Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Before You by Amber Hart

Title: Before You
Author: Amber Hart
Genre: YA/NA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: K-Teen
Length: 320 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 29th, 2014
Series: Before and After #1
Where I got it: Netgalley
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both. 

Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie. 

It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don't care.

 Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life. 

At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely. 

Love—it will ruin you and save you, both

Main characters: 3.5/5

Faith starts off as a "good girl"; the preacher's daughter who is so very concerned with appearances and reputation. I personally couldn't relate to her concerns about reputation so much, but the idea that Faith felt that she was trapped in this "fake" life seems like it's a feeling that all of us can relate to at one point or another. I liked that her interactions with Diego changed her and allowed her to see that she didn't have to put on this front. The thing that she made into this big deal actually ended up being her own self standing in her way, which might be realistic for some, but was incredibly frustrating to read.
I liked Diego. Where do I start with him? I guess my negative is that Diego has his own melodramatic train of thought going on, which was shoved down my throat a little too much. He's convinced that he's a "monster". Yeah, whatever. Sure, he's the typical bad boy, but Diego's story reflected a boy who was loyal to his family and just tried to do what was best for them. I liked his prickly side because it made his vulnerable and sweet side even better. However, while I saw Faith grow a lot in their relationship, I don't know if I saw the same amount of growth in Diego. It seems like Faith was the one doing the most self-discovery. 

Secondary characters: 3/5

Melissa was the great best friend that I want. She challenged Faith in a lot of different ways. I like how she and Faith offset each other, but still work well. Some parts were a little convenient, like the fact that Melissa was used to lure Faith toward Diego. Faith gets frustrated but just says, "Oh, Melissa wants the best for me". Ok... but I would still be pissed if my best friend tried to break up my relationship.
Faith's family was great to read about. We get a really different idea of them based on what Faith thinks and what they actually do, which I personally can relate to based on my teenage years. I'm sure I portrayed my parents in a negative light sometimes when all they really wanted was what was best.
I wish that we had gotten more in depth glimpses at Javier and the rest of the cousins, as well as Diego's dad. I know we'll be seeing more of Javier in the sequel, but I think learning more about Diego's dad would have given Diego more character depth and background.

Writing style: 4/5

I had a couple problems with the writing style. Like a few other Contemporary Romances that I've read lately, this book sometimes attempts to force emotion down your throat. Instead of showing us things, Hart sometimes tries to tell us instead, without letting us get to know the characters on our own. On top of that, the writing can sometimes sound like a soap-opera. Exhibit #1: "He stares at me with hard eyes, eyes that have seen unspeakable misery." Sorry, what?
But beyond these relatively minor frustrations, I really liked the alternating first person narratives and I liked how short the chapters were. I can sometimes have a short attention span and the quick chapters were just what I needed to stay paying attention the whole time and hooked.
I also really enjoyed the pacing of the novel. Hart wove the plot events together seamlessly and in a way that kept me reading voraciously. The way that she wrote the plot action was short, to-the-point, and packed a punch. Her sentences became shorter and quicker, just like the action.
Finally, the dialogue was realistic and illustrated the personality of the speaker.

Plot: 3.5/5 
The first thing that I noticed about the plot was that I loved the setting in Florida and the Cuban immigrant aspect. It's a situation that it very relevant today and very realistic. The same thing with the secrets that both Faith and Diego have- they are very realistic and applicable to today's readers, even if they have never experienced those things themselves.
However, Faith's "big secret" in particular was this big waiting game like, "oh what is it?" and then suddenly (about 1/6 of the way in) we suddenly know what it is in this huge information-dump. I would have preferred the information scattered throughout the story or told up front. The info-dump came in a weird spot and was too much at once.
While I liked the idea of the conflict dealing with Faith and her need to uphold her reputation, I found it to be a little weak. The fact that Faith was letting all of this dictate her life made her seem like a weak character, someone who is a follower to what other people want. And it got to be frustrating to hear her complain about how restricted she was.
For the most part, the storyline itself was pretty predictable, but I felt swept away in their love story, which I think is a combination of the writing and the construction of the plot elements.

Ending: 3/5

Okay, whaaaatttttt?

I think that's all I can say without spoilers. Maybe I should have seen it coming but it took me on a roller-coaster ride. I think I liked it, but it also felt very gimmicky. So, I guess I'm neutral?

Best scene: The one at the beach

Reminded Me Of: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Positives: Realistic and well-developed main characters, most of the writing style and pacing, the secondary characters, the realistic quality of the conflict and characters (I felt like these could be my friends)

Negatives: Some weak conflict, characters who annoyingly trapped themselves into boxes, overdramatic descriptions, the ending, 

Cover:  I love the font on the cover, but I'm pretty lukewarm about the almost-kiss. It's a theme that I've seen done a lot before and I don't like how they're shadowy and animated looking.

Verdict:  The few hiccups didn't stop me from being swept away with this forbidden romance

Rating:  6.8 / 10 (4 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

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