Review: Toxic (#2, Ruin) by Rachel Van Dyken

My Thoughts

Heartbreaking and gripping, Gabe’s story was intensely emotional, volatile and raw and I found myself consumed by every dark minute of it. Another great addition to the Ruin series.

5stars

Synopsis

toxicGabe 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. 
Just Gabe. 
Only Gabe. 

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?

My Review

I have loved this series so much. I love the characters both as individuals and as a group. The dynamic is real and deep, each with an intriguing story to tell, pain and secrets to carry, and a love — both of a friend and of a lover — to heal the shattered parts of themselves. Gabe’s story is one defined by pain, guilt and darkness. I had no idea how profoundly he was broken, how powerfully his emotions raged within. Gabe is such a tortured character, leading a duplicitous life not only externally, but also internally. One of the aspects I was so moved by was seeing the facets of his persona externalize … jarring juxtapositions as the different sides of him personify what he’s feeling at any given time.  His pain was raw and as a reader, I felt that. I was moved by it. There’s an element of mystery as well I tried to unravel the secrets of which he held so tightly. Rachel Van Dyken does a great job of giving you small morsels of information to give us just enough to keep us riveted. This is my fourth RVD book and one irrevocable fact is that this author does a masterful job at captivating the reader, creating page turners that keep us begging for more. Toxic consumed me from beginning to end and although it can be read as a standalone, even now, I’m not ready to let this cast of characters go. But I digress… Gabe’s story. We begin in present tense and work our way back in time to understand the events that have led him to a place of utter desolation.

“… in the end … that’s all I was – broken. A shell of a human.”

Gabe’s life changed after Wes Michaels almost died. Seeing the person that became his best friend embrace life so fully and then be pushed to the brink of death showed him that he had to want more for himself. It also reminded him just how fragile life was … a fact he knew too well. Gabe is a complex individual who lives a life that’s been marred by a tragedy he’s forced to recall every day. There’s no escaping it and even years later, the wound feels fresh.  In addition to this scarring event, he must hide from his father who has used him his whole life. For money. For success. For living the life his dad feels should’ve been his. So he must wear a facade and hide his true self, physically and metaphorically… and the more he hides, the more he loses himself. With so many emotions inside, he feels like he’s constantly shattering, perhaps into too many pieces to be recognizable. Salvageable.

“I’d been living with that damn mask for so long that I’d completely lost it — all of it.”

Saylor has been focused on using her education to secure a job that will support her family. Her life hasn’t been her own in so long, dedicated to what must be done. Her love is music, but her efforts are honed in on the mechanics, but lack the passion to flourish … much like her life. When she unexpectedly bumps in to a tattooed guy that is passion personified, pouring what is clearly anger and sadness into the keys of a piano, she is entranced. But he quickly breaks the spell when he berates her and then just as suddenly crushes his lips on hers.

“Had I know that any contact from this beautiful stranger would forever change me — would mark me for the rest of my life, wreck me from the inside out, completely break me down until I was nothing but a memory of who I used to be — I would still have made the same choice.”

Gabe’s only therapy is music, but it’s been a therapy he’s denied himself for so long. He’s chosen the facade, and music is a part of the reality he’s forsaken. His emotions are constantly at war … feelings of abandonment, being left behind, worthiness and emptiness battle to the point of destruction. He’s sure he can never and will never love again. So in the past, he’s used women, but felt nothing. And even that ceased after Wes’ surgery. But when this girl bumps into him, he’s so unsettled and taken aback that he can’t help but get a taste of her and now, he can’t stop thinking of her.

“Everyone knows when it comes to love, it’s not the fall that hurts… it’s the landing.”

Fate has a knack for thrusting these two unlikely people together and the more they get to know each other, the more they realize they have more in common than they thought. Their life experiences, although drastically different, also share similar pain with a similar release through music. But it’s Gabe’s mercurial ways that leaves Saylor hurt, confused and angry. There was so much more than met the eye, of that she was certain, but every time she was with him, his words were a lance through her fragile heart.

“I needed to stay the heck away from Gabe — he’d be toxic”

As the truth becomes known, we see just how amazing Gabe is. How vulnerable he is. How much love he has to give despite the fact that he feels he doesn’t deserve it in return. My heart broke for Gabe, for everything he carried so heavily on his shoulders. I better understood his reactions and could feel how deeply he was falling for Saylor. Saylor knew that the way to understand Gabe was not through the words he was so afraid to reveal, but through notes of music, through the sound of his voice baring his soul.

“You won’t use words to explain — part of me think you never have and never have and never will. So, show me through music, show me your story, Gabe.”

This was simply a beautiful, heartfelt and wholly captivating book. It’s a story that shows you just how much our hearts can be crushed unexpectedly, how the friendships we’re blessed to have can save you in more ways than one, and how a patient and understanding love can heal even the rawest of wounds. I loved seeing so much Wes and Kiersten in this book and loved seeing how they all interacted as a group of characters … a group of friends. I look forward to reading Fearless, the continuation of Wes and Kiersten’s story out very soon!

“Just because the girl doesn’t end up with the boy in the end — doesn’t mean she ends up with nothing. Life’s a gift, I just want to share yours, no matter how small the pieces that are shared may be.”

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Reading Order and Purchase Links

Click on the below cover image to purchase from Amazon.

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