May 12, 2012

Review: While He Was Away by Karen Schreck

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck
ARC paperback | 249 pages
Expected publication: May 1st, 2012 by
Sourcebooks Fire
"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."
He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.
All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.
When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.
She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?
My thoughts:
I love a good contemporary and this book was no different.
When we first enter the book Penelope--Penna for short--is riding around Killdeer with her boyfriend David the night before he leaves for Iraq the next day.
Right away you get a feel for their love and how much they actually care about each other and just how difficult his departure will be--for both of them. Before he leaves, Penna insists on getting matching tattoos on their right ring finger, a simple braid. To signify their lives being forever intertwined.
With David being gone (for at least a year) and still a few months ahead before school resumes, Penna is left with nothing but plenty of time to wallow, worry and just be a girlfriend of a soldier. Until her mother, Linda, decides that she won't sit and watch her daughter's state of depression; she tells her she's coming to work at the restaurant, Red Earth to save money for college and keep her mind busy.
Penna's first day is horrible and she can barely keep up. But as time passes (weeks) she begins to get the hang of it. Along the way she becomes friends with Caitlyn and her friend Jules and with the help of David's mother, Penna begins to talk to Ravi--one of David's old best friends. It seems like this may be enough. With the little contact she has with David she pushes through.
But she just can't seem to stay busy enough. So she decides to find her grandmother who Linda has kept hush-hush about for too long.
Though this book is short, at times it did drag a tiny bit, I felt like she was forgetting David and that she may be lost in what she wants. But then she'd mentioned how much she loves him, misses him, etc. and how much seeing his parents affected her and then I'd remember she wasn't actually forgetting, she was just trying hard not to remember.
Though the beginning did seem a bit dramatic, I understood her pain. Someone you love desperately, really love for the first time isn't just leaving, they're going into a war. She remained strong most of the time, keeping herself very busy (and honestly I don't think she or her mother, Linda slept enough, I was quite concerned about this, lol). Her relationships with her mother and Ravi were inspiring in a way that made me want to hug my mom and go find someone who just needed a shoulder or a friend. I wanted to be there for Penna but above all, I wanted to be there for David.

I was not surprised by the very open-ended ending, but it left enough for the imagination. There was just enough to let you know that Penna was okay, but not enough to tell you if she was really okay. (ya know what I mean?) I seriously wish there was a sequel to this book. Set in the future, at least 2 years. I would love whatever to happen. I just want more! I'll definitely be reading more from Schreck.
And if you want, you can preorder and read the 1st chapter of While He Was Away HERE!

4½/5 stars!


  1. It sounds pretty good. It looks a bit different from other contemporaty books, a bit deeper. I think I will read it as soon as possible. :)

  2. Now I've really got to read their story! Awesome review and thanks for the tip on the first chapter... off to read it now:)

    1. Apparently there'll be a sequel. Cannot wait for that one!!

  3. I am really interested in reading this one now.

    Thanks for sharing your review!

  4. Glad to hear what you think of this one! I've been in the mood for a good contemporary book, so this one might be next on my list to read :-)

  5. I'm really excited to read this and after your review, i'm even more excited to read this!!

    1. Yay! Glad I could get others to read it. It's very short & quick. Perfect beach or weekend read!

  6. Thanks for your honest review. It sounds like a good book.

  7. I appreciate your thoughts so much, Shanise! Thank you . . . and yes, more David and Penna on the horizon!


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