Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Title: Don't Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: n/a
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: April 15, 2014 -- today!!!
Source: ARC received from publisher/from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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?



April and I are apparently pretty awesome at picking our buddy reads because Don't Look Back was another success. Not that we'd mind coming together to rip apart a book we didn't enjoy, but I'd much rather spend my buddy reading time with a good book.

Initial Thoughts:

Jen:  Don't Look Back was my first time reading a book by Jennifer L. Armentrout, but it definitely won't be my last. I can now see why so many readers are drawn to her stories. I myself found her writing style to be quite addictive, making this book very hard to put down. I've had JLA's other books on my TBR for ages, but I think this book has pushed me to get to the others sooner. Don't Look Back wasn't anything I haven't seen before, but it was insanely readable which also made it unputdownable.

April: I've been curious about Jennifer L. Armentrout for a while. I've purchased a few of her books, but this is the first one I've picked up. I think it was a good start. Like Jen says, her writing style really is addictive. It was a busy weekend for me, so unfortunately I had to put it down a lot, but I didn't want to! I thought about it constantly when I wasn't able to read. Now that I've given  her a try, I'll have to try out some of her other stuff.

The Story:

Jen:  Okay, so the murder mystery/missing girl scenario and subsequent amnesia plot aren't terribly unique, but the way in which they were handled in this story did impress me a bit, especially the way in which Sam's returning memories were triggered and how the memories were described. I also love an unreliable narrator, and it's definitely hard to believe a girl with no memory of the night she and her best friend disappeared.

Honestly, this book reminded me a lot of The Lying Game...the television show, not the book series it was based on. I only read the first book, but from what I could already tell, the TV series strayed wildly from the plot of the books. But Don't Look Back also features the bullying aspect of Mean Girls, though not quite to that extent, at least not at present. I'm sure if the book had begun with the time before Sam went missing, we'd have seen an entirely different side of her...and we do, but only through her returning memories and accounts from her family and friends.

April: I loved the story! I've read books with similar plot lines in the past but it's been a while. Reading Don't Look Back reminded me how much I enjoy these kinds of mystery's. Sam has amnesia, and her memories start to come back to her through-out the book. Her best friend is missing and she depends on these memories to help the police find her. I was very intrigued. Sometimes these amnesia story lines annoy me but I found myself looking forward to each and every memory.

The Characters:

Jen:  Sam, as we meet her, is a completely different person from who she was four days ago when she first disappeared. Before, she was a spiteful bully who took pleasure in others' misfortune. Now, she's having a hard time reconciling her second chance with who she was before. But the people she seems to have been cruelest to in her past life are the ones who are most willing to help her to try to solve the mystery behind her disappearance, including her brother and his girlfriend...Sam's former best friend. I think this story goes far to prove the point that when tragedy strikes, you begin to find out who your real friends are. Sam's clichéd mean girl clique and her supposed Prince Charming are far from helpful or even kind, and it's clear that this group of privileged kids will always be waiting in the wings to usurp whatever someone else has that they want...Cassie included. That character remained a mystery for much of the book, as the search for her continued, but what's discovered about her character as the story unfolded made her no more likable than the other mean girls.

April: Old Sam's friends, are total bitches. There I said it! They really are and I loved to hate them. Then again, old Sam was a total bitch too. I think what I loved the most was watching Amnesia Sam react to things she learned about her old self. That shit was funny. Really, I wish some of the girls I went to school with could have had moments like that.

Like Jen says above, you definitely find out who your true friends are during tragic times. But that's a good thing, and it was nice to see her reconnect with people she alienated in the past. As the story goes on, you get a clearer view of why she was the way she was. Not that there's an excuse for some of her past behavior, but I understood where some of it was coming from.

The Romance:

Jen:  From the moment Del's character is introduced, I didn't like him. (But I did love everyone's nickname for him, especially after having dated a "Del the Dick" myself.) He seemed skeevy, and I always felt like he was hiding something. And then when Sam couldn't remember their "fairy tale romance" or even conjure up any feelings for the guy, I knew he was a goner. Especially when she started spending a fair amount of time with Carson, who actually wanted to help her discover what happened to her and Cassie that night. And then Carson, player though he was, actually wanted to be a good guy to Sam, to not complicate matters for her while she was still sorting out her past and her feelings for Del, nonexistent as they were. I shipped Sam and Carson so hard, especially when I found out that they'd been best friends growing up. She may have been pretty horrible to him, but he was still there for her when it counted. So, it probably sounds like a love triangle, but it's not really...especially when certain things come to light.

