When We Were Young
By: Anna Benoit
Publication: May 30th 2017 by Anna Benoit
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
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Goodreads description--Livvy and Jack are nothing alike. Livvy is the courteous, studious daughter of two jet-setting professors; Jack is an angry transplant with a criminal record.
But Livvy’s life isn’t as easy as it seems. Unbeknownst to most, Livvy spends most of her time avoiding Luke—her overbearing, manipulative boyfriend of six years. Even though she knows she needs a change, she’s terrified to make it, so she resigns herself to a miserable senior year of high school.
Jack is new to town. Originally from Philadelphia, he is ordered to live with his biological father, David, after committing a heinous crime. Having only met David a handful of times, Jack is furious about the move… until he meets Delia, a rebellious bombshell who instantly attracts him with her risky lifestyle.
When David decides to take in Livvy after her parents surprise her with a permanent move, Jack is forced to befriend her. Quickly, the two discover they have more in common than they originally thought.
As the year erupts with heartbreak and tragedy, Livvy and Jack must find a way to keep their delicate bond from being swept away into the turmoil.
I read When We Were Young in two days. These days that's about as fast as I can do. The writing and characters hooked me early. I was invested and interested in what was going to happen. However, things went downhill quickly. Now don't get me wrong, I was devouring this book, but I was getting so stressed out by these characters.
Truly while I was reading When We Were Young I kept thinking there's no way this many awful things could happen to the same few people unless this was real life. And while at times it felt so far fetched, I need to do no more than scroll through my Facebook news feed to see that I probably know a few people who behave similarly or have been treated similarly. And truthfully that's really sad to me.
Livvy's parents are completely absent. Her friends are fake. Her boyfriend, Luke, is controlling. She doesn't have many people in her corner. Luke's level of manipulation was so crazy that I could see how Livvy would begin to question her own sanity and guilt. I was so frustrated with her for not standing her ground earlier in the book. She could have saved herself a lot of heartache and trauma. That being said their relationship was one of the most real things about this book. Again this is truly scary to know that there are people like Luke out there and that even sane people can find themselves under the thumb of someone like him. I guess there are parents as completely absent in real life as Livvy's are but man does that get my goat. Even if they were absent, what justifies their utter dismissal of their daughter's word for the word of her boyfriend with no proof or experience to back him up. One more point I want to make here but I'll save that for later.
Jack and Delia have an equally destructive and unhealthy relationship. She seems to enjoy being treated badly and was only really interested in Jack to begin with because of how "bad" he told her he was. His part in the relationship while disappointing was at least understandable given his mother's situation and how that back and forth behavior is all he's even known. Plus well he's a guy. And while that doesn't excuse his behavior, it also wasn't far from what I witness as a teenager watching guys behavior in high school. Jack let me down time and time again not seeing more of what was going on with Livvy and stepping in to help her sooner.
I'd like to say that I was disappointed that these two didn't do more self work before jumping into a relationship with each other, but again... real life. When things finally started going well I still felt unable to be excited for the characters because of the amount of drama surrounding them.
Sexual situations and language were both fairly graphic. Trigger warnings galore.
I've discussed how frequently the events of this book reminded me of real life, and then I read at the end of the book that Anne Benoit is a therapist. This makes the sheer amount of drama and horrible things happening make sense. I suppose none of the things in this book that felt too much or far fetched would feel that way coming from someone who has heard humanity's worst.
I will say, though, that the ending really did feel unrealistic to me. ***SPOILER: (highlight to see)I know that people go to jail who are innocent but it seemed to me that all that needed to be done to show who the real violent person was would have been for Livvy to show her text messages from Luke. ***END SPOILER
I can't remember the last time I felt so conflicted over a book rating. On the one hand, I read this book as quickly as I possibly could given the time I have to read. I was invested early on and dying to know how things would work out. And this book read so dramatic that it could only be inspired by real life. These things have me wanting to give 4 Stars. Yet my friend Lacy choosing her 4 Star rating based off whether she'd re-read the book or not. While that's never officially been how I rate books, whether or not I'd want to re-read a book is a great indication of how much I enjoyed it. (I don't see myself ever re-reading When We Were Young . I also don't know that I'd recommend this book to others which is another big indicator. It would take the right reader and the right circumstances.) Ultimately, I think 3.5 Stars is a fair rating. Have you read When We Were Young ? What did you think? Let me know!
*Side note: I hate when I finish a book and have no idea why it is titled.