Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout **Review**

The Problem With Forever
Series: None
Pages: 384
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Release date: 1st June 2016
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK

Add to Goodreads
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy of this book.

Goodreads synopsis:
From #1 NY Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes a deeply powerful and emotional story about struggling to overcome your past and find where you belong.

When Mallory was a kid, she was bounced from one horrible foster home to another. At thirteen, a terrible accident got her removed from the group home where she was living to a hospital where she met the parents who would adopt her. But when she starts a new school and encounters an old friend from the foster system sparks start to fly.

I went into The Problem with Forever knowing very little about it. I often quite like to do this – it means that even any details revealed in the synopsis are a surprise, and often that’s a good thing. All I knew about this book was that it’s a contemporary YA about a girl who was in foster care. I possibly knew a little more than that when I first requested it, but that was all I could remember when I did eventually start reading.

In a way, going in blind was a good thing; it meant that the abuse Mallory and Rider suffered was a real shock and something I didn’t expect to that severity. However, going in without knowing anything about the story may have contributed to my initial confusion at the beginning of the story.
After the (pretty horrifying) prologue, we get right into the story, following Mallory’s first day at high school after being home-schooled for the past four years. She soon begins meeting people, including the characters who will soon become more central to her story; Keira, Jayden, Hector and (of course) Rider. But in the beginning, I was confused between Jayden and Rider.
They were introduced quite close to each other and – I don’t know if it was just me here – to begin with, I was convinced that they were the same person, but Rider had changed his name after what had happened to them as children. I’m not really too sure if it was just me that was confused by this, but it did take me a couple of chapters to straighten it out in my head and figure out what was going on.

Despite this it wasn’t long before I was truly drawn into the story and started getting to know the characters well. Mallory’s character was easy to get to know – the story is from her point of view, and the way her thoughts and (initially minimal) speech were written really allowed me to ‘hear’ her. Her pauses communicate her doubts and her fear, and the difference between what she thinks and what she eventually says speaks huge truths about her want to stay invisible. And her backstory explains perfectly why she is the way she is.
But despite all of Mallory’s hardships, she does change and progress throughout the novel, which was really satisfying to see (although I’m not 100% sure she would have been talking quite as freely as she was that quickly).

The characters that support Mallory are, however, just as important (as she herself admits at a later point in the novel). Rider is another big character, but I have to admit that I have quite mixed feelings about him. I did like him as a character, but I felt like I didn’t get to know him well enough. Yeah, you get to know the person he is now, and obviously we know how he grew up, as he shared those experiences with Mallory. But I did feel there was something lacking from the part of his story where he and Mallory were separated. I don’t think it was every fully explained what happened on the night of ‘the incident’ that tore the two of them apart, and I had expected to get to know that in detail. I did, however, like his character, and I found it interesting that his suffering was less visible than Mallory’s.

Now let’s take a step back for a moment and take a look at the romance. Yes, I understand that this book is largely a romance novel, but once I learned about the background of the characters, I had come to expect a little less of the gooey, sickly, “you’re so perfect” kind of romance, and more of a focus on plot.
That’s not to say that the plot was lacking – it wasn’t, and I enjoyed the story immensely – but I do think that a lot of the ‘lovey-dovey’ could have been cut out. A lot of Mallory and Rider’s scenes did feel repetitious, and I felt a lot could have been cut away from them. They sometimes had a tendency to slow the story down a lot, and I found myself skim-reading through some of these scenes.

My other issue with the romance was that it took so damn long to happen. It was obvious from the moment that Mallory discovered Rider was attending the same school as her that a romance would blossom. So painfully obvious – to everyone but her, it seems. It was frustrating to watch the whole “he’s clearly not interested in me, even though he is” routine go on for that long (it was almost 60% of the way through before anything truly happened).
My relief when it finally happened was tangible.

That really is it for the negative points though. The rest of the book was fantastic: the diversity of characters and personalities, the way the story dealt with truly difficult issues, the character-driven plot, and ALL THOSE FEELS. It wasn’t perhaps quite as emotional as I had been expecting, but it definitely managed to get at least a couple of emotion-kicks to the gut in before the story ended. Characters I hadn’t even known I cared about were making my face leak.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Problem With Forever. It was easy to get into, easy to like the characters and – despite the troubling subject matter – it was an easy read. I’m not sure I would rush to read more of Jennifer’s contemporary stuff, but I would definitely pick up more books by this author (probably a good job, seeing as I have quite a lot of it on my shelves!).
This was a solid 3.5 stars, and I would recommend it to readers who enjoy a good romance and a good cry.


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