- The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Rating: * * * *
Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: June 2016
Goodreads Synopsis: For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.
I have read many of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s books and all of her YA ones. ‘The Problem With Forever’, a contemporary novel about a teenager who grew up in an abusive household and has difficulty speaking in public as a result, is very different to Armentrout’s other novels, in terms of the themes and the tone of it. I really like it when authors turn their hand to something different and I think that, overall, Armentrout did so successfully and proved that she can write very well in a range of different genres.
Mallory’s story really moved me, particularly towards the end of it. Her journey is a difficult one. Not only does she have to face being laughed at by those who call her ‘mute’ and mock her, she has to struggle against the burden of not being able to help feeling like her new adopted parents, Carl and Rosa, have taken her in as a replacement for their deceased daughter. She feels pressure to choose the same career path their daughter would have chosen. She also struggles with memories of her past and remembering that, while she had to remain silent in her foster home, now she is safe to speak. Over the course of the novel, we see Mallory grow in confidence in herself and in her speaking ability. It is wonderful to see her transition and there were moments in the novel when I was overcome by a sense of pride for her, particularly when she stands up to Paige and especially when she does her final speech at the end of the book – that last one brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face! I felt very connected to her when reading and was willing her on all the time. She may be named ‘Mouse’ at the beginning of the novel, but she is certainly not a mouse by the end. Her development feels very natural.
I also really liked the characterisation of Rider, the way that he seems very self-assured and carefree compared to Mallory, but actually, in a way, they are the other way around and it is he who has stayed standing still while she has moved forward. I thought that was an interesting and meaningful twist to have and it added depth to his character. Mallory’s conversations with him in the final few chapters are fantastic, powerfully written and very touching. In fact, I thought the ending as a whole was wonderful.
I also enjoyed the fact that this book contained numerous friendships. Not only the friendship between Rider and Mallory (and while it develops into a romance I think it is the underlying friendship and familiarity between them that makes their relationship so strong) but also the friendships between Mallory and Ainsley, her best friend, and between Mallory, Kiera and Jayden.
The only issue I had with the novel was that the inclusion of Puerto Rican, through Hector and Jayden, seemed clunky. Their speech is scattered with the odd Puerto Rican word that seems to be added in a bit falsely and unnecessarily. It just struck me as a little off and got on my nerves a bit, which is why I docked a star.
Overall, however, I think that ‘The Problem With Forever’ is a moving and very powerful story which deals with difficult themes, and that its main strength lies in the characterisation and development of Mallory, which feels sincere and gradual. I would recommend this novel.