Review of Don’t Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout

Don't Look BackDon’t Look Back
By: Jennifer Armentrout
Release Date: April 15th 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

The Story:
I typically don’t read many thrillers but Disney-Hyperion sent me this book and I couldn’t resist dropping everything to read it. I loved the cover and figured a genre change would be good to get me out of a near slump I’ve been edging. I was right; this book was a page turner and kept my interest from start to finish.

If you’ve read any of Jennifer Armentrout’s books you know that her writing style is incredibly easy to read and she knows how to write a book to pull you in faster than you realize. This was the first thriller I was aware of her writing and she excelled at creating an atmosphere of mystery.

The story centered on a girl realizing she was walking on a road, barefoot with no memory of how she got there. I’m a sucker for memory loss stories and Armentrout did a very good job capturing this element. Our main character was on a journey to not only remember her own life but to find out what happened to her best friend (and as we soon find out enemy). The more she learns about herself the more she realizes that she doesn’t exactly want to be the person she was. I found that the pacing was fast, writing addicting and the story interesting though a lot of what happens to Sam has been done before.

As far as mystery novels go I’m not the best judge of Don’t Look Back’s success other than how I felt as I read it. I found it rather easy to predict the outcome but found the ride a lot of fun. Though I was able to predict aspects of the mystery I still second guessed myself a few times which to me, means Armentrout succeeded. There were elements such as mysterious, accusatory notes appearing out of nowhere that Armentrout threw in that captured an eerie atmosphere. Even with these little touches, this book failed to have me sweating and in complete fear for the main character. Regardless, I was eager to read the resolution and details of what happened.

The Characters:
If there is anything that JLA excels at it is in creating character chemistry and sexual tension. She can take even the most overused romantic scenario and make it work for her story. Guy and girl trip, falling to the ground in a dizzying heap? Check. Girl wraps her arms tightly around muscular guy as he drives his motorcycle, check. There were many more but even with these trite interactions it still managed to be fun. It was a nice relief from all the mystery to have these little interludes. Not only that, but they also helped keep the book fast paced.

As I stated above she did an amazing job creating Sam’s character and her memory loss. I did struggle with some, okay a fair amount, of Sam’s decisions. She tended to go with what she expected of her and though all the signs pointed to her making changes she hesitated.

MILD SPOILER:

Most of my frustrations centered on her relationship with her boyfriend prior to the incident, Del. Though nothing about him made her feel confident or good,  she wouldn’t assert herself and take action. Because of this, a love triangle was present and I was frustrated with this aspect overall

 

END SPOILER

Though the secondary cast was rather cliché they still fit into the storyline very well.  Samantha’s friends from before her incident are the stereotypical mean girls.  Not only do they use their style and wealth to get ahead but also bullying and scare tactics. To me, they all seemed very typical of what is expected of the rich and popular. Sam’s brother was the only character that stood against this stereotype. His girlfriend was not as wealthy as him and his best friend’s dad actually worked for their family.

This brings us to Carson- Sam’s brother’s best friend and boy Sam is realizing she had a past with. Of course Armentrout made him swoon-worthy, tall, dark, handsome and likeable even though he had some traits that weren’t the best (his reputation for sleeping around). He was the ‘bad’ boy form the wrong side of the tracks, yet another stereotype. But like I said, all of it worked well for this novel.

Final Thoughts:
I enjoyed Armentrout’s foray into the thriller genre, even with a few overdone plot lines and characters that seemed a tad on the side of stereotypical. Even considering those few things, I was enamored with her writing, and found it easy to read and fast paced. I loved the journey into a girl’s self-discovery and realization that who she was-isn’t who she wants to be any longer. Full of swoony moments, mystery and an edge of danger, Don’t Look Back would be a hit with fans of Armentrout’s previous books and thriller fans in general.

Comments

  1. says

    I have been half excited half wary of this one. I want to read it, but I’ve been burned by every other book by this author that I’ve read (coughonlytwobutstilllcough). However, I think you’ve convinced me. Her books are easy to read, I love amnesiac protagonists (I don’t think this makes us weird, just appreciators of original protagonists) so this has major potential. I didn’t read the spoiler for obvious reasons, but I hope it’s not too major. That said, I will wait for a sale/paperback/birthday to get this one.

    Lovely, thorough, very helpful review!

    • says

      I only enjoyed the beginning of the Lux series and the other paranormal series (I can’t recall the name for the life of me). I’ve not read any of her NA books because I’m not into that genre. I attempted one of them and had to DNF super early. Just not for me. I really did enjoy this one. If you give it a try I’ll be so curious to see what you think of it.

  2. says

    Ok, I only skimmed over your review as I’m going to read this in the next coming weeks. But I’m super looking forward to reading this one. Especially after loving everything else Jennifer as written. I’ll be interested how it will differ stylistically from her NA and paranormal books. Lovely review, Kristen! 🙂

    • says

      I really enjoyed it and think that JLA really excels at thrillers. I hope she writes more in the future. I can’t wait to see what you think once you’ve read it.

  3. says

    I think this one would be a nice change of pace for JLA, and I am quite looking forward to reading it! I requested it on NetGalley, but I still haven’t been approved. Keeping my fingers crossed!
    Thanks for the great review, Kristen!

  4. says

    I haven’t read anything by JLA before, but I love the sounds of this one! I’ve only seen the cover, so I had no idea it was a thriller (which is arguably my favourite genre), and despite it being slightly predictable, I’m still super pumped for it’s release!

    • says

      This would be a good intro to JLA though I think this is her only thriller. I enjoyed her paranormal but not her NA (I only attempted one). I hope you love this!

  5. says

    I’m like you–I almost never read thrillers, but this is JLA (whom I LOVE), so I’ve had this book pre-ordered for months. I’m so glad you liked it, and I can’t wait to read it for myself!!

  6. says

    I’m not a huge fan of Jennifer Armentrout (I didn’t like Obsidian and liked-but-did-not-love Half-Blood), but this one seems very interesting! The cover is absolutely gorgeous and the blurb’s very intriguing. I’m glad you liked the romance in this one!–definitely have to check it out. 😉

    • says

      I think you would still be able to enjoy this one though you weren’t crazy about her paranormal work. I’d be interested to see how you felt about it–so if you read it…let me know 🙂

  7. says

    It doesn’t sound like my usual read, and I don’t think I’ve read this author before, but nice review! I may check it out if it hits my library, though I’m a little wary of Sam’s lack of commitment and more than a little wary of a love triangle.

    • says

      It’s not my usual read either, which was actually really nice. I think that made me enjoy it even more because it was a great palette cleanser.

    • says

      It was the perfect book for the mood I was in. I’d been reading so much fantasy and science fiction it was awesome to read something totally different.

  8. says

    Great review Kristen. <3 I'm glad you loved this for the most part 🙂 I do like thrillers. But I'm not sure I would enjoy this. Love triangle? Ugh. Do not approve :\ Thank you for sharing, though 🙂

    • says

      Do you have any favorite thrillers? I can see myself reading more of them. the love triangle isn’t all the prevalent so it’s not so bad. Annoying but not a deal breaker.

  9. says

    I tried to guess what that cover might mean before I read your review. I was thinking of something along the lines of Black Swan, but looks like I was wrong. I love memory loss stories, too. Maybe it’s the whole soap-opera-ish aspect of it. I definitely hope to check this one out!

    • says

      I could totally see a Black Swan type book with this cover. The cover does relate to the book so that’s awesome. I think you’d enjoy this one.

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