REVIEW ✧ DON’T LOOK BACK

“I was stuck in a life I didn’t remember, squeezed into the shell of this girl – this Samantha Jo Franco – and the more I learned about her, the more I was starting to hate her.” 

☆☆☆☆

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 truth 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?

I don’t typically read a lot of thrillers, not for any particular reason really, it’s just not something I gravitate to, but when I do they always seem to be so captivating that I just can’t put it down. Throw Jennifer L. Armentrout into the mix and it’s pretty much the recipe for the perfect book. Or it is if you’re me and you love JLA as much as I do. Part of me wonders if I’m entering that stage of love for an author where I’d love literally anything they write and would praise them blindly no matter what, but I don’t think that’s what this is. I just really enjoyed this book and I think if it was any other author I’d enjoy it just the same. I still think it’s funny that my friend thought I needed to read this when I was mentally stable, which makes sense since it’s a thriller, but I elected not to listen to him and read it anyways. I regret nothing. It was a great read and he’s pretty impressed by how fast I read it so there are just so many wins here.

THE GOOD

  • Since I know how great Armentrout’s writing is in this current day and time it’s easy to say that it’s always stellar, but I’ve found that when I go back to some of her earlier stuff, it’s not as stellar as I’m used to. This happened with White Hot Kiss, but if I think about it, that didn’t happen with this one. When I was reading this book, the writing felt as solid as it does with what she’s putting out right now. I mean, there were definitely times where the age of the book’s publication were showing, since 2014 was truly a different time than 2018 even though it’s a mere 4 year difference, but our ideals have changed and so I think there were some conversations that felt slightly outdated to me but it’s not something I’d lose sleep over. But there are a couple factors that make me believe that this was the usual great Armentrout writing that I know and love. The first is that it was such an enticing story that I couldn’t be anything but sucked in. That’s what I love about thrillers, the fact that I just need to find out what happened and who the killer is and because of this need, I have to keep reading. So even though thriller isn’t something Armentrout typically writes, I think she did a great job because it felt like the typical YA thriller that captivates me. The second factor is the fact that the major focal point of this book was the memory loss trope, which is something I cannot stand most of the time, but I actually didn’t mind it this time around, and that’s because of Armentrout. I actually really liked that from the minute you start this book you go into it as fresh as Sam does and you unravel the mystery right there with her. This might be the only circumstance where I’m good with the use of this trope and it didn’t feel like a copout at all, which is how it usually feels, and I think it was an important aspect not only to her writing but to the story. It does give a bit of a hint to an unreliable narrator, which I also enjoy, so that’s another point for Armentrout. I just love how she wrote the story and how it all played out and constantly kept me guessing.
  • Even though the main point of this book was the mystery about what happened to Sam and Cassie, I think there was also the important theme of second chances and the idea of acting a certain way because of what’s expected of you. I might not be the biggest believer of people being able to change, but I think this particular scenario shows that people can. If you give them a clean slate then you can see them for what they are. I think it was important for Sam’s character to have this and she was able to break out of that bubble of expectations, whether it’s from her mom or her jerk of a boyfriend, or even of herself, and she was just able to be herself for the first time in all those years. There’s also the idea that people can change people for worse rather than better and kind of explores the toxicity of certain relationships that come from expectations, which again was something important for Sam to realize. This is another reason why I enjoyed the memory loss trope because she was able to be herself and discover her person without anything really expected of her. She saw that she didn’t like the world she used to live in and decided to change it, even if those around her didn’t like it. I really enjoyed the journey that Sam went on in this book and I think she ended in a really good spot.
  • I usually complain about every cover that’s on a JLA book but I think this is the first time I’m actually gonna praise one. Not only is it stunning but it also ties into the story so well. The two ballerinas, the reflection differing from the actual thing, the crack in the mirror, all of it. It didn’t make sense to me when I first picked it up but as you get further into the book and the pieces start unraveling, the cover makes almost perfect sense. And then the ending just solidifies everything and you look at it like “oh, this is SUCH a clever cover!” Or at least I did. Whoever did this cover, I applaud you. It’s perfect.
  • I’m not gonna reveal who the killer is but it definitely caught me by surprise. I had so many suspects running through my head but the actual killer wasn’t even close to who I thought it was. But again, that’s what made it such a good thriller. It kept me guessing right to the very end.

THE BAD

  • I’m not entirely sure where I sit with the romance. Sure, I loved that Sam and Carson were childhood friends and they were able to reconnect, but the proclamation of love was just a little too soon for me, especially since they never really went on a date. I think they cute and Carson is such a good guy, even though I suspected him to be the killer a la Ethan in The Lying Game, which tainted my thoughts on him slightly. I think the love thing might be my only problem because they really are a cute couple and I support them a lot. But in the grand scheme of Armentrout ships they’re not my complete favourite, even though they are so darn adorable.
  • Her “friends” were horrible people and I wasn’t a fan of how they made fun of Sam’s memory loss, going as far to call her insane and essentially making fun of mental illness in the process. I was not sorry to see Sam outgrow them and call them out constantly because they sucked. She’s so much better off without them.

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • It’s easy to love this book if you’re an Armentrout fan but even if you’re not, this is definitely a book worth picking up. It’s the kind of mystery thriller that’ll capture you from the get go and won’t let you go until you reach the end and I feel like you’ll be wishing that there was more. If you managed to figure out the killer before reaching the end, I am in awe of you.

BONUS: how this book made me feel in a GIF

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Don’t Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Pages: 384 (Paperback)
Goodreads

Until next time,

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