The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
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For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.
The Story: The Problem with Forever
On her first day back at a public school, Mallory ‘Mouse’ Dodge barely says anything at all. Having been home-schooled for the past 4 years, Mallory is taking the step back into the school system for her senior year. She knows it will be hard – even her adoptive parents think so – but Mallory isn’t even remotely prepared to see Rider Stark at the same school, in the same classes.
Mallory and Rider grew up together in the foster care system, but their foster home was anything but ‘caring’. Torn up by memories of the past, Mallory’s emotions and thoughts are all brought back with vengeance when Rider is suddenly in her life again. He seems just as surprised as she is, and they try and talk about what they’re both been up to in the 4 years since they’ve been a part.
As Mallory navigates a public school as the ‘quiet new girl’, struggles with home life-home, tries to make new friends and figure out what is happening between herself and Rider, details about their past and their changing futures emerge, and it’s definitely not a happy-go-lucky sort of story.
My Thoughts: The Problem with Forever
Despite the fact that Mallory barely says anything in the first few chapters of the book, I liked her immediately. Rider was okay – sort of your typical YA male protagonist with a slightly off, shady but sad past. It was the friends in this book that I particularly liked, especially Hector and his younger brother Jayden. Hilarious characters that were definitely comic-relief in a rather heavy book.
“Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist.”
Speaking of heavy, this book looks at lot of themes, not just navigating high school. It takes a look at the foster-care system, and in her acknowledgements at the back of the book, Armentrout says ‘it wasn’t easy to equally represent all the good in the services designed to protect our children while recognizing that some have and still do slip through the cracks of an underfunded, overworked and understaffed system.’ She says it ‘wasn’t easy’ but she does an incredible job. These things can’t be easy to write about at all, but she does so with respect, and intelligence, and it really makes the book feel all that more real.
“The past never went away and it was not designed to do so. It would always be there, and it should be acknowledged.”
Like any book, there were a few things that I didn’t enjoy as much as other parts. There was a lot of ‘daym, Rider is fiiiine’ type comments, and while that may be true, we get it. He’s a good looking guy. We know.
The other thing that lowered it from a 5 star for me was a certain scene which is exactly the same scene as we get in the movie Step Up. I know that we shouldn’t compare things too much, especially not across media-formats, but when I came to this scene (I don’t want to give too many details or it’ll ruin it for you – you may figure it out if you’ve seen the movie) I thought ‘well, this is super familiar’ and it played out pretty much the same, even all the things leading up to the event. Perhaps it was more that it wasn’t surprising, that story line within the book, and so when it came to an end, it didn’t grip me or shake me us much as I suspect it would have, had I not already been picked up and thrown around by an incredibly similar scene in a movie.
But, ya win some, ya lose some. And this book was 90% winning. If you’re after a YA book that’s not your typical girl-meets-boy, a book filled with the struggles of being a teen, of having adoptive parents, of school, and work, and friendship, and love and loss, of being stuck in the same place and fearing you can never move forward … then give this a go. It’s definitely a winner.
Have you read The Problem with Forever? What did you think?