Sunday, 9 September 2012

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck **Review**

While He Was Away
by Karen Schreck

Series: None
Pages: 249
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: 1st May 2012
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Add it to Goodreads
Thanks to Sourcefire Books (NetGalley) for my review copy

Goodreads synopsis:
One year--he'll be gone for one year and then we'll be together again and everything will be back to the way it should be.

The day David left, I felt like my heart was breaking. Sure, any long-distance relationship is tough, but David was going to war--to fight, to protect, to put his life in danger. We can get through this, though. We'll talk, we'll email, we won't let anything come between us.

I can be on army girlfriend for one year. But will my sweet, soulful, funny David be the same person when he comes home? Will I? And what if he doesn't come home at all...?
I started this book with particularly high expectations, and this was for two reasons; 1) I'm really enjoying YA contemporary at the moment, and this looked great, and 2) it had been particularly highly rated by another blogger, whose opinion I highly trust - Lea from LC's Adventures in Library Land - who rarely gives out 5 stars, but did so for this. Because of these two reasons, I was expecting something pretty darn good.
However, on this occasion, my expectations were not quite met. It's not that I disliked it - because I didn't - but it wasn't as amazing as I thought it would be, either.

Let's start with the romance. I really do think that the cover - however beautiful - is very deceptive. Yes, I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, but what the cover is supposed to do, is give you a feel for the book, and from this cover, I expected it to be very romantic. I expected to root for the couple, Penna and David, all the way through the book, and be praying for their love to hold out through their difficult circumstances.
I had expected to really care.
At the beginning, they were fine, and I had started to feel for them, but as the book went on, I found that this feeling slowly faded away, and that I'd started caring about other things in the book much more than the couple (which is supposed to be the main focus of the book).
Penna starts to concentrate on distracting herself with work, new friends, and family reunion, and it seems that, although she obviously did miss David, he was eventually no longer at the forefront of her mind.
I also want to say that (without giving away any spoilers), I was very disappointed with the ending, and with what eventually happened between the two of them. I shall say no more on that though - I wouldn't want to spoil anything.
Saying this, though, I did really enjoy reading about what Penna did end up focusing on - particularly when it came to her estranged Grandmother, Justine, who has a past that Penna finds she can relate to. I loved Penna's fascination with this past, and with a woman she'd never really known, and her thirst to know more about her Grandma was great. I'm really glad that this storyline became more prominent.

Don't get me wrong, I really did love Penna's character, in the end. She was kind, considerate, generous, mature (most of the time), and it was really great to watch her change and develop as the story went on (although I did find it a little strange that she called her Mom 'Linda'). But in the end, I stopped caring about her relationship with David, almost entirely.
This is possibly because we really didn't get to see much of David at all. He is obviously there at the beginning of the book, when we get to know Penna and David as a couple, but he leaves with the army very early on, and we don't see him 'in person', past this point. Aside from the odd short email, or phone call, we don't really know what he was doing, and we never really get to know him better for ourselves (rather than just what Penna says about him).
I'd be really interested to read David's side of the story - even as just a short story or something. I think it would give this book a little something extra, and would maybe change the way I feel about the romance.

The town that this book was set in, Kildeer, was really bought to life for me. It was so well described. I did feel as though, by the end of the book, I'd almost be able to find my way around, if you dropped me off there. I hope you understand what I mean, when I say that the setting was really solid and comfortable, and I almost felt at home there, by the time I'd finished reading.
This happened particularly with Red Earth, Penna's Mother's restaurant. For some reason, it just felt like a really happy, cosy place to be.
I think that the setting, for me, was probably the thing that I enjoyed most about the book.

Overall this book has not made a great deal of an impression on me, and I don't think it's going to be a particularly memorable one, but I did enjoy reading it, and I wanted to read to the end, to find out what happened.
So if you're a fan of YA contemporary fiction, I would still absolutely recommend giving it a go, and see what you think.
This is a nice, light, summery read, somewhere between 3 & 4 stars.


Mel - Thedailyprophecy. said...

This sounds pretty good :) I have this one on my list for a while now and I'm glad you liked it, only a shame you didn't love it. I can see that there are many point I'm going to like in this book. I can't wait to read it myself. Great review.

Jaime Lester said...

I have seen plenty of good reviews for this one too. I have only been reading YA contemporary for about a year, and I have had some fantastic experiences (The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson), and some not so great experiences that have made me wary of contemporaries. It seems like this one may just be one I need to pass up on, because there are some great contemps coming up and I really don't want to be wary!

.Ambur. said...

I completely agree with you! While I liked this book, I didn't love it like I expected...and it was for the same reasons as you. I felt deceived. I expected While He Was Away to be this romantic story with the romance at its focus...and that wasn't the case at all. I did enjoy Penna's growth, and how she became more independent, but the romance really feel flat for me. I don't think this book should actually be marketed as a romance because it honestly isn''s a story about growing up and finding yourself, not a long-distance relationship or summer romance as the summary, cover, and pretty much everything advertizing the book suggested. I did still like it, but I definitely think they need to tweak their marketing for it a bit though. :P

Thanks for sharing your review with us. :)

Gaby said...

Like the review! When they first revealed the cover I though it looked amazing. I have not had a chance to read is yet but I will :)

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