I tend to approach every contemporary romance (YA, in this case) with a little bit of trepidation. If it has a naked man (or woman) on the cover, I run the opposite direction. (The Problem With Forever has a gorgeous, multicolored cover. YAY!) In this case, I read one of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s books a while back (Obsidian). EVERYONE loved that book. I, however, wasn’t a fan of the writing. I was lucky enough to meet Jennifer at BEA and get an ARC of The Problem With Forever, and thought I’d give her work another chance. Sometimes authors are really great at contemporary but not so great at fantasy.
I wanted to love The Problem With Forever. It had the makings of a great story. Girl with a fractured history of child abuse? Bad boy with a broken past? Check and check. Unfortunately, the writing fell short of the mark for me.
Things I liked:
The unfavorable look at the foster care system. I know that this is awful, but it is a REAL PROBLEM that exists. Also PTSD and child abuse. These make people uncomfortable and they should. Props to Jennifer L. Armentrout for taking on such heavy topics.
The realness of the rich/poor class divides. This book featured a lot of diversity that was handled well.
The romance was nice. It didn’t overpower the story and I think the romantic arc was one of the best features of the novel.
The Velveteen Rabbit. This story is a backbone for the plot and theme and I loved it. Something about that book makes me sob like a baby, and it worked here. It added a nice layer to Mallory and Rider that I appreciated.
Jayden. He was BY FAR my favorite character and the only one who felt rooted in anything solid. He had a personality that he stuck to, along with a voice that felt authentic. His part in the story ripped my heart out.
The story itself was not terrible. After about page 300, I really enjoyed it.
Things I didn’t like:
Mallory’s voice never felt authentic. She ventured between having a really adult thought process, and then a stream of “teenage” thoughts. I use this term loosely because what it really felt like was an adult mimicking an “annoying” teenager with their “annoying” slang. The voice was all over the place and felt forced…I wanted it to be an extension of Mallory, when really it felt like the author injecting herself somewhere she didn’t understand.
Mallory was not a strong character, which is totally FINE. Not everyone is a badass. However, I had a hard time swallowing the whole “I’m only beautiful because a boy told me I am.” This is a common theme in YA literature (and romance in general) and I HATE IT. I wish she could’ve found another way to find her strength. She does, sort of, in the end. But I wish we never had to go there.
The repetition. I think the author intended the mindless repetitive sentences to prove Mallory’s anxiety. She had a habit of thinking about thinking something. Thinking it. Then thinking about thinking it. (See what I did there?) It was SO MONOTONOUS. I wanted to go through the book with a red pen and cut it all out. It made the story weaker. It was a distraction. And it wasn’t just the description and thoughts that were repetitive, it was the rambling sentence structure. I almost stopped reading after the first few chapters just because it was so hard to get through. I skipped all the exposition and only read the dialogue until about page 300. It was just too much.
Ainsley felt like an unnecessary character. I understand that she was supposed to serve as Mallory’s mirror, showing a “possible future,” but her character never felt rooted in the story and without the extra pages spent on her story, the focus could’ve been drawn back to strengthening Mallory’s and Rider’s stories.
Overall, I think I would’ve liked this story if the general structural writing problems hadn’t existed. They were the same issues I had with Obsidian. Perhaps in a few years I’ll give Jennifer L. Armentrout another try. If you’ve liked her work in the past, I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy this book even though it wasn’t for me.