Friday, May 23, 2014

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary (from Goodreads):
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?
After my little obsession with the Lux series, it was only a matter of time before I started reading more by this author. Thankfully, I’d already received this title for review (special thanks to Disney-Hyperion!) And I was so happy to hear it was a stand-alone. I would not be counting down the minutes till the next book came out, after reading another cliffhanger!
It read a lot differently than Armentrout’s other books. It started a little more slowly for me. Knowing that the romance would be awesome and that writing style would be great, was still not quite enough to keep me a little skeptical of the plot. I’ve read the whole main-character-with-no-memories story before, several times. I knew this would need to stand out for me to get over the very used storyline.
And at first, I wasn’t sure if it would stand out. It actually kind of reminded me a little of Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall mixed with Sara Shepard’s The Lying Game. It had all the redemption earning of Before I Fall, with a main character that isn’t the easiest to like, and all the suspense of a Sara Shepard novel. The suspects, like with The Lying Game, are all people Sam is close to –which makes it all the more suspenseful.
Despite the rather familiar beginning, I couldn’t stop reading this. I had to know things! And I know I keep comparing this to other books, but I just have to make one more comparison; it also seriously used a lot of the creepy elements I loved from The Unbecoming of Mara Deyer by Michelle Hodkin. The main character here (like Mara) wasn’t always sure if she was actually seeing/hearing what was real, or if she was possibly loosing her mind from posttraumatic stress. And having an unreliable, possibly crazy main character seriously made this book stand out for me.
I did guess who the murderer was, but like I said, I have read a lot of similar books. On the other hand, there were some reasons behind what the murderer did that I absolutely did not guess at. So, props for a little bit of surprise! The author also wins point from me for getting me to care about so many wealthy, entitled teens. It helps that Sam can look back at her life and see how shallow she used to be, but still…I did not think I would end up liking her as much as I did.
And yes, the romance was excellent. Armentrout has serious romance skills. She is just so talented at building tension between the two romantic leads. Also, the story was very well thought out. The amount of people who could and did lie to Sam (knowing she wouldn’t remember things) was rather disgusting. But, I guess I do think it’s rather believable. If you could take away all the bad things from a relationship or friendship, without your significant other/friend knowing, would you?
On a weird side note, I’m seeing a lot tree houses popping up in YA lately. I think I need to add it to my list of random things that tend to pop up in a lot of YA books (maybe this will be a post soon). I’m adding tree houses to the list that also has learning to play pool and romantic interactions that involve the small of the girl’s back.
Any way, I super enjoyed reading this one. It was not as action packed as this author’s other books. I guess the majority of the action had already happened, and it was more about the main character trying to remember it. There were definitely a lot of familiar elements to the story that I have seen in plenty of other YA. However, the possibility of the main character loosing her mind and the sizzling romance more than make up for this. I give it an 8/10. I highly recommend it to fans of Michelle Hodkin, Sara Shepard, and Lauren Oliver.

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