Always, Forever, Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi (June 5)
Overview: Bee had dated a few boys, but they were always just blips on the timeline of her life, fun moments, unimportant to the grand scheme of things. That is, until Aiden. After the two meet at the candy store where she works, Bee falls into a deep infatuation with Aiden, quickly admitting she loves him, and he says he feels the same way. But the closer the pair gets, the more isolated Bee becomes from her best friend that's always having to beg for her attention and her parents who forbid the romance. This leaves Bee in a dangerous place when she starts to notice disturbing traits lurking behind Aiden's caring facade. Unsure who to turn to and desperate to make the relationship work, Bee nearly gives everything up to the dangerous cycle of abuse. Overall: 4.5
Characters: 5 I enjoyed all of the characters. Bee makes for a great narrator because of her unique view of the world. She helps the reader understand the mindset of someone who stays in an abusive situation and paints the other characters accordingly. Seeing Aiden through her first person, biased account makes the readers, too, both love and hate him. It's very interesting to see a character who was raised in a supportive family environment and well trained about the workings of a healthy relationship fight between what she knows and what she's experiencing to rationalize her situation, and I think Rissi nails her inner turmoil.
I also love Jo, Bee's best friend. I think the inclusion of a best friend as close to Bee as an appendage really adds to the narrative because Jo's able to spot the signs of abuse well before anyone else to try to help Bee out of the situation. It balances the narrative in a way that many books that cover this topic fail to. I think Jo provides the constant, important reminder that "This is never okay!" that should be present in all books dealing with any kind of abuse, especially when the protagonists are so good at rationalizing these things in their mind.
Plot: 5 I could not put this book down. I read in a weekend, mostly because I promised myself one more chapter one too many times! The tense nature of the story and constant action leaves you hungry for more. Before you know it, you've reached the end.
Writing: 4.5 Rissi offers a great style and voice, jumping us right into Bee's world. She masterfully navigates the difficult subject matter and leaves us with a beautiful book. My only other comment here, though I'm not even saying it's entirely negative, is that I felt like I was watching a really, really good movie the entire time I was reading. Some books, you live as the character when your in the pages, and here I felt like I was watching through a thick pain of glass, but, in a way, I almost feel like this kept the action up and moving, allowing me to empathize while also viewing this separate world.