Quick review for a somewhat quick read. To be honest, coming out of reading Monica Murphy's "Never Tear Us Apart" - I feel emotionally manipulated for the absolutely wrong reasons. This is a story on a very tough subject matter with quite a bit of emotion behind it. I knew this even going into the book and was prepared for the gravity of it. I don't fault the story for the intentions behind it or even for delving into the lives of two very flawed characters who underwent a tragic experience in their teenage years (well, technically since Katie was 12, she was pre-teen, so there's that notation to make).
"Never Tear Us Apart" comes across as being very underwhelming for the way it presents a very palpable and serious subject matter. The story revolves around the experiences of Katie and Ethan, in both present and past considerations. Katie was kidnapped and repeatedly raped/abused over the course of three days by a man who took her from a nearby amusement park. Will was the boy who ended up saving Katie's life - from the brute of a man that was his father. Will also suffered under his father's brutality. The two of them share a bond that was fleeting in their former years, but were separated until their young adult years. Will's changed his name (Ethan) and identity hoping to distance himself away from his past - particularly from his father's shadow and his actions. Katie struggles to come to terms with what happened to her and to move on - first starting with a revealing public interview (which didn't go as expected) but then having Katie make attempts to come to terms with her broken family and move forward in reaching a sense of "normal." Lo and behold, Ethan sees Katie's interview, decides to "stalk" her (and I'm quoting his words here. He repeatedly says this through the novel and makes an acknowledgement of his wrong actions, but that doesn't make the situation any better) and tries to develop a relationship with her. Katie, not knowing who Ethan is, is lead to believe that a guy *finally* notices her and that she can take steps towards leading a normal life.
Unfortunately, it doesn't pan out as well as either of them would like, despite more lighthearted moments.
I think my biggest disappointment in the novel was how mediocre the presentation of these events came across. The first issue lies in the constantly hopping timeline. The story's already told in dual perspectives, which would be enough on its own, but it's told between past and present as well, so there's a trade between four different sections that the reader has to keep up with. To me, that was too much, especially when there wasn't a lot of room to know where those transitions would lead at times. The second was the sheer amount of repetitious phrasing that occurred in this novel. I even noticed it in the audiobook version, which made me cringe. The constant referencing to Ethan saying his actions were stalkerish and "messed up", the constant references of Katie being unable to "touch a man" or "dress up for a man". Some of it might've been fine to briefly highlight the contradiction in their actions versus circumstances, but since it was constantly cited back and forth through several chapters and between scenes, I felt like the editing in this novel was not well done, and it took far more narrative space than it should have even with the context of the novel being at the forefront. I also had problems with Katie constantly hinging her recovery on "finding a man". Her internal struggle is palpable regarding her abduction and rape - I'm not critiquing that, but this novel -instead of taking the matter seriously and in a mature way - goes the route of emotionally milking the reader's sentiments and hinging Katie's recovery on her relationship with Ethan. Ethan - our supposed swoon-worthy hero - is emotionally manipulative and possessive, pretty much like so many New Adult heroes that are already out there and tied with this type of story. And this kind of presentation gets old really quickly because it doesn't feel genuine with the context of the story, rather more focused on the relationship/romantic drama than anything else.
This measure saddens me, but I'll say that the ending - cliffhanger as it was - panned out about how I expected to and at least has Katie calling out Ethan on his B.S. Now, this is a duology as far as a series goes, and I have the ARC to the second book, so I'll be reading that to see what happens. But this really could've been a better experience than what it was if only the method with which it was told were more evened out and the narrative had been less on forcing the emotional conflicts and rather genuinely giving them more weight than just pushing them along for the sake of the love story/connection between the characters. It was really hard to believe the relationship between Ethan and Katie because of how their relationship was presented/structured.
For this reason, I really didn't care for this novel much. But I did like the audiobook narration, so it gets 1.5 stars from me. I'll be reading the second book to see if it improves.
Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.