Right from the beginning, I loved the front cover and design taken up throughout the book (chapter design as well since I got this on kindle). The picture and the title practically yelled how the story went.
It took me a while to read this book, mostly because I got it as a review giveaway, along with a bunch of other books. I had too many books to read and review, since they were all so tempting. Even though I told myself getting so many was stupid, I just couldn't help myself, like a child standing in front of a candy shop, I just had to walk in. Having to balance that with my compulsion to internet surf, read manga, talk to people and keep other commitments (like watching my beloved Teen Wolf) I had to hurry to finish this book the day before the deadline. Well, time to get on with it...
I can't classify this novel as Contemporary, though it says so on my blog label, but it felt different from me, a striking difference to other books. Maybe I'm not used to the genre yet, but this book felt like a fresh yet explainable idea.
Continuing on, I will be discussing this novel in four stages (since right now I'm obsesed with order):
The base storyline was both creative and entertaining. I loved how the author threw in her ideas to carve a story like this. However, (I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad thing) the plot was circular around Willow, and most of the few sub-plots I noticed in the first half of the story had a strong connection to Willow.
Willow's breakdown over her mom's growing life was an interesting and emotional twist that added to the attractiveness of the story. I was sympathetic to her all the way through that ordeal, but did wish Michael had gotten more involved around this part of the novel.
Unfortunately, big events weren't always thoroughly stressed. Some things were easily forgotten because the author did not repeat them the way they could have been. (I can't give examples for fear of giving away massive plot twists but please send me a message if you want to know what I mean).
The author's ideas for characters were interesting and worth paying attention to. However, the characters were not always sent across properly. The author described who they were and didn't let us see what they did. Unfortunately, the author took prioritising her characters to an extreme. For example, compared to other characters around Willow's age, Tessa and Jacques were highly developed. This proved to show inconsistencies in the strength of her characters.
There was also the problem of how a teenage essence was not fully carried across (though this book was involved in a lot of growing up). Her age seemed slightly unstable and unsure, though I could tell she was a teenager.
As I started reading the book, I began to feel a forbidden emotion for Tessa. I get that as the novel begins she's supposed to be the meanie, but she was the kind of character that made me smile. (Sorry, can't help it). During the first few chapters where she played a part, Willow, our main character, began to annoy me when it came to Tessa. She seemed kind of judgemental and took Tessa's words the wrong way. Saying "That sucks." after someone tells you about their tragic lifestyle is not offensive. I mean, what exactly is she supposed to say? But of course, around the end, I felt a lot of pity for her. It was sad to watch how she tried to function without basic family needs.
There were times when Willow’s character came across as whining and ungrateful. The best example was her birthday ordeal. At first, when everyone cancelled on her, it was completely understandable for her to be pissed and upset, but when she began to claim that it ‘ruined’ her birthday, it became annoying and less relateable. This could have been solved if she got over it the next day, but she was still complaining, even after her brother and mother came home with 16helium balloons and a chocolate cake. If I got that for my birthday, I’d be screaming with happiness, yet she still complained about being all alone. For goodness sake, you are not alone! She has a right to be u[pset over her situation, but overreacting makes you annoying and unrelatable.
There were also other times when she came across as annoying. She did not stick up for her friends as she should have, and she tended to treat them as if she didn't really care about what they were saying. With Tessa for instance, at times she treated Tessa really badly without even acknowledging it. Other times, she'd treat her supposed 'best friends for life' from her old neighbourhood, as if their problems were minuscule compared to her own. (Such as when they were having an argument over a guy and Becca felt as if she were caught in the middle). However, some strategically placed sarcastic character-oriented sentences made her quirky and interesting.
Continuing on with the however, at times Willow proved to have spunk. Like when Brian gave her that little threat, what she called being 'indignant' was what I called sticking up for herself. I had to root for her then, I would be severely disappointed in myself if I didn't, though I did wish Willow spoke to her mom as soon as she found things out.
Then there’s her family. Her totally piss-taking family. For a second, I had to wonder if her mom was blind not see the way her daughter felt about Brian. It was pretty obvious she didn’t want him around, yet she still chose to invite him to her daughter’s birthday. Honestly, that was just cruel. (I admit this bit is more a rant than a flaw in the novel). Though, I guess I can't be angry at her considering the way things turned out in that particular chapter.
