Thursday, April 3, 2014

ARC Book Review: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Don't Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: 
The English teacher in me hates that the title is all lower case letters.

The Gist:
Sam wakes up in a strange place with no memory of her former life other than fuzzy recollections of rocks and blood.  As she rejoins her family she discovers that she wasn't alone when she disappeared, her best friend, Cassie was with her and Cassie has not come home.  As Sam tries desperately to remember what happened to her, and Cassie, she starts to realize that her former self was not someone she wants to be anymore.  As the truth begins to unravel, Samantha discovers that she may not be able to trust anyone - including herself.


Don't Look Back is one of those mystery books where it is very difficult to write a review without giving away major plot spoilers, in this case: the identity of the murderer.

The premise behind this novel was interesting and there were some real elements of suspense and excitement.  However, it was carried by characters who were bland and uninspiring.  Samantha does not seem to have anything interesting about her, other than the fact that she has suffered a tragedy and is dealing with amnesia.  Pre-amnesia Sam was a mean and cruel young girl who tortured her friends and classmates, but at least she was interesting.  The rest of Sam's friends and family are equally boring with very little compassion for the fact that she has suffered a horrible event and Cassie is still missing.

The only one who seemed the least bit concerned with her welfare was Carson but Sam's lusting, which often bordered on obsession, left me annoyed whenever he was around and I was unable to warm up to him as a character.  This novel featured a sort-of love triangle between Des, Sam's boyfriend in her pre-amnesia days and Carson, the boy childhood friend that she left behind.  While I was happy to see Sam in what seemed to be a much more healthy relationship, her constant descriptions of him became more than a little nauseating and distracted from the plot. 

I was particularly annoyed by Samantha's attitude towards seeing a psychologist.  She had been through a crippling situation and clearly suffered from issues with amnesia and hallucinations.  Even without these circumstances there would be no shame in her seeking help and even less so seeing what she had to deal with.  She balked whenever anyone mentioned her seeing a doctor and her comments were a clear example of the unfortunate attitudes that many people hold towards those dealing with mental health issues.

The entire plot was built around Sam having amnesia and her memory resurfacing in bits and pieces.  I am not exactly sure how realistic this type of diagnosis is and was more than a little surprised that the murderer didn't try a little harder to prevent her from remembering what happened.  I was really disappointed in the identity of the murderer.   It was an interesting twist, but one that I feel like I have read/heard/seen before. So much so that I had figured out the ending within the first 30 pages and spent the rest of the book hoping that I was wrong and that the author would go in another direction.  Is anyone else with me?  Has this story been told before?

I enjoyed the level of excitement in this plot, but the predictability of the plot and the bland and boring characters allowed the book to fall flat.    

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers (not explicit)
Violence: Murder by blunt force trauma, Gunplay
Inappropriate Language: Piss, Shit, Bitch, Dick, Fuck
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Alcoholism


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