Jennifer L. Armentrout
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?
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.
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.