Before You – Amber Hart
Well, this is a series that I’m not going to read the rest of.
Some say love is deadly. Some say love is beautiful. I say it is both.
Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.
It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don’t care.
Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos and scars, Diego doesn’t stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.
At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is something different entirely.
Love—it will ruin you and save you, both
There is nothing more infuriating then when you’re reading a book and there is a privileged white kid moaning about how bad their lives are, when they have a house and a car and a loving family. This book featured one such protagonist, so by the end of page one, I was already eye rolling so hard my face was starting to hurt. Aside from having a shallow, irritating protagonist, we also had an awful stereotype for her to share her narration with.
So, just so we’re clear, me whilst reading this book looked kinda like this:
I was super excited when I saw this book for offer on netgalley, not only is the cover hella cool, but it was classed as New Adult, which sounded to me like a slightly steamier version of Young Adult, which is a genre I like, and it featured people of colour in leading roles. Just the other day I was moaning about a lack of diversity in the media, so I was psyched to find this just. I was so disappointed. Like, to the point where there is’t a strong enough word to describe how disappointed I was. I thought this was going to be a West Side Story kind of a deal. Instead, what I ended up with was a whiny white kid, with a potentially interesting, but completely butchered back story and a disgusting stereotype for her to fall for. While I understand that there are gang cultures in Cuba etc, did the only Cuban kids in this book have to be represented by gangsters? In our first meeting with Diego, he moans about not being able to take a gun to school. Seriously? Why can’t we have some positive representation? Instead of just perpetuating a harmful stereotype? Anyway, apart from the casual racism, this book also featured lots of dudebros degrading females characters left, right and centre. By half way through I was head desking so hard I could barely see straight. Wasn’t it enough to completely destroy Diego’s character by making him a walking stereotype without also making him a douchebag too? Being attractive DOES NOT EXCUSE DOUCHEY BEHAVIOUR.
Ok, let’s stop ranting about the characters for a moment. Let’s instead talk about the big secrets that both leads have, which are then revealed in the first quarter of the book and then not explored properly. The two lead characters had really good backstories and had more have been made of them or at least, getting half way through before a big reveal, then we could have had a build up and it would have made reading it feel a little more worth it. Faith could have been super interesting, her big reveal had so much potential that just didn’t go anywhere and Diego’s life before moving to Florida was equally as fascinating and yet the reasons why he made certain choices and how the sudden change into his new life affected him are never explored.
This could have been so good, there was no way that Faith should have been as dull as she was, not with her past and her experiences. Then of course there was her blaming the fact that her dad is a pastor on how she lives her life and I’m just like. GOD HELP US ALL. I’m fairly certain that her dad would have been perfectly happy for her to dress however she wants and have fun, as long as she isn’t doing anything illegal or harmful, which is sort of, you know, how loving parents behave. Her dad came across as being a really loving guy, I think he’d have honestly been fine with her being honest about herself, I mean, she is just dressing like an eighteen year old and crushing on a boy, she isn’t summoning demons.
I don’t understand why Diego and Faith can’t be together. Well, apart from the fact that they’re both horrible and that their relationship is shallow as hell. I know that America is a very different country to the one that I live in and I know that racism is a thing that exists the world over, but to the point where two teenagers can’t have a little fun together? No, I don’t think so. Much in the same way that I don’t think that Cubans are gun toting gangsters because I’m not a massive racist.
This book tries so hard to make the leads sympathetic, but I just don’t buy it. It tries so hard to be deep and descriptive, a little too hard sometimes, it has a lot of very convenient plot points and does make a good effort with a twist towards the end, but by the time that came around, I had given up caring about any of it to be honest. This isn’t a bad book per say, it’s certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read, it’s just your average quick read, I just found a lot of the content to be quite problematic. There are a lot of people who have rated this story highly on goodreads, so maybe it just wasn’t for me and I certainly don’t want to be shitting all over someone who’s managed to get a publishing deal, hell, I don’t have one of those! And I don’t want to take away from anyone else’s enjoyment of this story, it just wasn’t for me.
Its got a lot of drama and the undercurrent of the story was full of a lot of hard issues, it just didn’t sit well with me. Sorry.
I always hate writing bad reviews, I kind of feel better not reviewing something if I didn’t like it, unless it upsets me to the point that this did… But that’s sort of the thing with Arcs, you kinda have to review them. So… Like, I am sorry, but the book had a lot of potential, so I applaud you for that.