Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blog Tour: Things I Can't Forget by Miranda Kenneally [Review]

Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Drama
Publication.Date  March 1st 2013
Published By:  Sourcebooks Fire
WebsiteMiranda Kenneally

Things I Can't Forget on Goodreads
My review copy:E-galley of the book received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

Companion to Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker. 

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…


I have a billion what-ifs and no way forward.
God is great. God loves me. I don't want to go to Hell. I know some people question whether Heaven and Hell truly exists, but do those people question whether gravity exists? Or oxygen? You can't see those with your naked eye, either. I can't see cologne on a guy's body, but I can smell it. I may not be able to see Heaven, but deep inside, I can feel it. 
I've tried to live a good Christian life. I follow the Bible to a T. I listen to everything Brother John says. I'm trying harder than ever and it just isn't working. This is not the sign I was looking for. I'm a good, good girl who's got no friends. A good, good girl who helped her ex-friend get an abortion. I don't deserve any friends. 
He adjusts his bandana, smiling at me, and my stomach leaps into my throat, and I feel this longing deep inside - a longing to have a friend. 
"Your truth isn't everybody else's truth. Your beliefs matter, right?"

     Things I Can't Forget is a very good book that deals with some heavy subject matter. Featuring themes such as religion, premarital sex, teen pregnancy and abortion, it's a deeply emotional and thought-provoking story that affected me in ways I never thought possible. This book is about many things - love, friendship, faith, making mistakes and dealing with guilt- above all, it's a story of one girl trying to find forgiveness, acceptance, and - ultimately - herself.

      It's one of those books that, despite having a dreadfully unlikeable protagonist, is completely wonderful. I despised Kate, I really did. She was self-absorbed, rude and less than tactless. I honestly didn't have a grain of sympathy for her. All her problems were self-created, stemming from her difficult character and self-righteous attitude. When it comes to hot-topics such as teenage pregnancy, abortion or religious beliefs, I happen to be quite opinionated, and I don't take kindly to people who think themselves better than others just because they believe in God. You go to church, you believe in Heaven and Hell - that's wonderful, but don't go around judging people, telling them what to do, nagging at them to pray for their sins. Don't judge others by your own standards. I was quite surprised by my strong emotional response to this story. There were moments when I was fuming, shocked by Kate's twisted reasoning and selfish behaviour. And I wasn't at all surprised that, despite trying so hard to be a good Christian, Kate was lonely and shunned by others. Honestly? I wouldn't touch her with a stick myself, she represents everything I hate in people. When her best friend, Emily, got pregnant, Kate helped her get an abortion, which obviously went against all her beliefs. It was clearly an insanely difficult decision for her friend, too, and she was having a very hard time dealing with the consequences of it. And yet Kate managed to make it all about herself (yet again). All she cared about was her guilt and the fact that she failed as a good Christian girl. To help her friend she committed a sin, and while I understand that it must have been extremely difficult for her, I don't like how she chose to deal with it. Constantly nagging at Emily to beg God's forgiveness, telling her she'll go to Hell, etc - that is no way to treat someone whose life was just flipped upside down. She didn't care about Emily and her feelings, no, all Kate ever cared about was herself. Even when she cries for Kate and Jacob, and the way their relationship fell apart, she still manages to come across as self-absorbed ("That's not the only reason I cried. Deep down, I was jealous of that love and I wanted a boy to show up, crying for me because he loved me so much."). 

     Kate's nasty personality isn't the reason I found this book to be not as fantastic as Catching Jordan or Stealing Parker, though. As much as I hated her, I must admit she made this story very captivating. Plus, she does show some impressive character growth and while I can't say that by the end of the book I grew to like her (or care about her), I definitely understood her better. What made me enjoy this book a little bit less than the previous two books in the series is the fact that the relationships weren't as thoroughly fascinating as the ones in Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker. There we had all sorts of fabulously depicted relationships between friends and family members, here we only get a few brief glimpses at how the relationship between Kate and her dad looks like. I realize it's probably because Kate is just not a very sociable, warm person. She's withdrawn, shy and always afraid of doing something wrong. She doesn't have many friends and all her relationships with people seem to be strained and awkward. But I still wanted to learn more about her family life and how it shaped her to be who she was. 

     That doesn't mean I didn't love the book, it was still beautifully written, deep, meaningful and harrowing. And I admire Miranda Kenneally for not shying away from difficult topics and for handling them with such grace, honesty and sensitivity. Her stories are always immensely enjoyable, with just the perfect blend of romance, comedy and heart-break. The narrative is believable and insightful, filled with Kate's reflections on life, love and God. Her simple yet poignant prose pulls on your heartstrings and keeps you glued to the pages all the way through. It's just an all-around wonderful read. 

     I adored the love interest in this book, Matt. He was sweet, charming, mature, very understanding and thoughtful. Just a really good guy! On top of his genuinely wonderful personality, he was also handsome and funny. Simply irresistible. Next to Corndog, he's probably my second favorite character so far. 

     One thing I really love about this series is the fact that even though the books are meant to be read as stand-alones, there are still some plot threads that overlap and intertwine with one another. I loved that Parker and Corndog from Stealing Parker made their appearance as supporting cast. If you're familiar with Stealing Parker, you know that after Parker's mom "came out of the closet", the church that Parker belonged to ostracised her and her father. In Things I Can't Forget we get to explore the other side of the story and see those same events through Kate's eyes.

   I think I can recommend Things I Can't Forget to anyone who enjoys a good contemporary novel with interesting characters and meaningful plot line, even to those who - like me - tend to shy away from religious-themed books. With great pacing, engaging plot line and the broad palette of emotions it evokes, this book is a very entertaining and captivating page-turner. If you loved Miranda Kenneally's previous books, you're definitely going to love this one, too!

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