Pre-read: I'll admit I'm kind of spazzing out because I didn't think I'd get this book to review. Whoo-hoo!
Okay Armentrout, let's see how you do NA. Oops, I mean, J. Lynn. ;P
Post-read I thought this was okay in places, but I had issues with the narrative, not just with the amount of repetitions of phrase and pacing, but also issues that this tackles. Hopefully I can explain it after contemplating over it a while.
This is going to be a review that's tough for me to write personally, but I'd give "Wait for You" a solid 2 stars for the experience it offered me. That's actually pretty well founded compared to most of the New Adult titles I've picked up this year. It is by far NOT one of the worst in the genre/age group I've read this year, but several factors worked against it that made this a difficult read for me, and not simply on the level of the tough subject matter.
Many times, in the New Adult novels I've picked up, I've seen rape treated as a shallow plot vehicle that doesn't deal with the emotional gravity and weights that the matter has, and also the moral conflicts within an individual for someone who's suffered in the aftermath years after the fact.
Here's the thing - it's not so much that I have a beef with stories in New Adult that deal with tragic pasts or difficult subjects. If anything, I think giving light to the issues and bringing it to the table as well as the emotions surrounding it can be very worthwhile. And for young adults (and I don't mean YA, but rather adults between the ages of 18-25 give or take some years) - being able to discuss it in a way that shows a character rising above the pain and coming to terms with their life is a wonderful thing. Heck, it's a wonderful thing to see regardless of the age group a work is oriented towards.
For me, the contention I continue to raise is how an author deals with them. If you're talking about the subject of rape or child molestation or a character dealing with a criminal past and having to own up to the consequences of that or something that's grounded in the reality of being a difficult measure - you have to deal with the reality. You can't skirt it, you can't simply use it as a vehicle to bring your characters together in a romance. It's a real issue with real contexts, stakes and people who suffer in those measures.
If I can give J. Lynn (a.k.a. Jennifer Armentrout) credit for this particular story, she tackles a very tough subject well for the context she introduces. When we meet Avery in this story, we can tell that not all is well with her respective life and relationships, that she's running from some parts of her past and in a degree of denial about it. The story attempts to showcase the slog that she has to get through in order to push past the continued denial she's put herself within and actually face the pain and challenges she has face on.
Cam (Cameron) actually acts like a guy who takes responsibilities for his actions and owns up for his wrongdoings, which is a heck of a lot more credit than I can give most males that are championed in this genre. I have to admit I liked his character because I did find him funny and charming in (some) moments with his interactions with Avery, but others I could've rung his neck for. Is he perfect? Nah. But then again I don't expect him or Avery to be.
I don't necessarily have the expectation that characters in any novel are going to know the right thing to do from the very get go, or even act in ways that are in line with my own personal moral codes. Because to err is human, no? And the characters in fiction, whether they're grounded in reality or more in the lines of the fantastical or somewhere in the middle, there's some parallels to the world around us.
But did this novel have to follow a formula that's so close to the teeth with the problems that New Adult tends to have? I value stories much more when they're not such obvious FORMULAS. The formula screamed at me for a good part of this particular work on initial grounds.
When we meet Avery, she's gushing over the popular guy for his tight muscles and she's the blushing virgin who's never really had any kind of "real" relationship. He - the big and bad boy on campus - is attracted to her and only her, and it seems too good to be true! There's familiar elements of slut shaming, bitch slamming, gay relationships in negative terming (just because the heroine has no real previous relationships, the "lesbian" label gets thrown out there by one of her friends) among other problematic elements.
It's enough to make a reader who's seen this one too many times want to rip their hair out. Not just for frequency, but the cliches are cheap shots at conflict that don't really do anything to build upon the story NOR reflect the situation for the realistic terms its built upon.
Still, as the narrative went on, I saw sparks in this that actually dealt with the matter well. We get that Avery has a tragic past to face up to, it's just a matter of working up to that point and how it chooses to work toward that point, whether through the development of the characters, their relationships, the toggle between mentality and reality affecting dealing with those issues, etc. If the narrative hadn't been so bogged down with the cliches and had dealt with its pacing/structure in better ways, this could've been a stellar novel. I saw the potential points in this that were good, but it was often eclipsed by those measures which were derivative.
I have to give J. Lynn/Armentrout credit for showing some of the tougher issues that were within this narrative on the level of Avery coming to terms with her family as well as the consequences of her past clashing with her present. The confrontation Avery has with her parents was tense, as was with the mysterious caller that Avery has to stand her ground with. I also have to give credit for Lynn exposing one of Avery's fatal flaws with respect to trust and how that's important within a relationship.
I hated the fact that the latter had to hinge on a "guy" making Avery see these things, but to Cam's credit, his speech in the narrative where he's talking about denial and trust made me want to stand up and cheer, because he really hits home on the matter on several levels. Ultimately - he was right. And to Avery's credit, she's more self-aware than she lets on in tougher moments, but it takes strains on her relationships - both romantic and not - to make her see how to deal with those things.
I liked that this narrative attempted to show Avery and Cam's relationship building in lighter moments, though some of the pop culture references and length of some scenes really bogged down the pacing. So it was a give and take.
I'm probably going to try subsequent novels in this series, but honestly - it's give or take. There are some very worthy moments in "Wait for You", but it doesn't overshoot the cliches of the genre, and that really hindered it from being more than it could've been.
Overall score: 2/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from Edelweiss, from the publisher.