Through a classic high school love story, “All This Time” by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott explores themes of loss, trauma and transformation.
Football player Kyle and academically driven Kimberly, widely recognized as high school sweethearts, break up following their graduation. Physical injury follows emotional damage; their car crashes, and when Kyle wakes up, he is completely alone.
Debilitated by a brain and leg injury, he is left unable to play football, and without the former love of his life and best friend, Kyle must seek a new purpose in life.
A temporary answer comes in the form of Marley, a girl whose face resembles that of a stranger but whose soul seems familiar to Kyle. Marley is shrouded in mystery for the majority of the book. Her only distinctive quality is that the driving forces behind her life are, much like Kyle, issues of the past. Many of her intentions seem unknown and undefined throughout the book, which as a result was a detriment to the storyline’s development.
When Marley first approaches Kyle among graves and flowers, both are hesitant to connect over the pain of their loved ones. But, through weeks of Kyle’s recovery in and out of the hospital, they agree to talk on the condition that their relationship remains platonic.
The two characters find tentative relief in sharing their emotions, and the storyline accelerates as they bond over mutual loss.
However, difficulties arise in the healing process. Kyle is not making physical progress at the rate he hoped. Surrounded by hallucinations of voices and berated by bouts of dizziness, his condition seemingly worsens. The only reason he leaves his bed is for Marley.
While his attachment to Marley is portrayed as romantic throughout the book, more serious undertones remain apparent. Kyle’s life seems to revolve entirely around Marley as he hinders his own recovery.
In fact, Kyle’s relationship with Marley becomes unhealthy as he prioritizes her over sports, college and his connections with others. While Marley is an admirable character, she enables his behavior and hence, prevents him from fully healing.
As I became further enveloped in the novel, I longed for a reflection from Kyle where he would address his weaknesses of co-dependence – his inability to function without the constant support of those around him.
Furthermore, Kyle has perceptible anger issues and an inability to appreciate the bigger picture as well as a remarkably self-destructive perspective. For example, he consistently places blame on his former best friend for events that are out of their control, refusing to take responsibility and stopping him from moving on. Luckily, this negative outlook is shifted by Marley.
This narrative proves opposites certainly attract; no one could have predicted these two would ever talk, let alone grow close. While the characters have many diverging traits and flaws, it is interesting to analyze how some of their biggest challenges align.
For example, Kyle’s frustration prevents him from completing the cycle of grief with acceptance as he is rooted in place due to unresolved issues with himself and those around him. His unwillingness to change or acknowledge his long-standing issues is typically glossed over as he convinces himself that his problems are not a concern.
Similarly, Marley is unable to move forward. However, while Kyle refuses to see himself as anything less than the hero or character deserving sympathy, Marley cannot develop and change for a different reason. Her guilt holds her in place; she appears unable to see events from a different perspective.
The characters’ lives, flaws and obstacles are intertwined as their storylines become one, facing each life-changing event head on.
Kyle and Marley are far from perfect, but the characters’ shortcomings are a major reason why the story excels. It can be challenging to craft a protagonist who is not perceived as superior and perfect in the eyes of others. Moreover, it is vital that a book recognizes characters’ failings and this book, whether purposeful or not, demonstrates both healthy and toxic relationships.
Daughtry and Lippincott paint the ideal grey area when creating each of the characters’ moral compasses and motivations. This is not limited to the main roles, however, as each side character has their own fully developed personality.
“All This Time” is correctly aimed toward the teenage demographic, and anyone who enjoys a slightly dismal love story or a general high school fiction novel should absolutely read this book. Furthermore, the critical lessons the book highlights – relationships, independence, hope, love – render it well worth a read.