My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**Disclaimer: Received from the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**
I love Jennifer L. Armentrout books (in particular, the Lux series which are wonderful), and so when I saw her new contemporary novel, The Problem With Forever, on NetGalley, I knew I had to pick it up.
Mallory “Mouse” Dodge suffers from PTSD after a traumatic, abusive childhood with dreadful foster parents, where she was protected only by her foster brother, Rider. After an incident, Mallory and Rider were separated, and Mallory found loving and understanding foster parents in Carl and Rosa, two doctors who lost a daughter to natural causes years ago. After three years of homeschooling, Mallory decides she wants to go to school for her senior year to gear her up for the social pressures of attending college. Battling her social anxiety and speech difficulties as she goes to school, she soon bumps into a familiar face…
This book was such a quick read for me, and unlike any book I’ve ever read – it’s a romance, perhaps even a twist on Romeo & Juliet. Rider and Mallory moved into two very different backgrounds, united by a past that they’re both trying to move on from. Mallory is set on college, perhaps even medical school, whilst Rider really isn’t too bothered about school – he hardly even does his homework, too focussed on his art. I liked this unconventional love interest, and the subplot that is his new family and their lives. However, Mallory really does try to mould him into a ‘better’, more academic person – which is understandable but kind of grated on me – he was an interesting character to begin with, and doesn’t need to be pushed into the typical love interest mould.
Most of the characters were developed and had full back stories – especially Mallory and Rider – but I felt Mallory’s school friends were way under-developed, something chronic in YA. Mallory’s best friend Ainsley, however, was fun and had her own storyline – which I believe will be explored further in the next book.
Whilst this story definitely stands out from most romances, it was actually the romance that didn’t quite gel for me. I know a lot of people loved it. It reminded me a lot of my ex-boyfriend in a cringey way (my ex-boyfriend was VERY cringey). It was not discussed at all that Mallory and Rider were foster siblings, and were brought up, for ten years, as brother and sister (albeit in a very messed up household). This was particularly surprising to me as Mallory’s parents do object to the romance (I loved that the parents were realistic and got involved!).
There are some really dark and serious topics in this book (child abuse, drugs, grief, loss, the poor/rich divide,etc.) which I really did like – but the romance and the characters just didn’t click for me. This book has all the ingredients for a great YA novel, but the execution didn’t do it for me – but it did for a lot of other people.
A hard-hitting romance with dark tones but ultimately, a story of survival.
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