Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken



I was blown away by Ruin, it was one of my top five reads from 2013 – I mean I sung it’s praises to absolutely every single one of my friends, so knowing that Toxic was a continuation of the series, left me in a bit of a quandary .

  • What if I don’t like it?

Just how stupid am I? Would it have been even possible to not like it?

  • Because no –I didn’t NOT like it !  I loved it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Toxic is Gabe’s story and he most definitely has a story to tell. 

Gabe isn’t who he appears and the reason why is not a pleasant one for him to share. The book coaxes his story from him and takes us on a slow and steady journey of acceptance and understanding.

But to my mind Gabe story is about one thing and one thing only -unconditional love.

Gabe has lived for the last four year hiding in plain sight. Suffocating with the burden that he hides from his friends and the trapped in purgatory by the decisions he made as a petulant youth, he is living in the past and his past is a very painful place to be.  His pain is brutal to read.

Gabe is consumed by the events of that night and the hatred that he has for himself over the events that befell his Kimmy (referred to through the book as Princess).

His only solace is music, but keeping his secret deprives him of this crumb of comfort. Wallowing he pays a visit to the music rooms, to find a little comfort and to just to play a little – unbeknown to him his music has caught the attention of a young music freshman – Saylor, who enraptured by his music watches him through the open door of the room.

Saylor is a shy and stands dumbfounded by the sight of Gabe and by the quality of his music – their first kiss is powerful but unorthodox and gives Saylor plenty to consider when thinking about the tattooed stranger. Gabe on the other hand has other things to worry about and does what he does best, shuts himself off from her. He is mean and callous in his initial treatment of Saylor when they meet again, some of his comments would have earned him a serious slap across the face from a more experienced girl but he has Saylor on the ropes and her emotions are running rampant.

To be honest there are some parts in the book where you just want to reach in and punch his lights out!!! He has this innate ability to make you both love and hate him at the same time, and sometime he’s an absolute ass!

Told from both Gabe and Saylor’s point of view, each chapter is prefaced by some “words of wisdom” by one of the characters, most of them are either Wes or Gabe but they are great sound bites to the story.

You can see early on that it is only a matter of time before the true Gabe is going to have to step up to the plate and when Wes lets him know that he knows all about his secrets and who he really is, the clock is really ticking. But can he deal with the threat that his father poses before his life shatters around him and will he have to deal with it alone?

Saylor has her own sadness but is genuinely a good person and despite his flaws, when she starts work at the Home, she gets to see a touch of the real Gabe and through the passion they both share for music they become friends. Gabe slowly opens up to Saylor and allows her into his life – and the relationship that develops between the two of them is beautiful. The depth of issues and emotion the pair of them has is difficult to get a handle on initially but the pace with which their romance accelerates leaves you gasping for breath. Saylor’s feelings for Gabe are intense and when his history unravels, she is his rock. She understands why he is the way he is and why he has done what he did and despite what some may think she knows she loves him and that love is palpable to her, he needs her and there is nowhere she will be other than beside him – when he falls, she is going with him. 

Gabe knows how lucky he is to have her and when he said:

“One day,” Gabe whispered, “when my heart is mine again … I’ll give you everything.”

“Gabe,” I said, sighing. “Right now? I’m perfectly happy with the pieces. No matter how broken they may be.”

 My heart broke for him.

Listening to him explain to Saylor his past and what his life has been is truly heart stopping, so be warned that you need tissues to hand. The story is written beautifully and the connection between Gabe and Saylor is so gentle and really it is a joy to read.

In fact I thought the whole book gave a rounded view of all the characters – it let us into Wes and Keirsten a little more – that man is just delightful and we learn more of Lisa’s history although I am glad that she will eventually get her own story – she is one tough cookie.

My summary of the book is that is gave me what I needed from Gabe, a chance to see him as a good guy and he didn’t let me down. I felt sad at times through the book, honestly sometimes it was difficult to make out the words through the tears.

But it made me review the  situation and to understand that  love truly has no limits.

Although I must just add my favourite quote; one that holds true for all of us – when we look at our partners don’t we all hope we can say:

“Loving you will always be easy because when I look into your eyes I know you see the real me.”


Rating 5 out of 5 - Amazing