Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.
But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.
Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.
I think I had high expectations from this book due t my two previous experiences with this author duo, and the extremely high rating for this one on Goodreads , and that’s why I am pretty disappointed. The story has two of my most favorite tropes ever – childhood best friends to lovers and second chance romance – so it was disheartening not being able to feel the joy that I expected.
The story alternates between the present and the incidents leading up to their separation eleven years ago. I do often enjoy plots being told in two timelines, but it was just too much here. Every single chapter is alternated, right up until the end, which prevented me from completely connecting to either the young Macy and Elliot or the adult versions of them. Also, the whole “no communication” thing during their years of separation felt very unrealistic and too convenient for the plot.
I loved the way the friendship between Macy and Elliot developed since their teenage years. She was a grief stricken, emotionally closed off girl and I think Elliot did help her open up a little through their shared love for the written word. They understood each other at a deeper level and I could really feel that soul deep connection. I completely believed that they were in love and would be forever, and was very interested to see the reason for their breakup. But I did get an inkling of it early on and turned out I was right – which is not inherently a bad thing – but having to wait 90% of the book to reach that point definitely hampered my enjoyment.
It was the adult part of the story set in the present that I really didn’t enjoy. Their is hardly any development of their relationship after they accidentally run into each other. I know that we are expected to believe that they still love each other and I could feel that their intense connection is still present, but it’s totally unbelievable how the story wrapped up in a bow. It’s not easy to fathom that Elliot – who loves Macy so deeply that he could never be in any other meaningful relationship during the decade – didn’t try hard enough to find her or her father. In both timelines, Macy is reeling from the death of a parent, so there is an undercurrent of grief throughout the book. I do enjoy some angst in my romances but this book had too much of everything – too intense all consuming love, too much longing and the too emotionally closed off Macy. Despite reading the whole book in her POV, I don’t think I got to know her really well, just like the friends in her life. Elliot also remains as this book loving character who loves her too much, and nothing else.
The one thing I really enjoyed about Christina Lauren’s previous two books was the fully realized side characters which was really missing here. We get some glimpse into the MCs relationships with their parents, but it’s too fleeting. In the past timeline, they both are in high school but we don’t know anything about their individual lives and their friends are only mentioned in passing. We know absolutely nothing about their decade of separation, except that they really missed each other. The present introduces us to some of their friends, but not in more than couple scenes. The whole conflict with Macy’s fiancé Sean was resolved so conveniently, the whole engagement felt totally unnecessary to the overall plot.
I feel like I’ve only listed the negatives but I can’t deny that the writing was very captivating. The whole past timeline was full of wonderful conversations about books and words and I loved it. I also wanted to live in the closet library in Macy’s bedroom. I still believe that this book will be very appreciated by readers who love a lot of angst and all consuming love, but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me.