This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Wasn’t. What. I. Was. Expecting! Yeah, that was my first reaction after reading this book. Actually, to speak the truth, I should say that most of it wasn’t what I was expecting. We all get these preconceived notions that are built on various pre-reading clues we get from things like the title, the genre, the blurb, the cover, etc. I make mention of this because I had certain ideas going into the story that allowed the story to really take me by surprise. Not in a million years did I expect some of the plot twists in the story starting off with what happened to the heroine after she trusts the wrong person and going from there.
The story opens with this bright-eyed girl who is in high school with the world at her feet. She lives with her mom with whom she has a good relationship, she does well in school, she has good friends and now she has a cool guy who just graduated interested in her and her mom even likes him. Life is a dream!
But in one big, naive mistake, life becomes a nightmare. It has been two years and Kari is a whole different person in some ways from the girl who let a sleazy guy dupe her and continue to threaten her through blackmail. She hides this dark secret from everyone including her mom. Her break comes from an unexpected direction when she takes a job in the tattoo parlor across the street from her home. There she is mentored by the tattoo artist and becomes friends with the body piercing gal, Nalini. Nalini is outspoken and brash, but she’s solid friend material.
One day, into the parlor walks the guy of her dreams, Neil Mars (I know, what a name!), the son of her boss. Well, he’s the man of her dreams if she wasn’t terrified of letting a guy near her ever again. Neil is just as into her and doesn’t even let her freakish behavior that she exhibits when she is near him put him off. They both have hidden pain and they both have a way of brightening a bad day for each other and trusting in each other. Things move forward slowly with them. The blackmailer troubles are still there though. Kari must decide if she can trust Neil with everything and trust in him to still want her when he knows.
The plot to this one had some elements that are typical of many YA/NA novels. Then for every point that is typical, there is an atypical plot piece tossed in to keep it fresh and interesting. This is a character-driven story so it plods along rather slowly and it is told first person so I spent a lot of time in Kari’s head listening to her internal monologue. There were a few times that I found it tedious and angsty, but more often than not, she kept my full interest as a narrator of her story. The descriptive language allowed for me to feel things right along with Kari. Even though Neil was a bit more of an enigma since I only saw him through the grid of Kari’s thoughts, I couldn’t help but absolutely adore him. Kari was skittish and rude at times, but he just hung with her like a champ. His hormones were raging (not that hers weren’t- being with Neil was all she thought about much of the time), but he held back and waited for her. Considering what happened to her, that was the best proof that he could be trusted and that he cared for her that he could have given.
There were a few things that niggled me about the story. Now I might be in error, but I’m pretty sure that Kari is seventeen and Neil is twenty-six. She’s in college, but she’s underage for this relationship. As I pointed out earlier, he took good care of her and her mom is aware of their relationship and approves, but there is a part of me that wished her character had been a couple years older. The relationship would seem more credible (nine years’ difference at that time of life is a huge gap) and plus I think I’d be more comfortable about it. I also felt that things rushed in the end and then leaped to the epilogue which was cute and full of promise leaving the future wide open to the imagination.
In the end, I really enjoyed this story and was sorry to see it end. Those who enjoy the New Adult Contemporary Romance niche should most definitely give this one a try.