From Catch and Release:
Never scratch a zit, kids; it only makes it worse. Boy howdy. No fucking kidding.
Oh, I'm way lucky. I didn't have an embarrassing acne flare-up. Nope, lucky me, I got flesh-eating bacteria—MSRA, the next-gen superbug. It ate my eye and part of my cheekbone. It left behind a mess of bumpy pink scars that twists the corner of my mouth up on one side like I'm a half-finished Joker. But I'm lucky, so I live.
When Polly was in the hospital, she didn't hang out with anyone—not her boyfriend, who dumped her via letter, and not any of her friends, none of whom visited—but the only other person to contract the bacteria and live. Like Polly, Odd Estes didn't escape unscathed: the bacteria took a good part of his left leg. They never talk about any of it, though. They talk about fishing.
A few months after they're released—months that she's spent camped out in front of the television, alternately watching ladies' daytime programming and monster movies—Odd shows up at her house and asks her if she wants to go fishing. She packs stuff for a day trip, and off they go.
But instead of turning around at the end of the day, they just keeping driving.
Reading Polly's running commentary will hurt anyone with a modicum of empathy—she hates her new face just as much as she hates strangers for reacting to it—and to make it hurt even more, her voice is immediately believable, and rings clear and true. There's no disconnect: in reading Catch & Release, you're reading Polly's words, not Blythe Woolston's. At least, that's how it feels.
As easy as it is to understand her prickliness, it's also easy to feel for Odd—who, to be fair, can be massively, amazingly obnoxious—who is often on the receiving end of her biting sarcasm. Because of her "disinclination to enter fully into a meaningful exchange"* she doesn't know why Odd's on this trip, and because she's so wrapped up in her own pain and anger, she doesn't much care, either. And, to be honest, I was so wrapped up in her voice that I didn't really think about his motivations and mindset until I was a good two-thirds of the way through the book.
So, on one hand, reading this book was a little like repeatedly punching myself in the face for two hours. I found it that painful. Polly is angry and hurting and angry some more and hurting some more. But, on the other hand, the last few pages—in which you finally get to hear what Odd thinks—made all of that pain worthwhile, and then going back and reading the first few pages and seeing all of the little details that show how much the roadtrip has changed her... well. Lovely, that.
*Name that show! Bonus points if you know which character said it!
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.