Since Forever Ago – Olivia Besse – Book Review

cover47589-mediumReview copy kindly provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fresh off the heels of a devastating breakup, Riley Benson is a mess. But with her ingenious plan to become a ball-busting heartbreaker herself, she’s pretty sure she’ll survive. After all, what better way is there to get revenge than to move on?

Riley’s determined to become the perfect bachelorette—she’s going to drink like a bro, belch like a beast and swear so much that she’ll make even the most seasoned sailors blush. After all, those are the qualities that every guy’s secretly looking for…. aren’t they?

Max Fletcher is in love with the girl who gave him chicken pox and his first broken leg. When his best friend seems to finally be out of the picture, he can’t help but want to keep Riley all to himself. And, after coaching her with the very best of the very worst love advice, it seems as if he might actually get what he’s wanted after all those years. But just as the two come to the realization that they’re actually kind of perfect for each other, along comes a secret that threatens to tear them apart.

Since Forever Ago is a New Adult novel about a 21 year old girl who finds out her boyfriend has been cheating on her. She then decides to take the dating world by storm, hindered only by the terrible dating advice proffered by a friend who is hopelessly in love with her. Awkwardness, romance, and heartbreak ensue. Having read some bitter reviews of Since Forever Ago, I aimed to keep an open mind until I’d finished the novel. However, within a few sentences I had harboured a pretty intense hatred for the main character, Riley. Honestly though, it’s kind of refreshing after reading so many YA narratives that orbit around perfect teenage girls (news flash: they don’t exist, not like they do in YA novels).

What I found I liked most about the narrative was the use of different perspectives, the reader is privy to the thoughts of both Riley and Max, which is illuminating. However, the writing style was not so much my cup of tea. I felt that it depended too much on dialogue. I would have enjoyed it more had there been more show and less tell. There is a sophistication lent to novels that show characters’ feelings and thoughts via their actions and reactions, rather than have them spelled out. Unfortunately, Besse fell short of this quality. Regardless, her dialogue is realistic (except Audrey, are there people out there who are like Audrey? I think I’ve been avoiding them) and compelling, and makes the novel a quick and easy read.

I can’t deny that there are problematic occurrences in this novel. Yes, there is some really misogynistic language in here, and unfortunately I was surprised to find that it mostly comes from the female characters. However, it is often obvious that the things said by Besse’s characters are wrong, it just doesn’t spell out why. And yes, all in all, this is a pretty typical and realistic portrayal of the behaviour and attitudes of new-adults, at least some of us. After all, stereotypes exist for a reason. However, the novel does nothing to combat these views or the justification of language. You can’t really blame the novel for not being a social justice tome, and it appears that Besse never set out to make it so, yet it still doesn’t sit right at times.

There are quite a few Goodreads reviews from readers who didn’t like the portrayal of a young woman who swore and ‘belched’ and acted the way Riley did. Besse responded to these comments on the website.

Note from the author:

Hey everyone! I’m not trying to make any excuses, but I DID want to provide an explanation in regards to the manner in which I approached this project. My ultimate goal was to write a NA novel with characters who were relatable and realistic, and early reviews have [hopefully] confirmed this!

Unfortunately, many reviewers have provided feedback that they could not stand the characters in this story due to their being whiny, immature and a little bit clueless. In my opinion, however, all of these attributes define a large proportion of the current 20-something population, and I wanted the characters in my book to portray what new adults are actually like.

There are no bouts of instalove, no soul-crushing plot twists and definitely no hot-blooded/obsessive Alphas (sorry!) in this novel. There are, however, plenty of insecure spiels, crippling moments of self-doubt and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness to keep you busy! This isn’t a typical NA romance, and I hope that you can keep an open mind should you choose to take a look at it!

TL;DR – I just wanted to add the disclaimer that the characters in this story are irritating, melodramatic and annoying as hell. They swear, they drink and they make bad decisions. They are 21-year-olds. Have you met a 21-year-old lately? Comes with the territory 🙂

It is necessary to keep in mind the target audience and understand that if you read a blurb that states these things are going to be in the novel, perhaps it won’t be quite to your tastes. Read it if you like this sort of thing, and if you don’t, move along and read something else. Roland Barthes said that the intentions of the author don’t matter and it’s the impact on the reader that counts. Well, as far as I can tell, the target audience doesn’t give a fuck what Roland Barthes thinks.

I would probably recommend friends buy the Kindle ebook, at least the ones whose tastes I know it to align with. It’s worth the money. I’m interested in reading other works by the author after this one, at least.

My personal rating: 3/5. Amazon average: 4/5. Goodreads average: 3.01/5.

Buy from: Amazon
Publisher: Wunderland Press
Date of Publication: 13/05/2014

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