Book Review

Hang-ups, Instalove, and Blended Families

The Summer Before ForeverThe Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

*Thank you Entangled Publishing, LLC for sending me an ARC of this book (via Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.*

When my beloved mother discovered that I was reading this book, she immediately reprimanded me online, telling me that I should not be reading pulp romance. I couldn’t blame her for jumping to conclusions. After all, that cheesy cover says a lot. Now, although I hadn’t read the book yet during that time, I deigned to defend its reputation, determined as I was to give it a chance. I wanted to prove to my mother that not all YA contemporary novels have frivolous content.

With that in mind, I’m happy to say that this novel was cute, thought-provoking, and inspiring at best. It tackled important issues, such as broken families, sexual abuse, and learning disabilities. These are topics readers don’t normally encounter (simultaneously) in summery, feel-good literature, and I appreciated how these sensitive issues were explored in a very refreshing and optimistic approach. Furthermore, given my divergent upbringing as a “normal” boy in a conservative, tight-knit family, I was filled with sympathy for Chloe and Landon, who were significantly flawed because of their respective backgrounds and hang-ups. I am not a teenager anymore, but I was still capable of putting myself in their shoes. Overall, the majority of the plot was emotionally charged, and it surprisingly made my reading experience more meaningful, memorable, and vibrant.

Unfortunately, I am persuaded to give this novel merely three stars because of its major cliches or tropes. The moment I started reading, I already assumed that a forbidden romance was going to blossom between Chloe and Landon in spite of their imminent, familial connection. However, I was disturbed by how quickly their relationship developed; it was practically lust at first sight! These two teenagers had the hots for each other the very moment their gazes locked, and I was further annoyed by how they could not resist the temptation to objectify each other’s bodies.

Landon was the bonafide pervert of the two, occasionally alluding to the “movements” and “needs” of his genitals. To make things worse, he attributed his amorous behavior to his masculinity, as if to imply that all males were naturally horny. I nearly lost all my respect for him as a protagonist when he briefly considered sleeping with other girls just to help him get his mind off Chloe (at least for a little while). Chloe was of course the overrated virgin, an innocent girl who was weirdly ashamed of her single (NBSB) status. Despite her gradual character development, she also had a generally weak and dependent personality. How so? A male was the one who broke her, and it was also a male who helped her heal. To simply put it, this book reinforced quite a number of our gender stereotypes.

In conclusion, The Summer Before Forever is predominantly substantial in regards to its content. The issues it discussed were very relevant, especially in this time wherein people are often insensitive to the struggles of others. In spite of its shortcomings, this contemporary novel is still worthwhile. Just be careful to keep your Feminist sentiments in check.

Book Review

Princess Problems 101

The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles, #1)The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The intriguing enigma of the assassin’s identity was what persuaded me to finally read The Kiss of Deception. My expectations were sky high because of all the hype, and I was very excited as I delved into this world of romance, mythology, and royal conflict.

I was determined to unveil the secret as soon as possible, constantly highlighting obvious hints with a #2 Mongol pencil as my eyes carefully perused each beautifully written paragraph. I was virtually on a literary high, until the pieces came together in the eleventh chapter.

Suddenly, I felt deflated, my happiness polluted by incessant disappointment. “That’s it?” This question started to resound in my head, and I nearly lost my reading appetite altogether, were it not for the budding romance between Lia and the Prince. At this point, I took on an oblivious attitude towards the Assassin, whose indecision and tempered malevolence started to get on my nerves.

To my utter delight, I found myself shipping Lia and the Prince, and my interest was fortunately rekindled. I was really entertained by how the book shifted the dynamics of traditional romance; the female was the assertive one, while the male was incredulously playing hard to get. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud while taking in Lia’s scenes of epic flirtation. Really, she was one of the biggest and cutest flirts I have encountered in YA literature. Furthermore, her character development was outstanding and realistic, considering all the hardship she had to go through: escaping her arranged marriage, building a new life in Terravin, and then getting kidnapped by a band of barbarians. As for the Prince, I humbly admit that I had a man-crush on him. Although he was also deceiving Lia by hiding his identity, he compensated by showing her complete love and devotion. It was also admirable how he swallowed his pride and pursued Lia although she had unknowingly declared him a cowardly papa’s boy.

I also became invested in Lia’s close friendship with Pauline, her handmaiden. It was touching to see how they effortlessly saw and treated each other as equals, in spite of their different social statuses. They were sisters, bonded by shared dreams, pain, and happiness. It saddened my heart to witness them separated, all because of that insufferable Assassin.

As I drew closer to the final chapters, my rekindled interest evolved into strong fascination when I noticed how the world building was somehow inspired by Biblical history. Whether or not the allusions were deliberate or coincidental, I appreciated how the Morrighan/Vendan myths about the sacred Remnant reminded me of the story of Noah’s Ark. In my eyes, the Ancients symbolized the wicked people post-Creation; the Devastation symbolized the Flood that destroyed them; and the Remnant symbolized Noah and his family (those who were spared because they were pure of heart).

Finally, the epilogue came, and my eyes were quite teary because of a certain character’s demise. Moreover, Lia and the Prince were left stuck in a quandary, so my heart was filled with rage for that delusional Assassin. I ardently hoped that Lia wouldn’t succumb to Stockholm Syndrome and actually reciprocate his inappropriate desires. Then, as if caught in a daze, I put the book down, stared at the ceiling, and thanked God sequels existed.