“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m not proud of it. Even though you didn’t have that damn necklace on, as far as I knew, you were still with Del. And I’m not big on making out with another guy’s girlfriend."
The apocalypse has arrived, and the signs started with Khanh liking a bad-boy love interest within an Armentrout novel.
I've read a lot of Armentrout books, and I have to say that this was my favorite in her repertoire. It was not amazing, but like all Armentrout works, it is immensely readable, and unlike most Armentrout works, it didn't give me a pounding headache. I have always loved the amnesia trope, and this book did the trick.
More details later, but in short, here's the good and the sort-of-bad. Honestly, there wasn't anything truly atrocious about this book.
There were a few moments that made me cringe. Specifically, they were the moments when Sam felt like she had to get physical with her boyfriend in order to be a good girlfriend. I didn't like the intonation that it was the girl's fault if she could not get into the attraction, that is was her duty to be sexually fulfilling in order to have a functional relationship. Thankfully, that only happened twice in the book.
1. A non-bitchy heroine for a change
2. A bad-boy love interest who turns out to be likeable, even by Khanh standards
3. No Mary Sue syndrome
4. There's an actual FAMILY, they have family interactions! The MC is not an orphan!
The (sorta) bad:
1. The MC is Too-Stupid-To-Live at times, and too meek in others; she trusts too easily
2. The plot was extremely predictable: I guessed the whodunnit within the first 20% of the book
3. The "amnesia" excuse was believed by everyone, which is a far stretch to me
4. There was no subtlety: there are extremely obvious and caricaturized Mean Girls. The bad guys all but wore "VILLAIN" signs around their necks. The hints and clues were so loud a 5-year old could have guessed
5. Extremely shallow female friends
1. The forced physicality between Sam and her boyfriend
“She thinks I did it?” My voice was small, hoarse. “She thinks I did something to Cassie?”
A girl wanders the streets, battered and bruised. She doesn't know where she is, she doesn't know who she is.
It turns out that she is Samantha Jo Franco, and her life appears to be pretty fucking sweet on the surface. She's got loving parents, a twin brother, not to mention the fact that her family is immensely wealthy.
We drove past them...in our Bentley.
Quickly, I learned that they were rich. Sickeningly rich. It was funny how I didn’t remember squat, but I knew what money looked like.
She lives in a house that makes a mansion look like an apartment. Samantha is good-looking. She's got a loving steady boyfriend. She's headed to Yale next year. So what could be wrong?
“Cassie Winchester is your best friend. She disappeared with you.”
Oh, there's that little matter. Not only has Samantha's memories disappeared, but so has her best friend, Cassie. And the trouble doesn't end there...you see, Samantha---the old Samantha...was a huge bitch.
“You were a terror to everyone who knew you."
It turns out that there is a Mean Girl clique at her school, and Samantha was the queen bee. She ran a campaign of terror, lording it all over her classmates. Everyone in school hated her, with good reason.
“Just a couple weeks ago, you called her”—she lowered her voice—“a fat bitch whose thighs were capable of setting the world on fire."
To make it worse, someone's leaving her strange notes.
Drawing in a shallow breath, I unfolded the slip of paper.
There was blood on the rocks. Her blood. Your blood.
And she's having hallucinations of Cassie...if that's what it is.
There's a whole lot of adjustment to be made. Sam's got to come to terms with who she was, and who she is now. She has to determine who's her friends, and who's her enemy. She has to sort out her feelings between her childhood friend Carson, the son of "the help," and her handsome, blue-blooded boyfriend Del. There are relationships to be rebuilt between her family and her twin brother Scott, and she's going to have to rebuild some broken friendships.
And try not to get herself killed in the process of remembering what happened the night Cassie disappeared. Who killed Cassie? There are no shortage of suspects.
“There’s a huge list of people who were angry with her, but to kill her? I don’t think so.”
He cursed under his breath as he faced me. “There are at least a hundred kids at school who probably fantasized about pushing her in front of a bus a time or two.”
