If There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She's ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic--one of opportunities and chances.
Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.
Now Lena isn't looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.
For what she let happen.
With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends' entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn't even guaranteed?
What I Liked:
I wasn't planning on reading If There's No Tomorrow. I'm a huge fan of JLA's books, but her YA contemporary didn't seem like it would be for me. To begin with, I don't usually love YA contemporary, especially though-issue YA contemporary. The Problem with Forever is 100% not for me, and I have avoided that book. I was going to do the same with this book, but when I received an ARC of it, I decided to give it a shot. Especially since I knew that certain elements that made me steer clear of The Problem with Forever were not present in If There's No Tomorrow. I'm glad I gave this new book a chance because I ended up enjoying it!
To be clear: The Problem with Forever and If There's No Tomorrow are not related. They are both YA contemporary standalone novels. I'm comparing them because they're both YA contemporary novels by JLA, but they are not part of a series or anything like that.
This book is told in three parts: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. "Yesterday" begins the story, with everything that happened before the accident. Not in a flashback sort of setup, but the story itself, before the accident. "Today" is after the accident. "Tomorrow" is after the accident and after Lena makes some decisions.
I liked this setup a lot. I don't enjoy stories with a lot of flashbacks so I'm glad this book had none. Rather, Armentrout told the story like a normal novel, but there were dividers every third of the book. Nothing about the narrative changed, but you knew something was different by each section divider. Before the accident, immediately after, and after when Lena decides some things.
The tagline of this book is "A single choice can change everything" and this is incredibly true. Before, Lena was enjoying the last summer before senior year, working and hanging out with friends, including her neighbor Sebastian whom she has been in love with since they met as kids. When the accident happens, everything changes. Lena is not the same, and neither are her friends, whom Lena is sure will never forgive her.
This is tough-issue contemporary, but it isn't the kind of tough-issue contemporary that I can't read. It is heartbreaking but not dark. It is thought-provoking but not hopeless. Lena is lost, but drowning. This book deals with a lot of "tough issues", like death, grief, counseling, underage drinking, relationships, even parent-child relationships. It's a dense book that doesn't feel dense, because the story is so engrossing and captivating.
I connected with Lena easily and could see myself in her, on certain levels. She loves being home and reading a book in her bed. She isn't a party type and doesn't like to drink. She loves hanging out with her friends but she knows how and when to prioritize work or school or sports. After the accident happens, Lena sort of shuts down, and shuts everyone out. Her response is completely understandable. I liked her a lot, during yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I felt like I understood her and it made liking her very easy.
This story is told from her POV and she is the only primary character, but the secondary characters are just as great as she is. Sebastian is her best friend, and her next-door neighbor. They'd known each other for nearly ten years, and have been inseparable. She has been in love with him - and what she doesn't know is that he had always been in love with her. Sebastian is such a sweetheart; he's charming and a little arrogant, and a gentleman. He's a genuinely good guy and it's no wonder Lena's mom liked him and trusted him.
I liked Lena's friends Dary and Abbi. Both are supportive and kind, even when they were struggling with their grief over the accident. Lena and Abbi's friendship becomes strained, but it was wonderful to seem them work on their relationship. This friendship seemed so authentic, given the ups and downs, their reactions to things, their fights.
The parents in this book are not crazy or absent. Lena's mom is a wonderful mom who is clearly in Lena's life like a normal mom would be. Lena's mom and dad aren't together and her dad is a point of conflict in the story, but Lena's mom is awesome. Sebastian's parents are also pretty cool, though Sebastian's dad pushes him a little too hard. But it was nice to see that the parents of the characters (minus Lena's dad) were present and in their children's lives.
I loved the slow-burn romance of this story. Sebastian and Lena are best friends, and they are secretively in love with each other. This story is a roller coaster in terms of the accident and everything after, but there is also a lot going on in terms of the romance. It's slow-burn, but there is also a lot of chemistry between Sebastian and Lena. There are plenty of sweet and steamy scenes in this book (YA appropriate). I loved seeing them open up and be honest with each other. Their romance is sweet and swoony and ship-worthy and I loved it.
This book was a delight to read, even when it was heartbreaking and sad. Lena goes through so much and has to work through so much, but it was a wonderful journey to experience. The ending is excellent and a HEA in several different regards - not a bittersweet or heartbreaking ending, don't worry. I love how Armentrout ended the book!
What I Did Not Like:
I wanted a little more detail in terms of the aftermath for certain legal things. I know this is super vague but I don't want to spoil things. I felt like Armentrout didn't provide enough specifics (that I remember?). In general, the book wrapped up well, but there were a few small loose ends that could have been taken care of. Nothing major though, that would have affected how the book ended.
Would I Recommend It:
If you enjoy YA contemporary, this is definitely not a book to miss. Armentrout does a fantastic job with the story, the characters, the romance. I'm not usually a fan of YA contemporary and I was going to pass this one straight, but I'm glad I didn't. This book was the kind of contemporary that I don't mind and most of the time, enjoy. I definitely think YA contemporary fans shouldn't miss this one! I'm more of a fantasy girl and I know many readers are, but this was a lovely change of pace.
4.5 stars. It had been quite some time since I read an Armentrout book - I preferred her paranormal stuff to her fantasy stuff. I'm glad I tried this one. It might be up there among my favorites of hers, both in YA and adult (I do like her adult books a lot). Armentrout has outdone herself!
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