“I know you might not believe it, but I’m going to keep you safe forever…”
This was a gorgeous high school romance that brought me right back to the intensity of falling in love for the first time. I’ve loved Jennifer Armentrout’s writing ever since I read Wait For You back in 2013 and when I heard about this new book, I just couldn’t resist diving it. I feel like there’s something particularly special about childhood friends-to-lovers stories — I love the shared history between the hero and heroine and I love all the emotions and deep feels that come when they’re reunited after years apart. It had also been a while since I read a YA romance and I really enjoy those so, for so many reasons, this was a book I really wanted to read… And I loved it!!!
Let’s start with a little of what the story is about first…
Mallory and Rider grew up in an abusive foster home without enough to eat and in constant fear of beatings. Even though Rider was only a few months older than Mallory, he took it upon himself to be her protector and to keep her as safe as he could in their volatile home. Until one day, after a particularly violent confrontation, he disappeared. Four years went by and she didn’t see or hear from him again even though she never forgot him. Luckily in that time, her life improved. She was adopted into a loving home and given much support in her efforts to heal from her past.
I thought about the boy who made my chest hurt, the one who’d promised me forever. It had been years since I’d seem him or even heard him speak. Four years of trying to erase everything that had to do with that portion of my childhood, but I remembered him. I wondered about him.
How could I not? I always would.
He had been the sole reason I survived the house we’d grown up in.
Years of homeschooling had helped her heal and given her the strength to decide to attend her senior year in a public school. Despite her conviction, this was no easy feat for her as even something as simple as talking publicly gave her extreme anxiety. But the last thing she expected on her first day was to see Rider Stark. The boy who’d protected her, who she hadn’t seen in four years, right there in her class.
Their reunion was intensified by the relief of finding each other again after years of not knowing what had happened and complicated by their attraction to each other, but their situation was anything but simple and starting off as friends was best for them given everything that was going on. As she got to know Rider again though, she quickly learned that despite being well, he was also caught up with people that were slowly spiraling out of control. All those years ago, he’d saved her over and over again. And now it was time for her to return the favor.
“Be careful,” I whispered…
Rider’s grin faded from his handsome face. I moment passed before he spoke, “Always.”
It’s been a while since I’ve read a real high school YA romance and I have to say I really loved it. All the emotions, thrills, and intensity of falling in love for the first time made my heart race as Rider and Mallory slowly began to acknowledge their feelings for each other. For the record, he does have a girlfriend in the beginning. This isn’t really a love triangle and the girlfriend wasn’t serious by any means but still, I know there are some of you who’d just want to know what to expect. Even though they start as just friends, it’s quite obvious to the reader that Mallory is the girl he cares most about and nobody is going to stop him from spending time with her. See, he even says this…
“She understands that if I have to pick between you two, it’s not going to be her.”
… and there’s no cheating. He’s quite upfront with his girlfriend about how much Mallory meant to him and that he was going to be spending lots of time with her. So even though it took the a while to sort out their dynamic and work out their relationship, you always knew that Mallory and Rider were meant to be.
Falling in love for the first time, especially when it’s with the person who you know you’ll want to be with forever, is always intense and for them, with their shared past, pain, and connection, the intensity of their emotional connection ran deep and they not only were falling for each other, but shared a deep bond of understanding.
“I never stopped thinking about you,” he said in a low voice. “Not one day, Mallory.”
This story isn’t just a romance though… Mallory’s growth over the course of the book as she came out of her shell and gained the courage to truly be who she wanted to be sent a strong message about bring true to yourself, reaching for your dreams, and choosing what makes you happy for you — not in an effort to please other people. It really drove home how your life wasn’t defined by your circumstance, but by who you were and what you strove to be.
As I neared the end of the book, my heart raced with anticipation — I swear it did not seem like there were enough pages to fully resolve the story but thankfully there were! Those pages really flew by and the ending was beautiful.
I’m so glad I read this book. I loved the writing, I swooned over the story, I cared for the characters, and I highly recommend this for anyone looking for a wonderful YA romance to fall in love with!
Rating: 4.5 stars! Standalone YA romance.