The end of one’s high school glory days is as inevitable as the setting of the sun. It is truly difficult to relinquish the sense of invincibility that is so influential upon teenagers. Greg Messel’s Expiation portrays a return to reality for the protagonists, Dan and Katie, and the impact it has on the lives of everyone involved.
The main characters, sweethearts throughout high school, find themselves facing a harsh and merciless world, one that is indifferent to their heretofore-sheltered environment. The end of high school is a period of transition and transformation, and it often means embarking upon a journey into an unfamiliar world.
Greg Messel weaves real-world issues into this love story—issues that force the reader to think and ask pressing questions. For example, Dan, who chooses to go to college out-of-state (U.C. Berkeley), leaving behind family and friends, and his sweetheart Katie, makes life-altering decisions that result in deep regret. In the beginning, the couple wrote letters back and forth; however, distance and career choices gradually create a separation that would grow with each passing year.
When Dan remembers his glory days with Katie, he says, “In our high school years, Katie and I dwelt in a privileged existence. We had everything at our disposal as the royalty of our popularity-fueled high school world. We were mostly oblivious to our status and thought it was just the way the world was structured. Then it all came apart after high school graduation and the intrusion of the harsh, real world.”
The circumstances of life will rudely intervene and change everything, even a love that seemed unshakable. “I may regret the way we ended, but I will never regret what we had,” albeit anonymous, is a telling statement that sums up Dan and Katie’s case, because their love was essentially swept away by the waves of life, wrecking, or at least postponing, any future they may have had together.
Breaking away from the glory days is like waking up from a sweet dream. When Dan decides to leave behind Seattle and Katie for a journalism career, he chooses a path, and that becomes his reality. Once he makes his choice and acts on it, he is helpless to retain his past. He aptly states, “I seemed powerless to stop the slide away from Katie. I was trying to keep up with my class load at Cal and also attempting to make a positive impression at the San Francisco Examiner.” Dan saw no room in his new life for relationships that quickly become a part of his past.
Ultimately, reality is the one beast that can destroy the sweetest and most beautiful of dreams, as it does for Dan and Katie. Greg Messel’s Expiation will take readers on an emotional journey, as Dan tries desperately to overcome the reality of love lost. Readers will be thoroughly engaged as they read through Dan’s pain, hoping beyond hope that Dan and Katie can somehow salvage a relationship that should never have been sacrificed. Truly a must read for hopeless romantics who love nothing better than to cheer for a cause that seems impossible.