Review + Excerpt: Black Box by Cassia Leo

My Thoughts

One of the most emotionally raw and vulnerable stories I’ve ever read. A story of two broken people caught in the clutches of fate, thrust upon each other by circumstance and saved by a love with the power to heal the blackest recesses of our hearts.

5stars

Synopsis

black box coverA stand-alone novel about a girl, a boy, and fate.

♥️ Three fateful encounters….
♥️ Two heart-breaking tragedies….
♥️ One last chance to get it right.

From New York Times best selling author Cassia Leo, comes an epic love story about rewriting destiny.

Over the course of five years, Mikki and Crush cross paths on two separate occasions. Their first encounter changes Mikki’s life forever, but their second meeting leaves them both buried beneath the emotional wreckage of a violent attack. Mikki is left with more questions and grief than she can handle, while Crush is forced to forget the girl who saved his life.

Now nineteen years old, Mikki Gladstone has decided she’s tired of the mind-numbing meds. She books a flight to Los Angeles to end her life far away from her loving, though often distant, family.

Twenty-one-year-old Crush has always channeled his blackest thoughts into his music, but he’s never had great aspirations. He decides to fly to Los Angeles to record a demo of the only song he’s never performed in public; a song he wrote for a girl he doesn’t even know: Black Box. He has no expectations of fame and he’s never felt like his life had any purpose… until he meets Mikki in Terminal B.

When Mikki and Crush cross paths for the third time in Terminal B, neither has any idea who the other person is; until they slowly piece together their history and realize that fate has more in store for them than just another love story.

My Review

“This black box is yours to keep, to stash your troubles away. Just lock it up and call my name, and I’ll be there… always.”

Emotional. Intense. Raw. Honest. This is such a powerful book … the story line is volatile, yet is personified by such a palpable fragility. Woven together by fate with threads of pain and fear, shame and heartache, love and hope. For the intensity of the subject matter, I thought the story unraveled in an almost a quiet way … brutally honest and piercing, as we came to know more about Crush and Mikki. Who they are, who they were and how they share the most harrowing of experiences that have irrevocably shaped – and scarred – their lives. These are two tortured souls bound by fate (or luck?) and connected by circumstance. Two people that perhaps were never destined to meet, but somehow were able to save each other, time and time again, cheating death and finding a reason to live.

“Fate is for fairy tales. Luck is what happens when you’re in the right place at the right time… with the right person.”

Mikki is prepared to die. Determined to die. With the rest of her life hovering on a pin point, she’s ready to fall into the darkness and escape the painful reality that is her life. The end is just a plane flight away … an elaborate plan set into motion that would take her away from the shame and the hurt and the turmoil that relentlessly raged within. She’s been emotionally crippled by an experience that left her dead inside and almost dead physically as well. To say she was shattered is an understatement. Over the years, she fell deeper into depression, withdrew from life and wished for death to fade it all to black. So when she arrives at the airport and a storm delays her flight, she begins to panic.

But when a handsome guy meets her eye and engages her in conversation, she’s suddenly unsettled. There’s a familiarity about him. Without money and without the ability to go home, she takes this stranger – Crush – up on his offer to have coffee. Before too long, they plunge into a storm of their own making, as memories begin to take shape in an uproar, making old wounds fester and fears consume. But as Mikki begins to spiral uncontrollably, Crush’s straightforward, pragmatic and caring demeanor begins to quell the maelstrom of her emotions.

“What are you, some fucking superhero for freaks?”

Crush has fared through his own share of anguish. The tragic loss of someone he cared very much about also pushed him to a precipice, but it was that fateful night that would once again change everything in his life. Since then, he’s been a bit lost, working to get out from underneath his parent’s control, “screaming into the void,” in hopes of finding something to fill the own hole inside of himself. When he meets Mikki at the airport, and then takes her to the cafe, he too is drawn to her. She’s familiar in a way he can’t place, but he immediately feels protective of her. He is so in tune with this girl, so observant from the beginning and I just loved that about him. It’s really interesting to see their exchanges, as they get to know each other externally, they are superficial as you would expect, but underneath the words expressed, deeper thoughts flit back and forth as if their souls recognized each other.

“I feel like I’ve known you all my life … I don’t want that feeling to go away. I want to know you all my life.”