Brian... I never trusted Brian, and I kept wishing Willow would do something about him as she made discoveries about who he really was. His personality though was perfectly placed and fit into the story easily. There was something completely natural (but jarring nonetheless) about how the author fit him in.
Down to her friends. Near the middle of the book, I discovered that I totally hated but understood Erica and Taylor's judgemental behaviour towards Tessa. It showed a slice of how people generally act when it comes to judging people they do not know.
Honestly, getting off point, I liked Jacques and wished he wasn't stoned all the time. He could have made a great male lead in another book with his cheerful and slightly goofy personality.
Okay, problem time. There were times when the author seemed to be so busy making the novel dramatic that she forgot to keep the characters in shape. Michael's mom for instance. A lot of the things she did were said, not done, and her emotions weren't properly expanded on. Really important moments weren't given out properly. (I'll expand on this later).
I have to admit, Michael was pretty darn awesome. Though he was strange (not that I'm complaining) and there were chunks of the novel where he was virtually none existent I loved him (though unfortunately, he did dim my care for Willow and made her less likable with is ever encompassing awesomeness). I found even myself getting butterflies from some of the things he said. Like once, when he said:
"I know, but I still wanted to see you." Michael brushed a wisp of hair from my forehead and let is fingers linger. "I needed to see you," he leaned in closer, "to touch you."
I think my heart stopped at that bit. Why do I find that so hot?
Going on, when I found out about his 'situaton,' it actually made me sad. Half of me wishes the author hadn't added that detail, while the other realises that's how the world works, and it's almost endearing to give it to one of the most important characters.
There was also the way the author wrote about Michael, which made it almost feel like I was Willow, having a crush on him, liking him but not sure it I could trust him (maybe that's just me being paranoid), yet grieving over every chance we missed to be together. I can say at least one thing: Julie Ann Knudsen can definitely write romance.
However, as the novel went along, the way the author ignored us during Michael and Willow's crucial bonding time was both understandable and frustrating. At times it felt like the author had laid a rock foundation but had left large pits and attempted to cover them with blocks of Styrofoam. It didn't provide enough safety when it came to readers loving her book. This goes back to the situation of saying and not doing.
This book was one of those novels where the author failed at using the first person to describe her main character's appearance without making her less likable. There are also moments when things were laid down a bit thick to the reader, with too much procrastination.
There was also the case of the author treating first person like third person. If Willow was in such a daze she didn't hear her friend speak, then it shouldn't be written before she pays attention. Her friend could repeat the question after Willow says, "What?" or something like that.
I liked how the author wielded the problem of her mother changing. However, a lot of the tragedies were not written in a classic emotional style. The act and the story were there but at times the emotion was M.I.A.
This book seemed like it was meant to teach the readers a lesson. However, it seemed to give a more vantage point view due to the writing style. The main character wasn't as relatable as other main character's in this genre usually are. However this style was encouraging as the reader sat by and watched with a cinematic view, (now that I think about it, this book was a lot like a romantic movie, Julie Ann should try her hand at playwrighting) judging her actions. So, this book was unique when it came to how it spoke to the reader. This style was risky and kind of subjective to how the reader saw it, especially during peer pressure involved situations. Essentially, I hated some things, but they were par to the story so I couldn't really complain.
Though the 'cinematic view' the author gave us was interesting, it came with it's flaws. The author had a tendency to write the story play by play with a hint of a third person style thrown in for like. I'd like to continue reading her works in first person, but several flaws came with it, such as once, she said: "My big blue eyes got bigger." That can be used, but using it twice reaches the borderline of dangerous writing.
I admit, around the end I got scared (black dress, black sandals, what was I supposed to think?) but the novel ended up finishing beautifully, without ripping my heart out. It was the best ending the book could have had, and it gave even me butterflies
All in all, I was condescending when I started this book, but ended up discovering something I didn't expect as it felt like, I went on the journey with Willow, discovering what she'd always been missing and realising that I absolutely adore this book.
This book thought me something about dry cleaning
Oh, by the way, God can't die (Something Willow said)
Willow and Julie have the same middle name!
Thank you for reading :)
For more reviews, check out my blog: heartbeatpom.blogspot.co.uk