Sunday, August 10, 2014

YA book review: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don't Look Back
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
YA mystery/thriller/romance
ebook, 384 pages
Published April 15th 2014 by Disney Hyperion (first published April 10th 2014) 

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?

Jennifer L. Armentrout is a compelling writer. No matter the genre, subject or whether or not I like the characters, I still have to KEEP READING. It's crazy and yet so cool. Don't Look Back is a fast-paced mystery with some thrills and a sweet romance. The first chapter totally sucked me in and I found myself reaching for my e-reader whenever I had free time to continue. The story was addictive.

Sam is a typical YA main character. A popular mean girl from a wealthy family, has a good looking boyfriend, a wardrobe to die for, drives a great car, like who wouldn't want to be her? When she disappears and subsequently found wandering, obviously hurt, the mystery ensues. What happened to her and where is her bestie Cassie? The answers aren't easy to find since Sam is suffering from amnesia and then she starts receiving strange notes. Determined to find out what happened that fateful night, Sam discovers she doesn't like herself much. Let's face it, the "old" Sam is a bitch, so she decides to become a more normal, nicer, down-to-earth person. This "new" jean-wearing Sam of course is noticed by everyone, especially her brother and his best friend, Carson, who happens to be the handyman's son and Sam's childhood best friend.

I liked the dynamics between Sam and her twin brother, Scott, and Carson. What I didn't find believable were her girlfriends who seemed like caricatures of secondary characters. None were fleshed out and were buried by painful stereotypes. Even her boyfriend, Del, didn't seem 'real' to me. The renewal of feelings for Carson was realistic and kept me reading. The mystery aspect, though done well, was easily figured out but I played along, waiting to see how it all would end. Sam herself did get on my nerves at times with her naivete. What bothered me about her were the times she felt she had to get physical with Del to prove her worth as his girlfriend. That became problematic and I'm glad Carson treated her a lot better. 

Don't Look Back was an engaging read featuring a sweet, realistic friendship which turned into something more. YA thrillers are always welcome so I grabbed this title and being an Armentrout fan, I knew I had to read it. 

Rating: 4

Cover comment:
The jewelry box and ballerina play a role in the story so having it on the cover is fine, though a bit boring.

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