by S. Walden
Scroll down for my review, excerpt and giveaway
Rating: 4 stars
Wow. This book was intense. It may be classified as New Adult, but don’t let that genre classification fool you. It delves into topics that I don’t know if most adults can even handle, let alone high school seniors. Although I had a good sense as to what this book was about, I tried staying away from reviews, instead I dove head first into it and I’m still reeling from finishing it…and I finished it two days ago.
Okay let me start again. I don’t want to scare you away from this book. I absolutely think you should read it – I just want to prepare you a little. The book centers around Brooklyn, a girl who carries around about 100 pounds of guilt on her shoulders daily, who is out to exact revenge on the popular guys on the swim team at her new school. While gathering data about these boys and their group, she learns that the story goes way beyond her best friend, Beth, and her plan to take them down starts consuming her. As her plan starts moving along, something unexpected happens. She meets a boy – a perfect, gorgeous boy who makes her want to ditch the plan and ride off into the sunset with him.
Ryan. Ryan is a conundrum. He is this gorgeous guy who is a loner and appears to have no friends. However, he is the perfect mix of a guy – sweet, caring, giving, understanding, and just a smidge dominating. He is the kind of guy you want to bring home to mom, but at the same time the one that will throw you down and make you squeal in pleasure. I want to bottle him up and put him in my pocket not sharing with anyone else – he is that adorable. It is obvious that he has some secrets of his own, but since I knew Brooke’s secrets were borderline insane, I never really gave his secrets a second thought.
“I’m not looking for things to be even between us, Brooke,” Ryan said after a moment. “I’m looking for them to be right.”
Brooke. Where do I start with Brooke. Here goes – I really didn’t like her for a good part of the book. She had done horrible things to her best friend, was a bit shallow, selfish and naive for coming up with that plan of hers. Because of this, it made my ability to relate to her a little challenging at times. HOWEVER, I understand that she had to be all these things. She is supposed to be this way. She is not some virgin heroine who is sweet and innocent. She has flaws just like everyone else, so what redeemed her was her strength and determination to find justice for Beth. I started off really despising her and then gradually my attitude towards her lightened up and by the time the book ended I loved her and was so proud of how far she came.
“How could a genuinely intelligent girl be such a fucking idiot?” ~Brooke
Let’s be honest, Brooke’s plan was idiotic and stupid. Worst idea ever. She was smart not to tell anyone at first because I think they would have committed her to a psychiatric hospital. The unknowing danger that she put herself in made me furious with her, but at the same time made me admire her for her incessant need for justice for Beth. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that there is a graphic sexual assault in this book that is uncomfortable to read. But, it was done so tastefully and with such sensitivity to the subject matter. It was 100% necessary to have in this story and it was not crude or vulgar.
I absolutely 100% loved the ending of this book, specifically the last two chapters. The way S. Walden handled the aftermath of all the events that went down was realistic and romantic. There is nothing I would have changed about the way this book ended – it was freaking perfect.
If I could change things about this book, I think I would have included more scenes with Ryan and Brooke. I loved them together and I felt that most of the book was spent telling us the things they did together rather than showing us. I wanted more dialogue, more cuteness, more sexiness. I just wanted more of them to balance out the heaviness of the rest of the book. The other thing I wanted a bit more of was Finn. Not because I liked him or anything, but because I wanted to see him at least one more time later on. I wanted him to see Brooke with Ryan to show him that what they once had was wrong. I wanted him to show guilt for what happened. I know we got closure on him – I just wanted to rub his face in it a bit more.
This book is intense and deals with a controversial topic. My recommendation is that you read it for yourself and make up your own mind. It was thought provoking and made me ask myself what I would do had I been in Brooke’s situation. Don’t be scared away by the reviews. It is beautifully written and well worth reading.
*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*
* * *
I left the bathroom in a hurry, turning the corner for the foyer and slamming into him. The force of the hit was so great that I stumbled backwards, nearly falling on my bottom if not for his outstretched hand. I grabbed it before going down and wobbled on my too-high heels, clutching him as I worked to regain my balance.
“God, I’m sorry!” he exclaimed.
I looked at his face then, unprepared to see something so beautiful. I think I gasped. And then I averted my eyes out of sheer embarrassment.
“I really should watch where I’m going,” he said.
He still held my hand, and I let him. I couldn’t remember who I was or where I was going. I couldn’t remember where I had just been. I only knew that a very cute boy . . . no, he was more than cute. He was gorgeous. This very gorgeous boy was holding my hand, and I had only one thought. I wanted to make our handholding more intimate. I wanted to lace my fingers with his.
