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This is an emotional and dramatic YA read that is heartfelt, heartbreaking, yet still fun and so, so sweet. Beautifully written in a way that is all JLA.
Mallory endured a horrific childhood, brightened only by the moments she got to spend with her foster brother, Rider, who would protect and comfort her – enduring beatings and abuse in order to spare her. When she finally escaped the hell of her upbringing, she also lost Rider when the two of them were separated. But she was lucky enough to be adopted as a teenager by the doctor who treated her for injuries in hospital, and she has been cared for and loved in a way she has never experienced before.
In order to save herself as a child, she was conditioned to become silent – to hide from the danger as much as she could, and that behaviour has continued into her teen years, and she struggles to speak – so conditioned to being quiet. But she is taking a huge leap to claim her life back and after years of home schooling, she has enrolled in the local high school. She knows it’s going to be a huge shock to her, but she finally feels ready. What she isn’t ready for, is for her history to hit her in the face when on her very first day she encounters Rider at the same school. And from the moment they see each other, all of the intensity between them as children, is still very much there (and that reunion! Holy freaking epic!
Rider has a reputation at school for being a bit of a bad boy. He remained in the foster system and though he has now found a good home, he spent years being moved from place to place, and he never really felt settled. And living in the lower class part of town, he is often unfairly dismissed by teachers and the kids at school. But there is no denying that he’s gorgeous, and he immediately proves that his heart is as big as it always was, as he takes Mallory under his wing and once again becomes her protector, her touchstone, and her best friend.
We’ve been separated. But we had never really been apart.
They are so freaking cute together! True friends, but with feelings that go so much deeper than that, and there is this wonderful blend of sweetness, innocence, honesty, innocence and intensity, and you can feel it as things start to shift for them and every moment of it was just gorgeous.
“I don’t want you involved in any of that.”
“Because you care about me?”
“Of course.” I narrowed my eyes. “I don’t want to worry about you getting hurt.”
He stepped in and his other hand settled just above my hip. “Because you want to be with me?”
“Yes.” That word was easy to speak.
Rider smiled then and the right dimple appeared. “You want to be my girlfriend.”
I opened my mouth and then I laughed. It sounded strange after the seriousness of our conversation, but the statement was sweet and silly.
His cheeks pinked. “Not sure how I feel about that laugh,” he teased. “But I do love the sound of it.”
My breath caught at the word. Love. Oh, gosh, was that what was happening here?
“So do you? Want to be my girlfriend?” he asked, and then chuckled. “Probably should’ve brought this up before I kissed you, but I want…I want to see where this goes, Mallory. I feel like we got a second chance, you know? I’ve been thinking that since I sat down in speech and saw you sitting there. We have a second chance. And who gets second chances?”
I searched his gaze, feeling a rightness deep in my chest. I had thought the same thing before, about second chances.
“I don’t want to pass that up.”
The romance is really sweet. It’s a true reconnection of soul-mates, with a wonderful friendship and a love story that is paced perfectly, age-appropriate and it’s beautifully swoony, but still with the teen awkwardness and ‘realness’ that JLA writes so well.
“I just never thought I’d get to see how beautiful you’d become”
“You’re beautiful, too. I mean, you’re hot,” I blurted out. “But I always knew you would be.” my eyes widened as I realize what just streamed out of my mouth, and his grin to turn into a smile. “Oh my God, I did not just say… any of that out loud.”
But as gorgeous as Rider and Mallory are together, their relationship faces its challenges – they live very different lives, which leads to all sorts of difficulties, and the reality of that is shockingly heartbreaking. And they’ll need to pull together just like they always have in order to get through it.
“I might’ve saved you all those years ago, but now you’ve saved me.”
More than just a romance, this is a story of Mallory’s journey as she fights hard to reclaim her life and find her way forward, and I loved the strength and determination she showed in doing just that.
This is a great read. It’s sweet, emotional, romantic and dramatic, it made me laugh and it broke my heart, and I loved it.
Rider ♥ Mallory
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