Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross & Mark Perini

Title: You Before Anyone Else
Author: Julie Cross & Mark Perini
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release date: August 2nd 2016
Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult contemporary romance
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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New York City model Finley is fed up with hearing the same feedback at castings: she needs to take some serious action to wipe the "good girl" stamp from her resume if she wants to launch to stardom.
Enter Eddie Wells. He's shallow, predictable…and just as lost as Finley feels. Deep down, Finley is drawn to Eddie's bravado, his intensity. Except Eddie is hiding something. A big something. And when it surfaces, both loving and leaving Finley will become so much harder.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I liked You Before Anyone Else right from the start. The writing is great; even though the book is 400 pages long, it reads super quickly because the writing flows so well and really absorbs you in the story. The characters are easy to like: they're not the most unique characters, but they are fully-developed and make it easy to care about their stories. I especially liked how You Before Anyone Else blurs the borders between YA and NA, since Finley and Eddie are living on their own and have very adult responsibilities, but the themes of the book are still definitively YA. 

One thing I didn't find all that realistic is both Finley's and Eddie's success. Eddie just randomly decided to start modeling (we never even find out how and why he made that decision), and instantly, everyone loves him, and he gets all the jobs with all the big labels. I don't know all that much about the modeling world, but that just doesn't seem realistic. Finley struggles a lot more with getting modeling jobs, but, in the sense of the story, that's because her true passion is dance, not modeling, which she used to do but gave up a while ago. And when she suddenly shows an interest in dancing again, everyone is blown away by her talent and technique and she's immediately offered a job with a professional dance company. No matter how talented she is, I doubt that would happen if she hasn't practiced in a couple of years and is barely getting back into it. I wish we had seen some more actual struggle with the two of them succeeding because I think that would have made the whole story more believable.

I really loved the romance in You Before Anyone Else. Finley and Eddie have great chemistry, and I loved the unconventional (for YA) start to their relationship. The two of them manage to fall for each other quickly without it coming off as unrealistic or insta-love-y. In addition to the chemistry that makes them fun to read about, they actually have a really healthy, mutually supportive relationship, which I think is really important to see in YA. I also appreciated, though, that the focus isn't entirely on the romance: both characters' individual stories matter just as much, and the novel revolves around Finley and Eddie trying to combine their own passions with their romance.

And then, about half way through the novel, Eddie's secret is revealed and it steers the novel in a completely new direction. I'm still not really sure how I feel about this entire storyline, and I can't really talk about it without spoiling anything. It's definitely a surprising twist and it provides for an interesting story, but I just didn't really understand Eddie's motivation in all of this; he's such a good guy, but he's just being an idiot when it comes to this, to be honest. If the secret had more to do with his "bad boy" past, it would have made more sense to me, but his past struggles aren't really explored all that much, and it was more so his current decisions that I found confusing. And Finley's reaction is strange too, and also just really goes against what I wanted for her. I just don't know what to make of this storyline at all.

The ending is a veeery happy ending, the kind that generally makes me roll my eyes at how unrealistic it is. These types of endings always annoy me because, even if the characters were concerned with real-life issues over the course of the novel, in the end things turn out perfectly like they never would in real life. Finely and Eddie don't actually have to make any difficult decisions because, by coincidence, someone shows up or something happens that ensures that everything works out just the way they wanted, without them having to give up anything. The realistic conflict of needing to decide between pursuing your dream, doing the "safe" thing, and staying with the person you love just kind of... disappears. I understand that this probably makes a lot of readers happy, but to be honest, I feel like it discredits everything the characters went through before the ending.

I'm still not really sure what to make of You Before Anyone Else. It had a ton of potential: I loved the setup, the writing, and the characters. And I did really like parts of the story, like the initial romance and both characters' individual story arches. But the plot twist halfway through kind of threw me off, and it ended up dominating most of the novel from that point on. I do recommend You Before Anyone Else because it's a quick, entertaining read; just don't expect everything to be realistic.

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