The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published: June 2016 by Harlequin Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic, Romance, YA
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
So it’s Halloween (happy haunting guys!) but anyone who knows me knows I don’t do scary movies/things. At all. Like I’m that person who got scared at the slightly jumpy scenes in Stranger Things and hides during Scream Queens which is slapstick horror at best. So… I decided to go total 180 and do a romance contemporary review instead on this hallowed night of horrors. Don’t worry though, it’s not all sunshine and roses – keeping it real with some Armentrout *cool dude emoji*.
Mallory Dodge has been home-schooled up until senior year of high school because of a traumatic childhood. After four years of intense recovery, following her adoption by a pair of doctors, she still finds speaking up, or sometimes at all, difficult. After all, a habit of silence reinforced with threats of violence is hard to break… Senior year is Mallory’s way of breaking out of her comfort zone. But she didn’t expect to be totally thrown in the deep end which is exactly what happens when she comes face to face with Rider Stark, her protector from childhood whom she hasn’t seen in four years. As sparks fly and old feelings resurface, Mallory finds herself in deep with Rider and his complicated life, and she realises that she must find her voice if she is to save the only boy who has always been there for her.
I’d thought I’d already closed the chapter. Now it was reopened, flipping all the way to the beginning.
The Problem with Forever in a nutshell was pretty so-and-so for me. There were some great things, a few not so great. The characters fall in the latter camp – they were underwhelming and seemed one dimensional: Rider was the broody saviour; Paige, the “bitchy” obstacle of a girlfriend; Jayden, the kid who’s in over his head; Hector, the long-suffering older brother; and Ainsley, the sassy best friend. I would’ve liked to know a bit more about each of their back stories – how they got to where they were, why they behaved the way they did. There are some hints that Paige is from a broken home but it is never explored beyond the perfuctory mention. And I really disliked that Ainsley and Jayden were just plot devices to provide Mallory some perspective.
Forever was something that we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist.
The main reason for the 3 stars though was that this was a veeeery loooong book (“The Problem with Forever-ongoing books” amirite?) The book could’ve been a fraction of the length it was without losing any of the substance and plot. The first 50% was pretty much the unrequited drama of “will they/won’t they” and I found myself repeatedly rolling my eyes because it was just endless flowery descriptions of how hot Rider is, how expressive his eyebrows/ dimples/ eyes/ insert body part here is, and how Mallory keeps stealing not-so-subtle glances (let’s be real, she ~stares~) all whilst his girlfriend looks on – lovely. And while we’re on the topic, I found Armentrout’s writing a little clunky – there’s a lot of eyebrows “slamming”, lips “kicking” and fingers “wiggling” i.e. in goodbye which I found plain jarring. Best of them has to be this nugget though:
The dimple made an appearance, blessing the hallway.
Lolz. I can’t even.
One of the things I did like was the portrayal of trauma and recovery. This is a great book when it focusses on how difficult it is to become “unstuck” after a traumatic event even if that’s years and years after the fact. Armentrout is unbelievably good at portraying the most harrowing child abuse without being too heavy-handed and we witness the progression of Mallory from being paralysed into silence to finally finding her voice. I loved how The Problem with Forever shows us that the physical scars and manifestations of trauma aren’t the only “symptoms”. Mallory has trouble physically speaking after years of silence as protection against abuse. However, we realise that sometimes the person who seems the most put together is actually the one who needs the most help. I think this is a really important aspect of mental health and it’s great that Armentrout gave it page time in this book.
Words were not the enemy or the monster under my bed, but they held such power over me.
So overall, the issues that The Problem with Forever deals with and how Armentrout writes about them was a positive for me and quite unique enough to warrant the 3 star rating. It’s very sympathetically done and the process of healing that we follow Mallory on is a touching one. However, the story that these issues are couched in just didn’t do anything for me and I felt disjointed from it. There was just a little too much swooning and not enough connecting for me when it came to Rider and Mallory and although understandable that their background would draw them together, I thought there was a reliance on their shared history for the romance to develop.
My past was a part of me and it molded who I was today… but it did not control me.
Have you read The Problem with Forever? Should I give other Armnetrout books a try? (If so, recs are v welcome!)