April: The problem with doing a joint review following Jen's thoughts are, she always says everything perfectly, and I'm left thinking, hmmmm, what can I add? I'm going further on the "sounds like a love triangle" bit. Because I know many are discouraged by things like that. It's definitely not a love triangle. You see, Sam is a new person after what goes down. She has no memory of who she was, so coming into the book she doesn't know Del the Dick. And boy is he a dick. She's not confused as to how she feels about him, she doesn't know him. She knows pretty much right away that things will not work with him now that she's changed as a person.

I enjoyed the romance that bloomed between her and Carson. They're childhood friends, and that's the best kind of romance. <3 I also appreciated that while it was sweet and swoony at times, it didn't take away from the mystery going on.

The Twist:

Jen:  Totally saw it coming. I mean, I feel like the truth was pretty much shoved in my face, but I pretty much start out any mystery like this trying to weed out possible suspects and red herrings. So, maybe it's my fault that I usually guess the ending before the halfway point in a story. But with this book...well, I don't want to point out anything that might spoil the mystery for you, but it was just so obvious. (To me, at least.)

April: I'm usually dense when it comes to twists. I rarely see them coming, but this one is right there. I'm laughing at Jen not wanting to point it out, because we discussed this obvious thing via text. Even though I figured it out pretty early on, it didn't ruin the book for me. I still didn't want to put it down, because I was dying to see if I was right!

Overall:

Jen:  Don't Look Back was a satisfying thriller that does use quite a few clichés and tropes to accomplish its mission, but JLA uses them so effectively that I didn't mind. Is that the magic of Armentrout's stories? That even though she uses some of the most annoying plot devices, they don't come across as annoying? I must read more of her work in order to prove or disprove that theory. But from what I've read of this book, and from what I've gathered from readers of her other books, I think the main contributing factor to her popularity is that her stories are just fun. And swoony. That always helps. I hope to enjoy the rest of her stories as much as I did this one.

April: Hmmm, overall I really liked it! I will definitely read more of her stuff. My friend Jess loves her books and she's been bugging me to try one for a while now. So glad I finally did. Also, major props to Armentrout mentioning the Poconos! My home. :) I actually get to meet her this weekend, she will be at YA Fest. Yay!! But yeah, Don't Look Back is a great story, and I'm so glad I started with this one.

GIF it to me straight:
The Lying Game meets Mean Girls


About the author:

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Find Jennifer:

Website | TwitterFacebookGoodreads


13 comments:

  1. I love, love, LOVE Jennifer L. Armentrout!! I'm pretty dang excited to get my hands on this book!! Glad you ladies enjoyed it and welcome to the Jennifer L. Armentrout club!

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    1. I'm pretty sure I'm going to love all things JLA after this, lol. :) Seems like I'm in good company, too. :D

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  2. Very happy to hear there's no love triangle, as I'm reading this today. :)
    I think what you said about JLA using cliche's.. but not in a cliche way (does that make sense?) is true. Her stories are always so fun and never annoying, even if we can see what's coming.
    Thanks for your review!

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    1. Yes! I don't mind a story being a tad predictable, as long as the journey to get to the end is a fun ride.

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  3. I think I want to read this... the cover has SO intrigued me for a while. xD (I'm such a cover coveter...gosh, that even sounds weird.) XD Bit worried about the amount of cliche elements. Gah. I get bored and tired so easily when books use average things to accomplish their twists. BUT STILL. *runs to Goodreads*

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    Replies
    1. That's the thing, Cait...this story's not boring at all! Things that would normally annoy me actually made me like the story that much more...her writing style is really fun! And I agree, I love that cover. I covet covers myself. :D

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  4. I'm a JLA fan so I was eager to get your thoughts on this one. Glad it really worked. It was fun getting the dual review.

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    1. I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty positive that if you're already a JLA fan, you're really going to enjoy this story. =) Our dual reviews are actually so much more fun to write than the ones I do on my own. I wish April and I could read every book together!

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  5. I like these dual reviews! I especially when you talk about how JLA is able to turn common tropes into good stories. She DOES this ALL THE TIME. Her stories aren't always completely original, but the way she writes them makes them stand out. Also she's amazing at tension and swoon. Thanks for explaining the love situation for me. I was curious about that. I think I got JLA overloaded recently, but I am interested in checking this story out. Thanks for the review!

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  6. This is going to be my first book by the author, too. I have it on hold from the library and am even more excited now. I love a good thriller and it sounds like she does a pretty good job with not-so-new material. I'm also just such a fan of "mean girl" books. I'm not sure what that says about me. I swear I'm nice. Great review! I love these joint ones. :)

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