Initial reaction: Dude, I have some complaints about this. The audio reading is fine, but there are moments of cheese and underdevelopment. Review to come.
Have you ever picked up a book where you appreciate the story being told for what it offers, but find you hate the way it's told? That pretty much sums up my reaction to J. Lynn's second book in the "Wait for You" series - "Be With Me." I knew the story being told in this route, knew exactly where it would go. I even thought it had some decent themes that it decided to touch on.
But honestly, the writing in this not only tried waaaay too hard to be contemporary (some of it was funny and identifiable, but after a certain point, it got very dated and cheesy), but also the execution completely shortchanged everything this had to offer. It was a chore to read in places, and yet at the same time had too much going on to really be palpable in any respect. It's not that I completely disliked this book - I'm rating it 1.5 stars because there are things about it I thought had some redemptive factors. It kept me reading - I felt for Teresa in terms of her losing her respective dreams and thinking her life would go in one direction but ended up completely going another and having to deal with the hard reality of that measure. But nothing about this book really felt real. You can tell that it touches upon some tough subjects such as domestic violence, abusive relationships, suicide, teenage parenthood, etc. But it felt like one big rollercoaster of drama and the serious measures were backdrop to the overarching love story really. I couldn't wrap my head around how one moment the narrative showcased this huge reveal of a character's suicide, with the emotional weight of that coming across, and then the next moment the main characters are engaging in almost sexy times with a complete emotional mismatch with that backdrop. Sure, there's the mention of all the emotional duress being a build up for that scenario, but it still made the whole emotional resonance feel awkward and off.
I'm getting ahead of myself, so I'll backtrack a bit and break this down.
Teresa is Cam's little sister (Cam and Avery had their story in the previous book). She has quite a bit of emotional baggage to start this story off. She was formerly in an abusive relationship which nearly broke apart her family, has a bad leg injury that's prevents her from pursuing her dreams as a dancer (so she's attending college for her backup plan), and she has to deal with a relationship that she thought was one thing and ended up not being a thing (Let's just say that her LI, Jase, is a bit hot and cold as a lover because of his own emotional baggage, which would have more weight if it wasn't so...inconsistent). The bulk of this book is really showcasing how Teresa ends up with Jase, while dealing with a lot of rough circumstances in the backdrop of things.
Note that I make mention of these rough circumstances being the backdrop because they are no more than that. That kind of sucks because it feels like they're shortchanged in a way to the lust-filled, emotionally mismatched rollercoaster of a relationship that Jase and Teresa engage in. Not to mention the seemingly overabundant sex scenes, which I think were superfluous and took over the story whereas other elements were either glossed over, undeveloped, or just plain dropped by the wayside.
Dude, it kicks me in the gut to say this because I really think this was a downgrade from "Wait for You" - which I thought had some moments of potency. This installation in the series felt more juvenile for the level of the portrayals. It's not that the events themselves were juvenile, it was the writing conveying that sense. Teresa's voice was uber annoying because of the contemporary jargon that kept being thrown out every which way but loose, shortchanging not only her accounts for things in places, but also making the read tedious and cheesy. I rolled my eyes often because it felt like too much. There were moments I thought it worked, but mostly I wanted to say "Okay, this is akin to having far too many pop culture references just to make it seem 'cool' - get to the story already." It didn't need all of that, and the story feels dated just for the overabundance of it.
Another thing is that while I did feel like Teresa's concerns and experiences (for the rough measures in themselves) had *some* merit - it was told more than shown. Not to mention her relationship with Jase somewhat takes over the narrative in an annoying way. Jase is a douche in places, leaving her emotionally by the wayside in very critical moments. There are times when he shows palpable maturity (and I liked those moments), but something about the narrative seemed off on this account, and even having finished the work, I still can't quite put my finger as to why this felt so...not genuine. It felt like it was trying too hard, and part of it I know is Teresa's narration of events, part of it is the mismatched focus and jarring emotional transitions with little rhyme or reason, the other I can't really say why it's off, other than to say it really detracted from my experience with the narrative.
The overarching conflicts are presented in a way that are juvenile in comparison to the weighted measures they were in themselves. You'd think an abusive relationship, even a purported murder/suicide would have more weight for the portrayal, but on one hand, the scenarios were not only telegraphed in a way that shortchanged the situation, but some parts were so contrived that you could tell it was just to spike the drama up from 0 to 60 in a short amount of time, leaving me feeling cheated for the experience of trying to see how these characters are affected and making me care for them. I couldn't care. I just couldn't care because I knew the narrative was manipulating me for the experience.
I just...there's a lot of emotional disconnect in this story which became more of a problem as it went on. The telegraphing didn't help.
Ultimately, I was just glad when this was done, and I can think of other NA reads (Donovan's "Reason to Breathe") that give more genuine portrayals of the subject matter than this did. This...I don't even know what this was, other than a stereotypical title in the genre.
I do plan on reading the next book in this series, but I hope it's a lot better for the portrayals than this narrative came across.
Overall score: 1.5/5 stars