“I think I should,” I mumbled.
I chanced another look at him. I made a conscientious effort not to gasp as I took in his light blue eyes. I’d never seen eyes that color. Jared Leto had nothing on this guy’s eyes, and Jared’s eyes were the color of the Mediterranean. No, the eyes I looked into now were so light blue they looked translucent. I thought if I stared a little longer I could see right inside his head, to his brain, and I don’t know why that turned me on so much. I wanted to witness the workings of his mind, the firing synapses, information traveling safely inside neurons to different parts of his body. A few made it to his hand, and they must have told him to keep holding mine because he didn’t let go.
I stared shamelessly, licking my lips at one point. He stared back just as boldly. I wanted him to like what he saw. I wanted him to think I was sexy. I wanted him to feel the same instant attraction I did. I’d never felt it before. Not really. Not even with Finn. It was unsettling, and I wondered how people functioned after being smacked upside the head with it. Instant. Physical. Chemical.
Just rip my clothes off, I thought. Just rip my clothes off and do me right here in the hallway!
He smiled and released my hand. I thought he did it reluctantly, like his brain ordered him to and he finally acquiesced. I smiled back, a flirty grin. I pulled my ponytail forward over my shoulder and played with the strands. I bit my lower lip. And then reality came crashing down like a hailstorm, large lumps of ice banging my head and screaming at me in unison.
“YOU’RE AT A FUNERAL!”
I looked at the gorgeous guy, and my face went white.
“Oh my God,” I whispered.
He stared at me for a moment before saying, “Are you okay?”
I shook my head and started towards the sanctuary doors. He followed behind.
“I’m awful, I’m awful, I’m awful,” I whispered over and over. I didn’t care if he could hear.
What the hell was I doing? Trying to flirt with a guy at my best friend’s funeral? How could I even forget for a second that I was at a funeral? I was supposed to be carrying around heavy, black sorrow to match my black dress and black heart, not batting lashes and fantasizing about sex with a stranger. Was I so ridiculous that a hot guy could make me forget to have any kind of decency? Or shame?
I rounded the corner and saw my mother waiting for me. And then I ran to her, threw myself into her arms, and burst into a fit of tears.
“Brooklyn,” she whispered, holding me in a tight hug. “It’s okay,” she cooed as she stroked my hair.
“I’m a terrible friend!” I wailed. I saw the fuzzy outline of a boy walking past us tentatively through the doors.
“No, you aren’t,” my mother replied.
“Yes, I am! I don’t even know why I’m here! Beth hated my guts! She wouldn’t talk to me all summer!”
“Brooke,” Mom said. “I want you to calm down. Now, we talked about this. You knew it would be hard, but she was your best friend for all those years. Do you think she wouldn’t have wanted you here?”
“No, I don’t!” I cried.
“Yes, she would,” Mom said. “Now we have to go in.”
“Brooke, Beth was your best friend,” Mom said, trying for patience.
“No she wasn’t! Not after what I did! I ruined everything! I’m a freaking slut!” I sobbed, shaking my head from side to side.
“Sweetheart, don’t say words like ‘freaking’ and ‘slut’ in a church,” Mom replied.
I only sobbed louder.
“You can do this,” Mom encouraged.
I stood my ground, shaking my head violently, refusing to go in.
“Brooklyn Wright!” Mom hissed, pushing me away and grabbing my upper arm. She squeezed too tightly, and I squeaked in discomfort. There was no more tenderness in her voice. “Get yourself together. This isn’t about you. So stop making it about you. You’re going into that sanctuary and you’re going to pay your respects to your friend, and you’re going to make it about Beth. Do you understand me?”
I swallowed hard and wiped my face.
“Do you understand me?” Mom repeated.
I nodded grudgingly, and she took my hand, leading me through the doors.
* * *
About S. Walden
S. Walden used to teach English before making the best decision of her life by becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Georgia with her very supportive husband who prefers physics textbooks over fiction and has a difficult time understanding why her characters must have personality flaws. She is wary of small children, so she has a Westie instead. Her dreams include raising chickens and owning and operating a beachside inn on the Gulf Coast (chickens included). When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about it.
* * *
S. Walden is giving away 1) a signed paperback of GOING UNDER, 2) a $20 Game Stop gift card, 3) Lana Del Rey’s single “Video Games”, 4) Playstation 4 decals, 5) Skateboard stickers, 6) “Gamers Embrace” T-shirt, 7) Ryan’s love letter to Brooke
*Note: once you read the book you will understand the video game reference 🙂