Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Before You (Hart)

AUTHOR: Amber Hart
SERIES: Before & After, book 1
ISBN: 9781617731167
PAGES: 320
SOURCE: purchased for Nook
GENRE: new adult
GIVE IT TO: HS, reluctant reader
10-SECOND SUMMARY: 18-year old preacher's daughter meets 18-year old Cuban drug cartel bodyguard. Romance and drama ensue.

REVIEW: I finished this book just two days ago, but as I sit down to write my review, I am having to really think about what happened. The story was a fun distraction, but it just wasn't all that memorable.

There's a "good" girl, a preacher's daughter named Faith. On the surface, Faith leads her life the way any good preacher's daughter should. She dresses modestly, dates the "right" guy, and never, ever gives her father reason to worry about her whereabouts. But that's all on the surface. Inside, a wilder, more carefree Faith is dying to get out.

Enter Diego, the new "bad boy" in school. Diego moved to their Florida town from Cuba, where he previously served as a bodyguard for a drug cartel. Oh, and he barely escaped with his life. And now the local branch of the gang MS-13 is hotly pursuing him as a potential recruit. And the drug cartel may or may not still be looking for him.

So Faith meets Diego on his first day at the new school. I would think most girls like Faith would want to avoid this boy like the plague, especially after he is rude to her when she tries to help him. But not our Faith. No, Faith wants to challenge him. She meets him after every class like he is some sort of invalid so she can walk him to his next class. For two days. And no, they are not in second grade--they are both high school seniors.

As they see more of each other in and out of school, Faith and Diego slowly develop a friendship, which blossoms into a torrid romance full of drama and danger and misunderstandings. And while I enjoyed reading the story, I just feel like I've read this one a whole bunch of other times. I'm no stranger to the New Adult genre, and I think at least 75% of the NA books I have read involve a good-girl/bad-boy romance. Or maybe vice versa. Either way, while Before You was entertaining enough to keep me up late on a Saturday night, it's not really anything special or unique.

The writing has a "stop and start" feel to it. One minute, the characters are speaking and thinking and acting like normal people, then BOOM! their thoughts are all poetic and descriptive and flowery. It just doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the story.

I really don't want to discourage New Adult fans from reading this book. I enjoyed reading it and nearly cried in one part. I really loved Faith's best friend, Melissa, which is great because there are way too many annoying best friends in YA and NA books. I am excited to hear Melissa's story in the next book (yes, despite my complaints in this review, I'll probably still read the sequel). And I did like the ending of Before You, though it was a bit difficult to believe.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Overall, it's just okay. I liked the story, but I've heard it before. Writing is choppy and tone is uneven. The sequel may be promising.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don't have it. Mature content is along the lines of Perfect Chemistry (Elkeles), but there is much less profanity. Try this with reluctant reader high school girls--it really is difficult to put down.

READALIKES: Perfect Chemistry series (Elkeles); Pushing the Limits series (McGarry); Sea Breeze series (Glines)

  • Overall: 3/5--great story, mediocre execution. Not very original.
  • Creativity: 2/5--Bad Boy meets Good Girl. I love that setup, but I've read it so many times before.
  • Characters: 3/5--bonus for Melissa--love her!
  • Engrossing: 4/5--Yep, I was into the story.
  • Writing: 2/5--Sudden flowery descriptions interrupt the flow and don't go with the tone of the rest of the story.
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5--yes, romance-loving HS girls will probably eat this one up
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5--neither too long or too short. I was never bored.

  • Language: mild; way less profanity than I expected
  • Sexuality: medium-high--it's new adult, so it includes frank talk of sex, erections, kissing, touching, and intercourse. It's all tastefully done and nothing the vast majority of high school girls haven't heard before.
  • Violence: medium-high--threat of rape, murder, gang activity, gun violence, knife violence, street fighting
  • Drugs/Alcohol: medium--former addiction, drug-addicted parent, Cuban drug cartel is central to story (though no discussion of what type of drugs)

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