First Lines: I sat on the kitchen counter, watching my mom make pasta bake. She was panicking slightly and kept glancing at the clock every couple of minutes. I knew why she did this–my dad was due home in exactly sixteen minutes and he liked dinner to be on the table as soon as he got in.
This book has been on my Kindle for a few years now and I only just got around to reading it when I was looking for something a little different. It has a ton of ratings on Goodreads and a pretty high rating overall (3.92/5), so I thought it would be worth looking into.
Amber Walker can’t stand Liam James by day. Liam is her brother’s best friend and he’s constantly being a cocky jerk to her. He’s a player who a trail of broken hearts behind him. But at night, Liam is Amber’s protector, the one who keeps her nightmares of her abusive childhood from overwhelming her. He’s the only one who truly understands how badly her past hurts her. Amber knows Liam is the last person she should fall for, but she’s not sure she can stop it from happening…
In the end, I ended up feeling a little disappointed by it all, especially given how highly it was rated. That was especially disappointing.
First of all, this is so pre-Me Too that it almost hurts. The beginning of the book is so uncomfortable. Amber has a Tragic Backstory that makes her uncomfortable with anyone touching her. So of course, everyone from the waiter at the Chinese restaurant to the random dude at a party have to practically grope her All The Time. Also, on nearly every page it seems, someone is being called a slut. It is equal opportunity, referring to men as well as women, but it was too much for me. And all anyone seems to care about is getting some. Literally, that’s the story.
The story did get better once it started settling down from that and sinking into the romance. Amber and Liam are a cute couple who really enjoy teasing each other, and some of Amber’s antics were really funny. I was giggling out loud as I read. I really got into the middle of the book as they tried to figure things out.
And then back toward the ending, I started to lose it again. It started to feel like a soap opera, with everything that could go wrong happening. I mean, I had been starting to wonder what exactly was the plot of the story, but it was a bit too predictable and dramatic for me at the end.
For the most part, the characters were pretty good, if sometimes inexplicably odd. Liam is sort of painted as the female fantasy, and while I thought he was cute, he wasn’t McDreamy. In fact, some of his comments about Amber (whom he calls “Angel” and almost never calls “Amber”) are actually pretty creepy. Amber’s trauma is sometimes painted as a positive almost, a quirk that makes her cute rather than showing the horror she’s lived through. It’s hard for me to reconcile her trauma with, “Look at how she flinches away from everyone but me. Isn’t that cute?” Same for her brother Jake, who is overprotective to a fault and yet it’s almost brushed off as a positive, even though he threatens to kill people on a daily basis. I was concerned about what I was reading more than once.
The plot sort of meanders without any clear focus. For a while it seems like the plot is one thing. Then it’s something totally different. And then it’s a third thing. I didn’t really know what to make of that, but it didn’t make it a bad story.
Was it diverting for a weekend read? Yeah. But I kind of shudder to think of actual teenagers reading this and thinking these things are normal. Remember when everyone was reading Twilight and, as teenagers, we swooned over Edward sneaking in to watch Bella sleep but adults were weirded out? Yeah…that’s this book.