Their story is heart wrenching. Mikki is coiled so tightly, restrained by a paralyzing fear, and Crush slowly reaches her, unravels her, heals her. She’s taken aback by his kindness and his honesty and together it’s as if the cogs fit perfectly into a groove. Together is how they should be. They are so very raw and vulnerable that the emotions they feel surge and intensify every second they spend at each other’s side. But Crush must change everything for Mikki if there is to be a happy ending.

“I hate that your smile makes me want to cry and I don’t know why. I hate that you know how to look so together on the outside when you’re screaming inside. I hate that you always know the right thing to say. I hate the way that I already know what you’re thinking just by the way you’re looking at me… I hate that you saved me. But most of all, I hate that you love me because now I love you and I don’t know how to make it stop.”

One of the aspects I so loved about this story was that sense of fragility … that vulnerability that you feel so strongly throughout. It’s so honest and the pain feels so real that you can’t help but hurt for these two people. Cassia Leo has always done a masterful job of making her character’s pain feel like your pain and in caring so much for Crush and Mikki I was entirely consumed by their story, desperately hoping for a happy ending. There’s a couple of other interesting things I pondered while reading this story. The concept of fate is of course explored and in this case, fate has been both a friend and a demon. Fate has thrust them together at the times they needed each other the most, but fate was also the catalyst for the horrors that permanently marred them.

“… the world can go black in a split second.”

Secondly, the book is entitled Black Box and as you experience the book you’ll realize there is so much more to these two words. The blackness inside of us. The place where we hide our deepest fears and most profound pain. And the carrier of all that hurt that we are meant to share with others so that we can persist and survive despite of it.

This is a powerful story of survival and love. It’s difficult to encapsulate it more succinctly or expound on it any further. Beautifully written by Cassia Leo, this is a story I won’t forget. This author seems to pour her heart and soul into each of her books and I truly feel that each time. I hope that you are as affected by this story as I was, as you immerse yourself in the blackness of how the story began and revel in the bright light of the hope they fatefully found in each other’s arms.

“Fate. I used to think fate was for religious nuts and people who were too afraid to take their fate into their own hands. Now I know the truth. Fate is death. No one escapes it. But if you stick around long enough, you might find someone to help cheat fate for a while. And when you can’t cheat anymore, and fate finally catches up to you, maybe it won’t seem so scary with that someone by your side.”

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Excerpt – Chapter 6 (Mikki)

The club is tiny and very dark, but it’s warm; and not just because the heat is working. Something about this place feels … safe.

We sit down on some stools at the bar, which runs almost the entire length of the narrow room. I take off my coat and lay it across the stool next to me and Crush does the same.

“When Jimmy gets here, he’ll make you the best damn martini you’ve ever had.”

“This place has the best music and the best martinis? Sounds like heaven.”

“It is,” he replies proudly.

We sit in silence for a moment; just long enough for the dark anxiety to start building inside me again. I begin thinking of how I almost freaked out in the alley a few minutes ago and wondering when my craziness is going to be too much for him to handle.

The alley.

Don’t think about it, the voice inside my head shouts. But, on any given day, my thoughts vary between a leaky faucet and a fire-hose of negativity, drowning me or just annoying the hell out of me until I’m forced to do something to make them stop.

“What are you thinking?” Crush asks, and suddenly I notice that he’s holding a crushed penny in his hand; actually, he’s rubbing the penny between his thumb and forefinger.

“Do you think saving someone’s life cancels out taking another person’s life?”

He looks horrified by this question. “What? What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I said. If you kill someone, can you erase that sin by saving someone else’s life?”

He drops the penny onto the bar. “Why would you ask me that?” I wait for him to pick up the penny before I reply.

“Look, it’s just a question. No need to freak out. I didn’t kill anyone.”

“That’s not what I was implying.” He shakes his head. “Just excuse the minor spaz-out. The answer to your question is no. I don’t think saving someone’s life cancels out killing someone else.”

He casts his eyes downward after he says this; a sure sign that he’s lying or he’s hiding something. “Have you ever killed anyone?”

About Cassia

cassia-leo-croppedNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo grew up in California and has lived in three different countries. She loves to travel and her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills. She is the author of the Shattered Hearts series (Relentless, Pieces of You, Bring Me Home) and the Luke and Chase series.

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