Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Don't Look Back

DON'T LOOK BACK
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Young Adult/Mystery
384 pages
Disney Hyperion
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?


MY THOUGHTS
Don't Look Back has a premise that's always fascinating no matter how many times we may have run across it previously, the loss of memory automatically connecting us to our heroine given we want her questions answered as much as we want our own. The totality of Sam's amnesia makes her unreliable as a narrator, so each clue she uncovers we can't help but want to analyze from every possible angle, looking for something Sam simply doesn't see or that she misinterprets. As a result, the tension in this story is at an all-time high, theories swirling in our minds and emotions a jumbled mess as we attempt to sort through what we knew of Sam before the night she disappeared and compare her to the girl she appears to be now, the distance between the two an enormous gaping chasm we can't wait bridge.

Sam is easy to like from the beginning, her horror at the type of person she used to be matching our own, uniting us in our shared distaste for someone who treated others so abominably for her own amusement. The post-accident Sam is a young woman we can fully support, someone who, while understandably confused as friends, family and a boyfriend all try to remind her of the girl who disappeared on them days prior, doesn't use that confusion to fall back on bad habits. She doesn't let her friends or her boyfriend convince her to be that stereotypical mean girl once again, instead she stands up to them repeatedly and apologizes for their behavior to those on the receiving end of their mockery. She's also fairly upfront (with one or two exceptions) with both the few people she trusts and the police when she remembers bits and pieces of that night, choosing to step forward with what she knows even when those around try to tell her the things she's seeing in her mind aren't important.

Ms. Armentrout is well-known for her ability to write romances with varying levels of heat, and while there is romance in this story, it's one of her more quiet ones, Sam's amnesia remaining the focus throughout. Her relationship with Carson–one previously strained by by cruel words and near constant put-downs–evolves slowly as Sam attempts to remedy the mistakes of a girl she can't imagine herself being, but as it grows and changes we also have the distinct displeasure of dealing with Sam's actual boyfriend Del. It takes Sam a bit longer than we'd like to finally break things off with him despite the unease she feels the moment she sees him after the accident, and while it's easy to understand her hesitancy to make too many changes when so many things around her have already shifted, we can't help but wish she cut him loose far earlier. There's no true love triangle though as Del is more villainous than anything else, and Carson is one of those beautiful good guys who refuses to move forward with Sam until she's free and clear of Del's entanglement, moving him up the ladder of our attraction with impressive speed.

Overall, Don't Look Back is an entertaining read with a well-executed mystery and a sweet romance, and though it's not necessarily one that dazzles with its uniqueness, it still takes us on a ride we don't want to be over even once we reach the last page.

Rating: 4/5


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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my  honest opinion.

52 comments:

  1. I was really curious about this one and it sounds quite intense too. LOL now I'm even more curious. It's been a while since I read a book by this author, like even many years but everyone seems to love her new release, I should try them. thanks for the review!

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    1. She's a writing machine Melliane! She writes more books than any other author I'm aware of, and I so enjoy them:) Hope you give this one a try!

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  2. I like that you mentioned that it's not a very unique story because it's hard to find those these day and sometimes I just like to read about a same formula with a different twist. JLA past few reads have been petty mediocre for me, but I'm hoping this one brings back the passion I once felt for her books. Great review, Jenny! :)

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    1. Yes, this one didn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, but I had fun reading it nonetheless and I was a huge fan of Sam:)

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  3. Agreed. This premise is always fascinating, though it doesn't necessarily mean that the execution is that good as well. I'm glad you took an instant liking to Sam and I'm happy to hear that she is a changed person even if she gets mockery from her former friends. Clearly these people aren't that awesome >.< It's a quiet romance? Um, okay. I like the sound of this. I've become tired of all the cookie references and sizzling chemistry in her books, I want something more toned down. I'm glad you enjoyed this novel and awesome that it's not an actual love triangle lol.

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    1. YES! I was a little worried she'd succumb to the pressure from her so-called friends and boyfriend and pick up where she left off, but she stays strong and doesn't let them turn her back into the girl she was before. Loved her:)

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  4. I agree 100% with you, Jenny! I finished this one on Tuesday and I stayed up late till I finished it! It was quite the page turner and it managed to surprise me in the end, so it was quite a good read!
    Great review, Jenny!

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    1. YAY PILI!!! I agree, I thoroughly enjoyed it:)

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  5. Jenny! YOU are the one that finally sold me on this. I preordered it (JLA 4-Life!), but I wasn't planning on actually reading it any time soon. However, you are absolutely right about the instant connection that is forged between an amnesiac and the reader (I knew that, I just hadn't thought about it that way), and an amnesiac who was not a nice person prior to the memory loss, and has to come to terms with that is just . . . I love it. The idea of that kind of blank-slate is fascinating!

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    1. Mission accomplished! *high five* I really loved the whole premise as well, unreliable narrators are always fascinating for me:)

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  6. I like reading books about amnesia too. They are always so mysterious and keep me on the edge of my seat. That being said, I've struggled with Jennifer's YA books in the past because her characters are all so similar, but it sounds like in this they are quite different. I'm especially happy to hear about Sam changing as a result of the accident. Also, I'm up for a quieter romance and Carson doesn't seem like any of the author's bad boy kind of character.
    Fabulous review, Jenny. I'm happy you liked this one. :)

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    1. I really liked all the characters in this one Nick! I connected with Sam early on, and I loved that Carson wasn't Jennifer's typical sexy bad boy. He was quite enjoyable:)

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  7. Aww Carson sounds like such a sweet character, we definitely need more guys like him around. I'm glad that you enjoyed this book Jenny, I've only read a handful of books which deal with memory loss really well, but it sound like Armentrout delivers a solid novel with this book! Gorgeous review!

