Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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I received this book for free from Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. ArmentroutDon't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Disney Hyperion on April 15th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, YA
Source: Disney Book Group
Buy on Amazon

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

With a strong blurb and a cover that’s both creepy and pretty, I went into this one with a lot of expectations. It is my favorite genre and an author I’ve previously enjoyed, after all. I can’t say I’m disappointed, exactly, but I’m sad that didn’t end up loving this one as much as I was hoping.

Amnesia is a commonly used trope in mystery novels, but I still find myself drawn to them every time. Even though it’s been done before, I found the memory loss aspect very well executed. When Samantha reappears into a life where she had it all, she’s not sure how to deal with the way people describe her. She was a selfish bitch, to put it bluntly. I found this contrast between her pre-amnesia and present self very intriguing. She’s the same girl, yet with a now conflicting personality from before. It makes you wonder what could have turned this great person at heart into such a mean girl. Unfortunately I never exactly connected with Samantha. She was not unlikeable as a protagonist, but she did grate on my nerves every now and then, especially when it involved Del. I found it incredibly obvious that he was lying about their relationship – and more – (I mean, what teenage relationship is that perfect?), but she still believed his every word. He kind of creeped me out if I’m being honest. I wanted him to just go away.

Furthermore, I did find there were a lot of clichés throughout this story. Romantically, we’ve got the tumbling-and-falling-on-top-of-each-other scene, then the crush-wiping-ice-cream-off-her-chin scene. Thriller-wise, we’ve got the face-in-a-rear-view-mirror shocker along with mysteriously appearing notes. I can’t say I didn’t roll my eyes a time or two. More on these notes, they were so vague and unhelpful that I didn’t see the point to them. They do serve a purpose eventually, but an angle like this had a lot more potential to build an effective twist than it delivered.

With that out of the way, I may not have fallen in love with this one, but I did enjoy myself while reading it. I was kept in the dark with a mystery that unravels slowly and steadily until all the pieces fit. I was left feeling butterflies towards a once unlikely romance that blooms between two characters (not Del – blerg!). And I was satisfied with the psychological aspect and unique character arc driven by memory loss. JL Armentrout definitely has potential in the mystery genre!


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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24 Responses to “Review: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout”

  1. Amanda @ Book Badger

    Oooo, this keeps me excited. Personally, I don’t mind the cliche parts in books, I’m a sucker that way, but the lack of intrigue is a little disappointing, but it still sounds like a good read, so I’m going to seriously consider it and see what I can do to get a copy. Great review as always Giselle 🙂

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m glad you enjoyed this, Giselle. I struggle with J.L.A’s YA books for some reason. They don’t really work for me. I would be annoyed with the romantic cliches I think. Still, the mystery sounds good.
    Great review, Giselle.

  3. Bethzaida (bookittyblog)

    I don’t know why but I’ve always felt meh about this book. I think it was because of an early review I read. I don’t think I would enjoy this one. The cover is pretty, though. Great review, Giselle.

  4. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    Hmm…this sounds really interesting Giselle! I’m really glad to hear that the memory loss aspect of the story was done well. Although I am slightly nervous about the plot cliches – they would probably annoy me quite a bit! Nonetheless, I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed this one overall Giselle – even if it wasn’t a 5-star read for you. Definitely going to still give it a try! Thanks so much for sharing Giselle, and, as always, brilliant review! 😀

  5. Pili

    Well, I’m glad to hear that even if this one didn’t blow you away, you still liked it enough, that makes me feel better about my preordering it!
    As always, great review, Giselle!

  6. Siiri

    I’m glad you enjoyed it as a whole even if you didn’t connect with Samantha. Plus, I mean.. JLA is known for her cliché tropes which she throws left and right so you can’t really go into her story and expect something completely unique and original. This one isn’t on my tbr and lols, honestly? Your review doesn’t really convince me to add it there. Which is kind of a good thing–tbr doesn’t grow. Thank goodness! 😀 Anyhow, yep, I’m glad that despite it’s flaws you managed to enjoy this one. Great review, Giselle!

  7. Boyanna

    Cliches are a given when you read JLA, the secret is to be in the mood for them, that’s when her books hit home. That aside, i’m a little disappointed of this author latest works so i’m abstaining from reading this for the time being.
    Love your review!

  8. Anatea

    I pretty much read everything JLA writes, so I’m really excited about this one even though I don’t read much in thriller/mystery genre. I also like memory loss aspect, so I hope I’ll end up satisfied with how this one goes.

  9. Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook

    I just finished reading Don’t Look Back yesterday. I’ve read a lot of JLA and I’ve always enjoyed her books. I was nervous going in because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Sam because she had been so nasty in the past. But she did grow on me.

    I do agree that there were some romantic cliches. Especially the ice cream on her chin (I mean, all these romantic heroines must be seriously messy eaters!). But they didn’t really bother me much. And although I wish she broke things off with Del earlier on, I could understand why she believed what he told her.

    I wish we got a more actionpacked ending though.

  10. Stephanie

    I love a good mystery. It is always a bummer when you expect so much of a book and it falls a little flat. I am glad this one kept you interested to the end though.

  11. Alexia @ Adventures in Reading

    Okay so you didn’t adore it but you did like it. That makes me feel tons better about pre-ordering it. I don’t love her NA stuff but I’ve had my eye on this book for months and since I didn’t get an ARC of it I wanted to pre-order it.

  12. Vi

    I LOVED this book, but I have to agree with you. The cliches were there and it took far too long for Sam to “get with the picture” and see the lies. Man, I just wanted to smack her “friends” and “boyfriend” so much!

  13. Maya

    Hmm, the cliched aspects you mention have put me off, but glad you still enjoyed it overall. Thanks for the review 🙂

  14. Joana

    Hello. I’m now a new follower via Facebook, networkedblogs, twiter, and google +. If you want, visit my blog and follow back 🙂

  15. Brea @ Breezy Reads

    Awh so many cliche’s! You gotta admit though, Jennifer is a definite stickler for a good cliche. I always found that it’s her writing style that wins me over.
    I haven’t actually read a mystery yet that includes amnesia (even though it’s been done so many times). I think I’ve been avoiding it. But the crazy change in personality? That would really make you think – and seems like something I would enjoy.
    Great review, Giselle!

  16. Melliane

    oh no, it’s sad… I was really impatient for this one, and really curious because of the cover and the synopsis. But I agree, clichés are not a really good thing in books. I’m sorry.

  17. Jenea @ Books Live Forever

    Awe, I thought from the blurb it would be good creepy like read. Sounds like too many cliches in it though, not sure what to make of that, but I do like the sounds of the mystery though. But, I think I will put this off for a while.

  18. Meedah

    Omgahhh, i swear reading your review it was like i wrote it because i had the same feelings. Did not connect with samantha at all and Del was tres creepy