Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Love has no boundaries...
Jubilee Jenkins has a rare condition: she’s allergic to human touch. After a nearly fatal accident, she became reclusive, living in the confines of her home for nine years. But after her mother dies, Jubilee is forced to face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.
Jubilee finds safe haven at her local library where she gets a job. It’s there she meets Eric Keegan, a divorced man who recently moved to town with his brilliant, troubled, adopted son. Eric is struggling to figure out how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Jubilee is unlike anyone he has ever met, yet he can't understand why she keeps him at arm's length. So Eric sets out to convince Jubilee to open herself and her heart to everything life can offer, setting into motion the most unlikely love story of the year.
“One time a boy kissed me and I almost died…”
Ok, with a first line like that, who wouldn’t want to read on? As the novel begins, Jubilee has not stepped foot outside her house in nine years, the reasons mostly stemming from the incident referred to in the first line. After almost dying because of a kiss, Jubilee withdrew from the world and survived alone in her house, depending upon the Internet for social interaction and to tend to practical needs (food, books, etc.). Until the day when her savings account run out and she is forced to venture beyond her front door.
Jubilee is a quirky but loveable character whose every trial (walking out the door, talking to someone, anyone face-to-face for the first time, riding a bike) made me hold my breath in sympathetic panic, then cheer on when she emerged victorious. Things happen fast for Jubilee as soon as she emerges from her seclusion – she makes a friend determined to help her, gets a job at the library, and then meets Eric and Aja, a father and son with a shaky relationship. Aja has trouble fitting in at school but somehow he and Jubilee connect in a sweet and touching way that brought me close to tears.
Oakley explores the theme of “touch” in both its literal and metaphorical meanings. Jubilee can’t be physically touched or else she might go into anaphylactic shock, which leads to her emotional isolation from society and genuine human interaction. Joining the world after so many years alone, with its inconvenient messes of human drama, forces her to make a choice – whether to stay isolated, yet protected or connected but vulnerable to a broken heart.