Dear Ms. Hall:
There were moments in this book I was really captivated by the pain felt by the hero of the story but in between those emotionally charged spaces, I felt that you asked the reader to make too many jumps and that there may have been too many issues included that were never fully addressed.
Liliana got pregnant at the age of 13 causing her father to leave the family. She kept the baby and gave birth to an adorable but autistic child. At the start of the book, Liliana has a dying mother to deal with along with her 7 year old severely autistic child. She is attending college on a scholarship and is close to obtaining her degree.
At the local coffee shop near her college works Alex and while he flirts with her and regularly invites her to go out with him and his friends, they’ve never developed any kind of relationship. Alex knows that Liliana’s situation is one that he could never deal with. One night, however, Liliana takes Alex up on an invitation for drinks and invites him to the burlesque bar where she works. Alex brings his cousin Ryan.
Ryan is a former Marine, now fighter, who has a difficult time dealing with an incident in his past that took place on Valentine’s Day. Alex tries to lure him out of his emotional funk but Ryan drinks too much and makes a rash decision. Strangely, this is intriguing for Liliana. It was one of the first emotional leaps of faith that I am supposed to make. She goes from being physically frightened with him, pretty much saving him from a hoary situation, and then deciding she’s helplessly attracted. That was very confusing for me as a reader.
I thought, initially, that Liliana had a savior complex which would have been really interesting. Ryan’s emotionally traumatized and has a hard time coping in the real world. He is on the amateur boxing circuit (or something like that) and fighting seems to be his only outlet. The book doesn’t really show Lilianna and Ryan having that dynamic. Instead, it appears to follow a more traditional route. She’s unsure of him and he’s scared of telling her the horrors of his past.
There are moments of intense emotion which is why this book may become quite popular. One particular scene early places Liliana, Ryan and Alex in a car together and he can barely sit still for fear that he might touch her, confess his feelings and/or do something that will freak her out. It was a scene that had palpable feeling and there were others.
I also liked that the book is multicultural. She’s Latina and her friend’s love interest is a tall “dark glass of water.” Nothing is made of race but instead shows our world as it is - diverse.
But while there are emotive scenes throughout the story, the characters placement don’t exactly match. After making out at a party and then staying up all night drinking and dancing, Ryan thinks to himself “This is harder than anything I’ve done in a long time. Pretend like I don’t want this, her, now.” Why does he have to pretend? They admit that they liked each other.
It was too much too soon in many places and then toward the middle it sagged due to lack of conflict, particularly when we were trying to pass time by short chapters repeatedly telling us it was one month later but not offering much in the terms of development during those months. I also struggled with the ending because the conflict between Ryan’s shame in his abuse and his inability to deal with it seemed to easily overcome and I felt that Lili’s situation was given short shrift (her grief over her mother’s situation; the difficulty of being a single parent).
Finally, there were editing issues. I received a review copy and it might be fixed in the final version but there were tense slips, awkward sentences, name misspellings (Lily v. Lili) and name mix ups (between Ryan and Alex).
While the emotion of the book was strong and I liked the idea of the book. At times I was caught up and at others, distracted. D