Publication Date: May 25, 2012
Genre: Contemporary New Adult/YA-Mature
When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, stalked by her ex’s frat brother, and failing a class for the first time in her life.
Her econ professor gives her an email address for Landon, the class tutor, who shows her that she’s still the same intelligent girl she’s always been. As Jacqueline becomes interested in more from her tutor than a better grade, his teasing responses make the feeling seem mutual. There’s just one problem—their only interactions are through email.
Meanwhile, a guy in her econ class proves his worth the first night she meets him. Nothing like her popular ex or her brainy tutor, Lucas sits on the back row, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. At a downtown club, he disappears after several dances that leave her on fire. When he asks if he can sketch her, alone in her room, she agrees—hoping for more.
Then Jacqueline discovers a withheld connection between her supportive tutor and her seductive classmate, her ex comes back into the picture, and her stalker escalates his attention by spreading rumors that they’ve hooked up. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.
With seven months to go in 2012, I think I just found one of my top five books of the year.
I’ve been thinking my review might be as good as it’s going to get if I stop with that single sentence but I ought to say more since that’s sort of the point of reviewing a book, right?
This is going to get a lot of comparisons to Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire. There are some similarities in the settings and relationships and there’s some violence. The differences are that Lucas is very respectful of Jacqueline, the violence and anger has nothing to do with her, the angst level is dialed way down and their issues in the story aside, Jacqueline and Lucas are attempting to be in a generally functional relationship.
Jacqueline is nursing a bruised heart after being dumped by her boyfriend Kennedy but lets her best friend and roommate Erin drag her to a fraternity house party. When she goes out to her truck alone, one of Kennedy’s frat brothers attacks and tries to rape her. He’s stopped when a guy shows up out of nowhere and beats the crap out of him. Even though Jacqueline’s in shock, she won’t let the guy call the cops and barely lets him take her back to the dorm.
The following school week, Jacqueline decides it’s time to beg for mercy from her sophomore Econ professor. She’s missed so much class trying to avoid her assigned seat next to Kennedy that she’s going to fail. She gets her tutor, a guy named Landon, but they end up having to conduct their sessions through email because of their schedules. As Jacqueline starts going back to class – in her new seat in the back – she notices the guy who saved her the night of the frat party is in the Econ class too. He doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the professor but he watches her.
The guy – Lucas – keeps turning up in places Jacqueline doesn’t expect but it’s never in a stalker-ish way. They have wild chemistry and despite some of his odd hot/warm behavior, Jacqueline can’t stay away from him. Her tutor Landon intrigues her too. His emails are smart and funny and the two get flirtatious.
The creep who attacked Jacqueline keeps menacing her and for some reason, Kennedy starts sniffing around again now that Lucas is in the picture. Her Econ professor is acting weird, Lucas is acting weird, Landon is acting weird and it takes a random comment from another kid in her class for Jacqueline to figure things out. Even then, it’s still only Lucas for her but he’s not done with his secrets.
This is what contemporary new adult or ya-mature (or whatever label is going to finally stick on it) should always be. The story has real issues that people this age in this situation would come across without excessive exaggeration to ramp up the drama (Lucas doesn’t count). Jacqueline’s near-rape and the later actions of her attacker are a perfect example of Webber’s ability to write about the targeted age, to the targeted age and beyond. There are ongoing discussions about slut-shaming, what’s date rape versus consenting because you weren’t a virgin, how gossip can affects a woman’s willingness to come forward and what the support of her peers can do. Erin and Jacqueline go to self-defense classes that are as hilarious as they are actually educational – Erin is particularly enthusiastic about taking a guy out by doing damage to his family jewels. Actual methods to breaking out of holds and getting away from an attack are talked about. This could all come across as preachy or obviously stuck in there as a big moral lesson to the reader and after all of this time, I could spot that a mile away. That wasn’t the case in this story though. It just was. It became part of who Jacqueline is, what her life was about and some of it involved Lucas, some of it involved Erin and it all made sense by the time the book was over.
If you’re looking for a great example of a non-Mary Sue heroine, one who isn’t TSTL, has a normal conscience and has a genuine healthy friendship with her girlfriends, I’d like you to meet Jacqueline. It was amazing to me how much drama Webber was able to coax out of a story without having to have her characters overreact to situations. Jacqueline was such a normal, nice person with flaws and virtues. She has a fake I.D. and gets bombed and the story always sticks around for the hangover the next day. Apparently she’s pretty hot too, since all of the boys in middle school that she tutors for orchestra have major crushes on her.
I’m saving the best for last, or almost last. Lucas is that guy, the one who’s a lot of work but the one you’d want to curl up and let yourself wither away for, if you let him go. He’s gorgeous in a bad boy way of course – dark hair, just long enough to call bedhead, unusual pale eyes, a strong body with his arms and heart covered with tattoos and a sexy little lip ring. He wears boots and has a motorcycle and a cat. He’s on new ground with Jacqueline, having only had hook-ups before and is a little brooding about it. I’ll only admit this for a limited time, but he may just be a little too perfect – he holds down more jobs than seem humanly possible while attending college with a challenging degree. His swoon-worthy potential is sincerely off the charts though.
My Summary: I’ve had the pleasure of reading several books in the last few weeks that I’ll be reading again but this was the first that I had to bargain with myself about reading it again right away. There were a handful of Kleenex moments, more than a few steamy ones (not too explicit but they do go there) and everything was wonderfully written. If you haven’t read this genre, I encourage you to try this one; if you have and enjoy it, go get it!