I do not have time to read, but the books just keep getting stuck to my face. UF, HF, YA, fluffy romance, whatever. I love it all.
But I might judge you if you hand out five stars all willy nilly.
So this book was not at all what I expected.
It didn't have any NA cliches. It didn't have any over-the-top gritty angst that makes me crazy. It didn't even have any sex… for real, a NA book with no sex.
This is somewhat mind boggling because most NA hitting the market is the 21st-century version of the bodice-rippers my grandma read by the pool (she was a sassy thing), but with more past trauma and ridiculousness. The cover with the sexy side abs fooled me, so I was even more surprised when this turned out to be a story with a surprising amount of heart and way more 'inspirational fiction' than a typical NA.
It's told in two phases: what came before, and what came after. It's the story of Fern, the ugly duck in high school, who has always loved Ambrose, the beautiful boy with the beautiful voice and the heart of gold (no snark when I say that, I really did like Ambrose) and Fern's best-friend/cousin Bailey, who's battling a deadly disease.
The sweetness in this is what surprised me most.
"She was the kind of girl who didn't care about pulling up to a party in a mini-van rigged for a wheelchair. The kind of girl who had been giddy to just be asked to play a stupid game. The kind of girl who had come back to say goodbye to him, a boy who had treated her like dirt. And he wished, more desperately than he had ever wished for anything before, that he could change it."
It is also the story of what came after Ambrose and his four best friends enlisted in the army and went on tour in Iraq. He comes home a different person, damaged physically and emotionally, and Fern is different as well. It's the story of them finding each other, and the person they loved from the notes in high school, and the journey they go through to get there.
Overall, I really did enjoy it. It's a touching story, which is reflected in the fact that it has an unbelievable rating of over 4.6 from over 5000 reviews. I think that speaks to the fact that a poignant and moving story is really what most people are looking for in their romance, and a lot of authors get that confused with "tragic." This story does have some tragedy and it did make me tear up on several occasions, but the overall message was one of hope.
So why just 3.5 stars? Well, if I'm being honest, I felt a little let down with how PG the romance was after all the build up between Ambrose and Fern, and I wanted a little bit more from them at the end. Also, there were some parts that came across as a tad bit preachy. While I actually like that stuff, when I'm expecting it, it got a little heavy-handed in parts for my taste. I wanted her to just show me the events and tell me what they said, and then let me take from it what I got out of it, rather than being told what I should get out of it. Take that with a grain of salt because I think I'm the only person who felt that way, but it did bring down my rating a bit.
All in all, 3.5 is not a bad rating. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I do think it was worth reading. Great characters, good writing, and a touching story. This is going on the "NA I actually liked" shelf.