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.
I went into this book with huge expectations because when a book has Jennifer L. Armentrout name on it, it can’t be anything less than incredible. I thought I would like this book, but I didn’t. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED it! This book is everything you can ask from a young adult contemporary. From characters that feel so unbelievably real to flawless words used to bring them to life and to paint such a heartbreaking image of the harsh reality we live in, this book has it all.
Once there was a girl who was too afraid to speak for herself and for others and for what she stood for. Her name was Mallory. The Problem with Forever is her story, Rider’s story, the story of every child in foster care.
These were the kinds of things a lot of people never had to worry about, but I did- we did- because we know that having walls and a roof over your head didn’t equal safety.
This is why I must take a moment and tell you right now that if you’re looking for a nice, cutesy romance, this is not what you’ll get with this book because Armentrout doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Instead, you’ll get so much more. You’ll get a stunning story about moving on and accepting the past, about reconnecting with old friends and learning to trust new ones and about the wonder that is first love.
When Mallory Dodge is unexpectedly met with a second chance at life after a tragic night, she is thrust into a world full of new possibilities, a world where she doesn’t have to worry about going to bed hungry and the most important of all, a world where she is cared about and loved. She has been out of the System for four years now, but she’s still dealing with the aftermath of a decade spent in an abusing environment. The process of healing is slow, but it’s there. With the help of her adoptive family and her therapist, she feels that she is finally ready to give public school a try.
She expects to encounter some sort of difficulties, like having to strike up a conversation with a fellow classmate or giving a speech in front of a whole class, but what she doesn’t expect is to see Rider again, her friend and protector back in the days when she used to hide in a closet because the monsters where real and they were living under the same roof as her. From there on, we get to see Mallory embark on a self-discovery journey, learning to accept her past and herself.
This speech wasn’t forever. Being embarrassed was not forever. None of this was forever. But trying was. Living was.
I loved seeing her grow and come to terms with who she is, I loved seeing her struggles because that meant she was trying and I freaking loved her relationship with Rider. It was such a bittersweet experience seeing them reconnecting with each other and acknowledging the fact that they have both changed so much and yet so many of their feelings toward each other have remained the same. We got to see Rider through Mallory’s eyes, first as a friend and then as something more and every step that took them closer to finally moving on and letting the past be the past made my heart burst with joy.
This book is very character driven, as a lot of contemporary novels are, and I assure you that you will love every single one of them to pieces. Even Paige (you’ll just have to go and read the book if you want to figure out what I’m talking about).
Mallory is a sweet character, caring and gentle despite everything she went through as a child. She has anxiety as a result of past traumas and although I’m not dealing with anything similar and I wouldn’t know from experience, I think the author has done a fantastic job portraying it. Also, another aspect that JLA nailed were relationships between children and parents and family dynamics in general. Mallory’s adoptive parents were very realistic and even though sometimes questionable, I could understand on some levels their overprotective attitude toward their daughter.
It was nice seeing some diversity in nationality as well. Which brings me to the Lunas, whom I absolutely loved. I could tell from the beginning I would like both Hector and Jayden, Rider’s foster brothers. They were a really sweet, funny addition to the cast of characters and even though granny Luna made rare appearances, I could tell she was a loving woman who cared deeply about her grandsons and Rider.
I left Rider last, because I knew he would be the hardest to talk about. His situation is, to put it simple, heartbreaking. He’s not the bad boy we usually see in Armentrout novels. He is just a broken boy, trying to piece himself back together not only for himself, but also for the people he loves. We never really see him overcome his guilt, but all I can do is hope that he will in the end. He was also very sweet, corny, loyal, selfless, funny and charming. Simply, everything you could ask for.
JLA tells the story from Mallory’s perspective and she does it in such lovely manner. She puts a lot of emotion in her words and if they haven’t managed to move you deeply, to make you feel powerless and connect with the characters’ pain, then I don’t know what else will. The book is full of inspiring quotes and I could make a full list with them but I’ve already made this review way to long, so I’ll limit myself to this one:
Forever was the fire-breathing dragon inside me that had shed the fear like a snake shedding skin. Forever was simply a promise of more.
Forever was a work in progress.
And I couldn’t wait for forever.
Never, but never, did a contemporary novel manage to surprise me with such a twist. It was so unexpected and painful, but it also brought to attention a problem we need to be aware of. I won’t go into further detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but clearly the author is just as good as writing contemporary as she is paranormal. Maybe even better. I will admit that there was a certain point where I felt the plot dragged a little bit and it didn’t manage to completely suck me in, but I think this was more my problem than the book.
I could go on and on about how much I loved The Problem with Forever, but I think I’ve already bored you to death (that is, if you are still here) and really I don’t think a review will fully grasp all the emotions this book makes you feel. So I’ll guess you’ll have to read it and find out for yourself. You’re in for quite a thought-provoking read, with a swoony romance, great friendships and a lesson about why your voice is important.
★ ★ ★ ★ ½