And one of them may be Cassie herself.
"Right now, if it turns out that she was murdered, you’re their number one suspect.”
“You’re not an idiot, Sam.”
Pressing my lips together, I shook my head. Maybe I wasn’t stupid, but I’d been incredibly naive.
I actually liked Sam a lot. I found her switch from bitchy before-Sam to completely passive after-Sam to be a bit of a stretch, but she is the first Armentrout main character who didn't make me want to strangle her. Sam is really nice, but also incredibly meek at times. Due to her amnesia, she is incredibly innocent, and she asks a lot of questions, which is reasonable, but also frustrating at times.
“Jeez, this is like talking to a toddler.”
She is pretty smart, she has some common sense. When Sam receives mysterious notes, she knows she needs to keep them as evidence, despite her brother's protestations to the contrary.
But she can be, as she said, "incredibly naive." Sam didn't realize that she was a suspect in Cassie's disappearance. That's just really unbelievable.
“The big deal is that you were most likely the last person who saw Cassie—you were probably with her when...when whatever happened to her occurred.”
“I know! And that’s why I need to talk to the police.”
“No. That’s why you can’t talk to the police!”
She trusts people too easily. Sam doesn't have her memories, she doesn't know who she can and can't trust, and yet she seems to intuitively feel who she can trust---and she turns out to be right, without much credibility on the reader's part.
And to top it off, she sometimes acts foolishly. Sam returns to the possible scene of the crime alone. She runs off to be by herself, leaving her family to worry. But she is never outrageously stupid, and I liked her as a main character. I feel like she grew up along the way, I feel that she became self-aware. She eventually becomes strong, but never a bitch.
The Credibility: My main fault with this book is the credibility. I don't mean the amnesia premise, I mean that everyone buys into it so quickly. Before-Sam was a bitch. Why did everyone all of a sudden believe that she has amnesia? Because before-Sam was a manipulative bitch, wouldn't it be so much easier for everyone to think that she had been lying all along? Everyone seems to buy the amnesia premise without much convincing, and I found that hard to believe.
No Subtlety: The mystery was extremely obvious to anyone reading this book. The bad guys says things too quickly, too brightly, they smile too falsely, too easily. Sam has a knee-jerk reaction to them. I liked this book, but I like more depth to my investigative mysteries, and I found this book to be rather shallow.
The Mean Girls: Sam's friends are horrible people. Almost all the females in this book are bitches. They're beautiful and manipulative. They're petty. They're shallow. They're absurdly snobby. They're outrageously racist.
“Look, Pham or Long Duck, whatever your name is, turn around."
The Mean Girls clique is one element of Armentrout's book I could do without.
The Romance: There is a love triangle in the book, and it is so half-hearted that I can't even be bothered to complain about it. What surprised me was my "like" (not love, like) for the bad-boy-motorcycle-riding love interest. It started off badly enough, as the newly-amnesiac Sam falls into insta-love for an asshole who hates her.
“Is that my boyfriend?” I whispered, hopeful and scared all at once.
He was happy to see me, but … but then his eyes hardened into chips of ice.
“Boyfriend? Yeah,” he said slowly, voice deep and smooth. “Not even if you paid my tuition to Penn State next year.”
And he also rides a motorcycle. Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare me, please.
But as it turned out, he's...kind of a nice guy. For one, he doesn't want to be a cheater.
“I don’t like Del,” he admitted, staring straight into my eyes. “He’s a dick, and you’ve always deserved better than him, but I’m not that kind of guy. At least, I’m trying to not be with you.”
Sam has a boyfriend, Del. She's not attracted to Del, she's attracted to Carson. Technically, she's cheating on Del mentally. But the thing is, Sam realizes that cheating is not right.
I needed to figure out how I felt about Del if there was any hope for us because stringing him along wasn’t fair. If I was no longer the girl who’d fallen in love with him, it wasn’t right to keep up this...this charade.
I liked Carson. I liked Sam. Their romance didn't hurt, and neither did this book.