“Something does exist. I saw. It’s a place. Like this but different.”
“Okay, so let’s say we do reach her, that something like that is even possible. Then what?”
“Then we ask her to come back.”
Eden: As far as coma patients go, Eden’s lucky. She woke up. But still, she can’t shake the feeling that she might have dragged something back from the near-afterlife.
Joe: Joe visits the hospital every day, hoping that Jaz, his lifelong friend, will wake up. More than anything, he wants to hear her voice again. But he’s not sure anyone can reach her.
Eden & Joe: Even though she knows it sounds crazy, Eden tells Joe that they might be able to talk to Jaz. Opening themselves up to the great unknown—and each other—Eden and Joe experience life: mysterious and scary, beautiful and bright.
A contemplative novel about afterlife and the impact of events in life, the story revolves around Eden, a secondary character from This Raging Light, who towards the end of that novel had an accident and slipped into a coma. Now, in But Then I Came Back, Eden wakes a month later to find out that her world has changed. She hasn’t been around for the momentous changes that had wrapped up the previous novel, and in this new life where she is recovering basic human functions like eating and walking again, to find out that she has lost her best friend to her brother feels to her like she isn’t even present in her life. Her psyche is definitely affected by the coma, and the recovery, but there has been another change – she can see black flowers all around, and she remembers the time of being In Between, where she had met another comatose girl Jaz(more specifically the girl in the bed next to her) that she forms an instant connection with.
Navigating this post-coma life, Eden struggles to figure out what ties her down to her life now. In the In Between, she was free from troubles and worries; living now feels like a burden (but not that she is suicidal). But along with Joe, Jaz’s best friend, whom she promises to help to connect with Jaz, and some much-needed therapy, she starts to find reasons to rejoice in life. She starts to pick up the pieces and be optimistic in the face of an uncertain life, because the uncertainty of death has been alleviated some. Eden’s character in TRL was not much known, but here she comes across as a focused, prickly in-control girl who came out of her coma a slightly more prickly version of herself.
Now, the romance, while a subplot, still drives the plot to quite a degree. Joe is somewhat similar to Digby in that both boys had a previous girl whom they felt strongly attached to, and felt guilty about their new feelings. Also, the hot-cold nature of their interactions were quite similar, as was the almost constant swooning on their respective girl lead’s parts. It was, in a word, repetitive. And Lucille is pretty much a minor secondary character in this one, despite being Eden’s best friend. Their friendship, which was so intense in TRL, is now a fizzled out firework, and while I felt it was more in response to Eden’s after-coma life, I still felt a bit betrayed that their friendship had to change too.
Overall, it is an emotional, thought-provoking book and a good read for contemporary lovers.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from HMH Books for Young Readers, via Netgalley.
Previous books in series
I would advise reading This Raging Light if you want Lucille’s story, too, to get a better understanding of that part of the story but it is not necessary to have read it to read this novel.