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    1. Yes to Carson Jasprit. Just yes:)

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  8. Oooh. Another mystery! Sounds good. (Though I'm laughing a little over the fact my character's name is Sam [not Samantha, though] and deals with memory loss.)

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    1. Hehe. I can't wait to meet your Sam!

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  9. I adored this book! I was so into it that I tweet Jennifer that I had to hold my pee till the next chapter! LOL! Awesome review!

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    1. I did manage to take bathroom breaks, but it was definitely a page turner ;-)

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  10. You said your review so nicely Jenny, this one doesn't dazzle but Jennifer knows how to write characters so well you can never help yourself when it comes to them and before you know it you are wrapped up in the story.

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    1. Exactly. She always manages to hook me, and this book was no different:)

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  11. I like that JLA has taken a different approach with this one, made it more of a mystery than some of her others. Amnesia's a tricky story to write, since there's no hard grounding of the character, except through those who supposedly know her.

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    1. Me too Mary! It was nice to have the mystery be the main focus rather than the romance, and I just loved how everything played out:)

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  12. I have just about to start this novel in the next week. I'm super looking forward to the different suspense novel that JLA has created and a brand new premise. I've only been a recent fan of hers and I've loved her books so far. Lovely review, Jenny! :)

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    1. YAY! I can't wait to see what you think Emma!

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  13. Oooh I'm definitely intrigued by this one now! This sounds different than what JLA has given us before, and I think that's awesome! Glad to hear that the mystery is great, even if it's not the world's most unique story. Lovely review, Jenny!

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    1. I'd be interested to see what you thought of this one Melissa. I liked that it was a little different from her other books, I think she writes really strong characters:)

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  14. I agree, memory loss stories are ones that are always inherently interesting. I feel like this one would be a better fit for me over JLA's usual fare because I love mysteries and I prefer the romance to be in the background. I don't even mind too much that it's not particularly special, as long as it would entertain me for the time being then that's good in my book! Thank you for this review, Jenny - will be adding this one to my tbr now!

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    1. It was definitely entertaining Aylee! Sometimes that's really all I need, and this one accomplished that for sure. I was a big fan of Sam and the way the whole mystery came together:)

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  15. JLA's books rarely do much for me, but they're so addictively compelling and she's so talented! I mean, what genre can she NOT write? While I don't see myself picking this up soon, it sounds fascinating and I love the cover. Fantastic review, Jenny, and I'm glad to see you enjoyed this! :)

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    1. Seriously. She's the most prolific writer I know at the moment:)

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  16. I've had mixed reactions with JLA's books but one thing you can always count on is her swoony romances. I already like the sound of Carson!

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    1. She does write a good romance doesn't she? I liked that this one was a little quieter, and I adored Carson:)

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  17. I've been curious about this one. I don't always love her books, but this one is more compelling to me. So glad to see your positive review!

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    1. This one worked well for me Candace, I hope you get a chance to read it!

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  18. I like well crafted mysteries and I don't mind that the romance takes a back seat so I'll definitely check this one out. I've seem many of JLA's books but none of them have really caught my interest. Maybe I'll start with this one.

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    1. This might be a good place to start to see if you like her writing style Rummanah! I think she writes really engaging stories:)

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  19. I'm so interested in this story. It's sounds a bit different from JLA's usual writing style, which I love by the way. I like the fact the heroine suffers from amnesia, making us connect with her as she slowly tries to unravel everything. Talk about tension! Yes...I love that. I think I'm going to have order this one, Jenny :)

    Sam's amnesia makes her unreliable as a narrator,

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    1. YES! I liked Sam from the minute I met her, I wanted all the same answers she did and I couldn't read fast enough to get to them:)

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  20. I so wanted to read this when I first saw it, but now I hesitate. It is a hit or miss book for bloggers and I know that amnesia books don't always work. I am glad that you found the mystery good and that it didn't go into that love triangle territory, I just might have to give it a go.

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    1. Amnesia books are definitely tricky, but this one worked really well for me Heidi. I just had fun reading it:)

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  21. LOVE THIS BOOK! And I love your review! I adored Sam from the start. She's an awesome character.

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  22. Wow Jenny, reviews have been all over but your prospective has me curious all over again. I want to meet Sam, and love the premise.

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    1. I adored Sam Kim! I just liked how upset she was about who she used to be, but she doesn't dwell on it, she just does everything in her power never to be that girl again:)

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  23. Great review, Jenny! I feel the same way. There are some cliches, and I guessed most of the plot about halfway through, but that didn't stop my enjoyment. JLA excels at sassy heroines, and even when Sam is being naive she's so easy to like and root for. I'm SO glad it wasn't really a love triangle, too!

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    1. Exactly! I didn't mind figuring some things out in advance or the fact that nothing ground-breaking took place, I just wanted to be entertained and Jennifer definitely did that:)

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  24. I'm not usually a fan of the whole amnesia-rediscovery, but sometimes I'll give them a chance. This cover, I have to say, reminds me of Lindsay Wilding's new album cover. FWIW

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    1. I hope you give this one a try Katie!

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  25. I love unreliable narrators, they always make for a more thrilling and mysterious story. I do love JLA's romances, and even though this one takes more of a backseat to the mystery, I look forward to meeting Carson, he sounds wonderful! Can't wait to read this now, lovely review Jenny!

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  26. The premise sounds awesome…I want to check this one out. Great review!

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  27. I am so excited to read this book because it seems unusual for JLA. I enjoyed Lux series (not my favorite, but I think they are fun books), her NA novels didn't work out for me, but I think I might like this one.

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