Review: "Until You" by Penelope Douglas (Fall Away 1.5)

Until You (Fall Away, #1.5) - Penelope Douglas

Initial reaction: Well, at least I gave this read a shot. I read though the whole thing, but it was goodness awful. But I'm going to talk about it like the read I treated it as - mostly through something of an academic/curious filter.

It was rough going though, and I do not understand the appeal of Jared at all.

Full review:

There's much for me to cover in this review, so I won't mince too many words here in establishing the plot, just get right to my reaction for turns of events. I wasn't going to read this given my reaction to "Bully", but considering this was the "hero" follow-up, I decided to bite the bullet and read this purely as a measure of curious/academic discourse. Meaning I read much of this through an emotional filter on purpose to see if "Until You" made the series any better than its first novel by showcasing its respective hero in the front seat. To reveal a bias upfront, I hated Jared's character in "Bully." Hated him to the finest point and I didn't think of him as a proper love interest in the slightest. I wondered how anyone could romanticize a guy who, despite the notation of his tormented past with abuse and neglect, had such an abrasive, control freak personality. I suppose I got my answer in this book with a more intimate perspective of Jared's viewpoint and experiences, but I can't say I'm happy with it at all.

If anything, "Until You" is worse in quality than "Bully." "Bully," to its credit was compulsively readable in places, and Tate's perspective made some turns of it tolerable. This read slow, tedious, and didn't have a sympathetic eye to Jared's perspective point really at all. He's pretty much a possessive, violent control freak with moments of nearly raping Tatum, but yet has the gall to not equate himself with "assholes" who harrass women.

Oh, the ever-loving irony.

Being in Jared's head felt like a poison that I couldn't get out fast enough from. He's worse than Travis Maddox in my opinion. I hate saying that because pretty much in the scheme of New Adult, Travis Maddox (hero from Jamie McGuire's "Beautiful" series) is the template go-to guy for abusive alpha males who are violent, misogynstic jerks who have messed up pasts supposedly. (Only, to be blunt, Travis really doesn't have such a messed up past - he lost his mom and then basically has this abrasive personality all on his own, so...)

Those of you who've read "Bully" already know much of this story at least for Tate's perspective. It's the same script, different cast for the most part, and while I noted the author made the note that this is "Jared's story" and not a retelling - I hate to say it, but this really is a retelling in so many words. It has a lot of new scenes from Jared's perspective point that provide expansions where the first novel did not on his respective character, much much of it is the cross-between points of events that happened in the first novel. It's not a complete copy/pasta, but much of it is retreaded territory. "Until You" is guilty of doing the exact same thing as "Walking Disaster," "Losing Hope," and pretty much any New Adult popular retelling where the hero's in the front seat.

The difference with this novel is that it's not so intricately entwined to the first that you'd miss something if you haven't read the first one. Which, to Douglas's credit, I was able to remember key events in the narrative at the prompting without necessarily going back to the first. But Jared is not as compelling a narrator as Tatum and this read incredibly slow and extremely shallow for emotional quality. There's really very little holding the fabric of this novel together in terms of portraying a sympathetic hero to root for because Jared uses Tate (and pretty much everyone else he knows) like a drug, like a toy to be possessed. He wants to own every part of Tate's life - her fear, her frustration, her anxiety. And even when he starts to see that what he's done to her in terms of her breaking point, it's not a transition that feels all that realistic, just convenient to get the machine in place for their love connections to start.

Jared is a human leech, and he makes no qualms about it in the beginning of this novel (well past the first couple of chapters which establish how Tate and Jared met as kids, but that felt incredibly loose in establishment.) Much of the information on his past is communicated in telling form, not showing, and there were points where I wanted to be in his head for proper character development, but didn't see that. There were others I honestly wanted out of his head because of his controlling, violent demeanor - it was too much and hard to see any sympathetic qualities at all. One of the times when Tatum was being bullied by a group over insults towards her body, on one hand he didn't support that because he loved her body (and continuously reminded the reader of that in distinct objectifications), but he was perfectly willing to let Tate believe what she wanted in terms of his thoughts on the matter, making her hurt worse and gaining gratification from that.

How is this a romantic hero by any measure of the word? Why do people like reading about characters like this? I do not understand it at all. Granted, I can read about problematic characters - there are some very well written problematic characters out there who redeem themselves to great people by the end of the story. But that's not this story at all. This is a pretty shallow narrative that's championing Jared's worse qualities as romanticized, and that's not cool. It's only by the sake of convenience that Jared's portrayed in any kind of redemptive light here. There are points here where he recognizes his wrongs, but it's much like "Walking Disaster" with the portrayal - he feels guilty for the moment, and then the next he's like "Mine, Mine, Mine!" for using whomever he can, whenever he can.

There's a lot of new information shed on Jared's relationship with K.C. in this book, which was ultimately revealed to be a ploy by K.C. to make her old boyfriend jealous. What made it worse was that Jared was perfectly willing to go along with this plan, to use K.C. for her plan and also use K.C. to hurt Tate, to control Tate's emotions and possess her. He didn't want her to belong to anyone. It was so frustrating to read and hard to see how any one this messed up could be worth following in any measure of the word.

There's also information about Jared's little brother Jax and Jared's mother that weren't in "Bully", and that provided some relief, but Jax is pretty much the pawn in the manipulative games that Jared's father - from prison, plays with him. And as for Jared's mother (his poor mother) - Jared disrespects and disregards her every chance he can get.

There's not much more to say about Tatum here than is mostly known from "Bully" - and you get more of a vantage point difference with Jared being on the outside looking into her life. It made me appreciate more , despite Tatum's respective flaws, that she was the better person to follow and that Jared's POV was never needed in the first place.

I don't think this book did much more than confirm that Jared was a worse hero than I believed possible with his respective musings and actions. The set up might have you believe that he's worth redemption because of his so called "tragic past", but while that's explored to a degree, it doesn't make any of his actions justifiable, any of his thoughts have merit, nor are there really very many moments of true redemption here, just championing of flaws that are violent, controlling and really downright offensive to the point of blatant glorification. And yes, the scene where he's forcing himself on Tatum and she pushes against him and tells him to stop comes across as "rapey." It's just as terrible as it was in the first book, only his thoughts make it moreso.

Suffice to say, this is my last following of the series, because I can't say that I want to follow any of the other characters from this series further, even of Madoc gets his own story. I imagine that won't turn out much better either given his portrayal here. =/

Overall score: 0/5 stars