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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Always Here is a young adult/new adult coming of age novel written by S.L. Mauldin. They were best friends, and always had been, ever since Miranda and Christian first met in grade school. The two had always sworn that they’d eternally be together and that nothing could part them, not even death, and they wore a shared friendship locket. Miranda sometimes wondered why her best friend had never become more than that, but then she’d ruefully laugh to herself and consider that Christian’s fire engine red muscle car would always be his main romantic interest. Christian was not without his quirks, particularly his obsessive care of his hot rod and his perfectly coiffed and groomed hair. Still, when waiting for him to come pick her up, she’d listen by the window for the rumbling engine sounds that would precede his arrival minutes later. Miranda had her own private obsession and dream -- she wanted to sing and perform in musical theater, but so far, her only audience would be her collection of stuffed animals that still adorned her room. Christian had better things in mind for her, however; he was determined that she try out for the school’s musical. Miranda knew she’d have no chance with Pam going for the lead. Pam was rich, blonde, had the best things and a football champ boyfriend to boot. And she could sing.
S.L. Mauldin’s coming of age novel for young and new adults, Always Here, is a beautifully written and compelling story about love, friendship and expectations. Miranda and Christian’s friendship is one of the most moving and profound relationships I’ve encountered in a fictional work, but theirs is not the only relationship worth exploring in this perceptive and intelligent work on growing up. There are family issues, from the marvelous pranks played by Miranda, her brother, Greer, and grandmother, Nana, to the darker and deadly abuse issues faced by Trent and Pam. Trent, especially, is both victim and abuser, perpetuating the tragic chain of abuse in his treatment of his girlfriend. I had already read the author’s previous work, Life Sliding, and wondered how Mauldin could top that stunning coming of age tale, but Always Here ranks right up there with Life Sliding. They both have important stories to tell, and the plots and characters will stay with readers long after they’ve turned the last page. Always Here is a must-read, and it’s most highly recommended.