Full Measures begins on a somber note. On Ember Howard's 20th birthday, casualty notifications officers knock on the Howard's door. The military family receives awful news. Her dad isn't coming home from his last deployment. Her mom falls apart and sister, April, acts out. With no one to care for the house or her little brother, Ember steps up in a brave attempt to keep the house going while the family tries to cope with their unbearable loss.
A random trip to the grocery store has Ember running into the object of her major high school crush, Josh Walker. From the way the story is told, Josh seems to have reached super-star status in their Colorado town not only for his hockey abilities but also for his prowess in hooking up with 'anything in a skirt.' Despite his college studies, coaching and other obligations, when he finds out about Ember's father he drops everything to help out. For the first half of the book the story line is plausible though somewhat predictable, but the narrative engaging enough to hold my attention. Readers are given an insider's glimpse at the prideful, and sometimes infuriating, fundamentals of military life. I was touched by the family element of the story; Ember taking care of her little brother and patching her mom and sister back together.
At times I felt trapped in Ember's mind with her over-emphasized reflections and found myself skim-reading through long 'thought squats'. But the most infuriating part was Ember's back and forth with Josh. When dreaming him up, Yarros didn't skimp on anything. Josh is ... wait, let me get my list... he's a hockey-star, ripped, motorcycle-riding, tattooed, girl magnet, sex-on-a-stick, gentlemen, bad boy, thoughtful son, and the coach of a kid’s team. (And something else, but I don't want to give that away!) For some reason we are not privy to, this infamous boy-toy offers to be Ember's 'whatever' as she works through her grief over her father's death and a breakup with her long-time boyfriend. Josh rises to the call, treating Ember like she is the most precious gift in his life. We know Ember is completely taken with him because, even though she infuriatingly holds him at arm's distance, she keeps saying "You're Josh Walker!" and she willingly offers up her virginity to him whenever they are alone.
Despite a few bits and pieces of improbable story line, I enjoyed witnessing Ember's journey. She changes, evolves, and learns about love and taking chances, despite the unknown. Also, the couple's hot chemistry and 'woo wee' sexual romps held my… um... interest.
At around chapter 20, I was blindsided by a major plot twist, but despite the jolt, this was a huge turning point for the story. Yarros unleashes a powerful and unexpected emotional snap. In comparison to the first half, the writing in the second half is much tighter and super strong. There is a great scene between Ember and her mother that brought the story full circle, and made me tear up. The writing was so good, I was drawn to finish the story in one sitting. I loved the way the final part of this story unfolded. Reading the first half was worth the perfection of the second half.
She knew. That’s why Mom hadn’t opened the door. She knew he was dead.
Twenty years as an army brat and Ember Howard knew, too. The soldiers at the door meant her dad was never coming home. What she didn’t know was how she would find the strength to singlehandedly care for her crumbling family when her mom falls apart. Then Josh Walker enters her life. Hockey star, her new next-door neighbor, and not to mention the most delicious hands that insist on saving her over and over again. He has a way of erasing the pain with a single look, a single touch. As much as she wants to turn off her feelings and endure the heartache on her own, she can’t deny their intense attraction. Until Josh’s secret shatters their world. And Ember must decide if he’s worth the risk that comes with loving a man who could strip her bare.