29 July 2013

Book Review: By My Side by Alice Peterson

"One step can change everything… 

Cass Brooks loves her job, her boyfriend Sean, her life. Until, leaving home one morning, distracted and hungover, she steps into the path of a truck. 

When she wakes up, she can’t walk. And suddenly all her hopes and dreams, the plans she’d made with Sean, the future she thought she’d have, seem out of her reach. 

But then fate intervenes again. Cass meets Ticket, a loyal golden Labrador who refuses to leave her side. And on a flight to Colorado, she sits next to Charlie, who believes he can show her a life full of possibilities, if only she’ll let him. 

Cass wants her life back the way it was. Charlie knows this cannot be. Yet a future beckons all the same.."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy By My Side as a paperback or an eBook now.

Every once in a while you read a book that truly moves you and stays with you, and sometimes you have no idea before you start that the next book you're about to pick up will be one of those special ones. Last year, it was Jojo Moyes' 'Me Before You' that was a stunning read that to this day moves me when I think of the story (and I think that's quite true for pretty much everyone who has read it). I wasn't expecting when I started Alice Peterson's novel that this would be my 2013 'Me Before You' book, but it certainly is. With a very touching storyline and an amazing lead character that you'll love, By My Side is my must-read of 2013 so far.

Cass Brookes would admit she had a pretty good life. She's living with her boyfriend, they're happy and she's at University studying Medicine, her dream job. However, that's all completely shattered in a moment when one morning, Cass steps out into the road into the path of a truck. She's paralysed, and has to adapt to a completely new life in a wheelchair, and living back with her parents again. Just as she was struggling to find hope, Cass meets Ticket, a beautiful dog who she quickly falls in love with. And then a on a skiing trip, she meets Charlie, who also seems destined to change her life in other ways. As much as Cass yearns for the life she had before the accident, she knows she has to make the best of the one she's got... can Charlie and Ticket help her find her path to happiness again?

What I found odd about this book is the fact that the blurb pretty much tells you the main crux of the story. It isn't a surprise to the reader that Cass ends up paralysed, and I was sort of wondering where the book would go after that. I needn't have worried, because it is so much more than the accident and Cass becoming a paraplegic. In fact, it is exploring her life after the accident and how it affects not only her but those around her too, in particular her family. Some of the scenes with Cass' parents are very touching, and moved me because of the emotion involved in them. You can see how hard it has hit Cass' parents that their daughter is now paralysed, it's one of those things you dread as a parent for your child, and Peterson really puts across in her writing how emotionally hard the situation is for everyone.

Cass is such a strong character, and you can't help but love her. Yes, she finds it incredibly hard to adjust to a new life, as anyone would, but together with her family, friends she met in the hospital where she started her recovery and her new found friends Charlie and Ticket, she begins to see there is more to life than being stuck in all day, and wants to make her life better for herself and those around her. Peterson does not shy away from the difficult realities of the situation, and writing in an honest style that really does make you want to keep reading to find out what Cass is going to do next. At times, it isn't easy to read, when Cass is frustrated and upset, you certainly feel upset with her, but it's a very rewarding read and certainly made me feel very grateful not to be in her situation, and full of admiration for those who deal with these things day in, day out.

Another thing I want to mention is a few organisations in the book. Back Up is one charity who help organise adventure holidays and such things for people like Cass who have disabilities, and this is included in the book, and where Cass meets Charlie. It sounds like an amazing organisation, I had no idea that something like this existed and reading about Cass skiing was just eye-opening and brilliant. The other is the association where Cass finds Ticket, her assistant dog. Again, I didn't know this existed but this book opened my eyes to what a wonderful thing it is, and how these dogs really can help people with their independence and just generally making them feel loved and cherished. Cass and Ticket have such a special bond in the book, Peterson makes you fall in love with the gorgeous Ticket, and I could have read so much more about the pair of them.

This really is a superb book that will not only emotionally touch you, but totally open your eyes to a world we don't perhaps think about - one where normal, everyday things in our life become a struggle, where the lives of our family are entirely different in just a few seconds, and even how we can perceive people in wheelchairs, and their lifestyles. Cass shows us that you can live life to the full, with the help and care of the people around you, and shows us how much we can take for granted by being about to do such simple things as walk up a flight of stairs, or reach something from the top shelf in the supermarket, things Cass finds she can no longer unaided. Peterson's writing is simply brilliant, honest and frank, emotional and very touching. By My Side is a book you should read this summer, and it will stay with you long after you turn that final page. An utterly amazing book.


  1. This novel sounds FAB. I'm definitely going to read it thegirlinthemoonlight.blogpost.co.uk

  2. Hi Chloe, I loved this review and have shared it with friends and family - big thank you...