A story about friendship, survival and finding your voice
Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, back at it again with the Armentrout but you all better get used to it because there’s gonna be A LOT more JLA coming from me next month so I’m warning you all. But geez, I did not expect JLA to do what she did to me with this book. Like this was me the entire time I was reading this book: Jennifer…..Jennifer…..you didn’t have to do that to me. You guys should know by now that I’m not really a crier when it comes to contemporaries, or most books for that matter. Sure, I cry when a favourite character dies but it’s not that often. There are a bunch of books that make me want to cry but the tears never actually come. However, my face was like a fricking waterfall when I read this book. It hit me hard in so many places and I feel like it got to me like no other book has before. I’ve never actually said this before but I feel like this book spoke to me and truly, truly resonated with me and that’s why I got so emotional. Nothing has ever made me feel the way this book did and I’m so unbelievably glad it was Jennifer L. Armentrout that did it. I’m literally throwing all 5 stars to her. I don’t even care, just take all my stars.
- Obviously, the writing from Armentrout was stellar as usual so I don’t need to go into detail about it; I expect amazing writing and I get it. But what I really enjoyed from her writing this time around was how it was used to highlight such an interesting yet serious issue. I’ve read a fair bit of books where there’s some kind of foster kid, whether it’s a main or secondary, but none of them ever felt real, you know? They either felt too good to be true, where the character made a great life for themselves regardless of their background or it was slightly over exaggerated with bouncing around homes and having villains as foster parents. While there might have been some embellishment on Armentrout’s part with Mallory’s foster parents, it still felt scarily real. I think what I mean when I say that is that I can actually imagine what happened to Mallory and Rider growing up happen to someone in real life and I think a part of me forgot that it’s a fictional story. It made me hurt for both of these kids and hurt for the kids that this actually happens to. I also liked that there was such an interesting contrast between how Mallory ended up after leaving that house versus how Rider ended up because not every kid can get lucky and not every foster kid gets adopted. I think it was important to highlight the difference between the two and while they both might’ve ended up with loving families respectively, it’s still not the same. I think Armentrout did a really good job exploring this issue and I know it must’ve been hard not only to write but to research and it felt like it was a good representation, or it was to me at least. It wasn’t too cookie-cutter but also wasn’t too horror-story either; it was real enough for me.
- I really liked the exploration of the idea of forever throughout this book because that word was something Mallory brought up a lot. She always thought that she’d be the way she was forever and it seemed like the word itself scared her sometimes. I think sometimes we don’t really understand what that word means and I can understand why Mallory would be scared of forever. I’m definitely scared of forever because once you’re used to the idea of doing something forever, whether it’s a good or bad thing, you panic. Mallory focused a lot on the negative forevers, of how she’d never be able to speak in front of people forever or how Rider would be stuck in his way of thinking forever, and once you saw her realize that everything doesn’t have to be forever, it all changed. Her character changed and she started to understand how she can be better and I think she started to understand the purpose of forever. She saw that there are good and bad forevers but it’s not something that should restrict you. She also noted that sometimes we take forever for granted, like what was happening with Ainsley and her vision, and while we think we’ll have forever to do something, it can be taken away in the blink of an eye. And I think that’s not only the purpose of this book but the purpose of the title because there can be a problem with forever. It can be scary and it pushes you backwards sometimes but once you beat that assumption of forever it’s like starting over on a new page. I like that this is a conversation Armentrout has started with this book and it’s gonna be something that I think about and carry with me, well, forever.
- Mallory’s character development was out of this world fantastic. Seeing her start as scared, quiet girl that wants nothing more than to prove to others and herself that she’s normal realize that there’s nothing wrong with her and progressively become stronger, but not perfect, was incredible. While I’ve never been through what Mallory had been through, I resonated with her in a way that I never have before. While her quiet comes from PTSD and conditioning and mine comes from social anxiety, at the end we both share the same thoughts and fears; speaking in front of people, not knowing how to successfully make friends, and just not wanting to be embarrassed. Her character really spoke to me and a lot of the way she acted, regardless of her past, is something I’ve seen myself do and it’s why I connected with her so quickly. But anyways, back to her development. My absolute favourite thing was that “fixing” her problem and fear wasn’t something that was smack dab in her face and it was a collection of little things that ignited all of that change within her. It was sitting with people at lunch, attempting to go to a party even if she never actually went, and having the courage to speak in front of her class. She spends a lot of time focusing on the idea that she might be stuck the same way forever but when that light goes off of how she’s getting better because she’s trying and taking all these baby steps forward, proving to herself little by little that she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore, is the best kind of development. I don’t need an extravagant moment that proves someone’s development; I want the cumulative baby steps, the little by little progression and changes. A person doesn’t change because of one thing and I think that’s another thing this book is trying to show you; it’s that change comes over time and it’s through small victories that you’ll finally see a difference. I also love that just because Mallory had been getting better and was changing so much never meant that she was all of a sudden 100% better. I liked that she still recognized there was still a lot of work left and that talking to her therapist was still a thing she needed to do. It didn’t make her weak at all and I respect her so much. Seeing Mallory become stronger every day through her small steps meant the entire world to me and inspires me so much. I was literally crying when she did her speech in front of her class because I was so proud of her and it wasn’t even what she said in her speech, it was just her speaking in front of everyone like that. Her victories truly felt like my victories and it was everything.
- The romance between Mallory and Rider was so cute and one of my favourite tropes, childhood friends to lovers, and it felt so unbelievably right. A lot of people thought that being with Rider would be a step backwards for Mallory, given all the progress she made, and I liked that Mallory never listened to those people. She saw the worth in Rider and I think if anything, Mallory was a step back for Rider because he never moved forward like she did. It looked like he did but he was what Mallory feared she would be: stuck. I like that Rider was the person who had always stuck by her throughout their time growing up, and again after they reconnected, and was her biggest support system. But Rider never had that in his life because he was too busy doing it for other people and it made me cry that he didn’t see his worth or value. That’s why I thought the relationship was so good because they had such a strong balance between them and became each other’s biggest cheerleaders. It might’ve taken Mallory a bit longer to realize that it was what Rider needed, and that he needed to become unstuck, but I think they’re so unbelievably good for one another. And I also liked that the relationship was never a fixation on what they used to have or about the people they used to know and it recognized that Mallory and Rider are not who they were as kids but they loved this new version of each other anyways. I was already sold on the trope used here but the recognition of the idea of loving who Rider used to be versus the Rider who he is now made it all worth it.
- I almost forgot but shout out to JLA for making Rider a yummy, yummy bad boy. I was beyond satisfied and definitely in love.
- Uhhhhhhh. Nothing?
THE BOTTOM LINE
- This is such an important story that matters in more ways than just one. It makes you think about what the concept of forever really means, it shows you how you can change and grow as a person, how to find your voice in this world (even if it’s a quiet voice that stutters), how to love, and it shows you the importance of second chances. In the end, it’s a book that shows you what it means to live. I’ve never cried so much in my life by reading one single book so thanks, JLA. This book means the world to me.
BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: The Problem With Forever
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Pages: 474 (Paperback)
Until next time,
What did you think of the book? Leave a comment below!