these new feelings and the vulnerability they create. She has to find the courage to open herself up to love, and the possibility of hurt and loss. I think it's a struggle a lot of women with bruised hearts will identify with. Saige is right on the verge of a time in her life rife with possibilities-- if only she has the courage to try them. And Fox Harrington is the kind of man who would encourage that growth, which is what makes him such a delicious character.

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Check out Are You Mine? on Goodreads and Amazon.

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Author Bio:

Based in the American Midwest, N.K. Smith is a Technical Writer for a Fortune 100 company. The author of the Old Wounds Series, Ghosts of Our Pasts, and My Only, she is a mother of two who finds the time to write very early in the morning when the rest of the world is still fast asleep.

An avid lover of history, art, music, books, and people, she is interested in telling stories that speak to the human condition.

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