Happy Thursday everyone! Ready for the next book review? I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been struggling this week, I’m still not done reading next week’s book review book, but I’m farther into the next book on the list. I need to do something about that. For now though, let’s talk about Left Behind. Once again, I read this book with my cousin Steph. Since I picked the last book her and I read, she got to pick the next one. She chose this and one other. For me they were blind picks, all I knew was that they were more Vi Keeland books, until they arrived at my house. So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
Left Behind is not like the last Vi Keeland book I read. It’s a little different, and I liked it. Steph liked it more than I did probably, but everything else I’m reading right now is a little different so it stuck out. It isn’t that it’s a bad story, on the contrary, I had some really strong feelings about it.
Nikki Fallon is a 17 year old girl living in Texas. When her mom dies and she finds out some family secrets, it turns her life completely on its head. She struggles with unraveling a past she never knew about, and the typical horror of high school all in a new place with family she didn’t even know existed.
Zack Martin has everything. A beautiful cheerleader girlfriend. A spot on the Varsity football team. Everything a high school senior would want. Until it isn’t. Until it all goes wrong. How will he pick up the pieces and learn to live again?
Can Nikki and Zack come together to help one another through their own personal trauma and still manage to graduate on time? Or will the things they don’t know tear them apart?
Thelma & Louise Book Club Chat
Q: Why did you choose this book?
Amber: Steph actually picked this one since I picked the last one. It was a blind draw for me.
Steph: I chose this book because I got to read the first couple of pages from the first chapter online, and it intrigued me. It was a little different than the last one, but I thought it would be good. And obviously because we read a really stellar book by her before this.
Q: Which character did you like best?
Amber: Zack. I felt like he was the most “real” of the characters. With that amount of grief, sometimes it only takes one small thing to pull you out. Or Kellar, I like characters that make me laugh.
Steph: Nikki. I could relate to her character with some real life events of my past.
Q: Which character did you like least?
Amber: It’s a toss up between Nikki’s mom and Mrs. Bennet. Her mom because she should have told Nikki the truth and Mrs. Bennet, who is obviously not handling ANYTHING well and took it out on a clueless Nikki.
Steph: Emily, just because of the way she treated Zack and everyone else just because of her popularity. Or maybe Mrs. Bennet because she never gave Nikki the chance to get to know her before she started attacking her.
Q: What was your favorite part of this book?
Amber: My favorite part was either the night at lookout where Zack and Nikki finally opened up to each other and a little about their past.
Steph: The day they went to the lighthouse. Because when they were at the lookout, she mentioned she loved lighthouses and he remembered. And because of the epic kiss they share there as well.
Amber: That is probably my second favorite. Do you think it’s weird that both of our favorite scenes are more toward the beginning?
Steph: That’s because that’s before everything got complicated!
Q: How did the setting impact the story?
Steph: I think that the setting was perfect. They’re both athletic and the setting allowed them to explore that more and be outdoors.
Amber: I think it added depth to the characters. They were able to interact with their surroundings. I like that the differences in not only environment, but the setting between Nikki’s life in Texas and her life in California showed how far she was growing as a character, without it actually being shoved down your throat.
Q: Are there lingering questions from the book you’re still thinking about?
Amber: YES! What actually happened to Emily? Like I get the big picture, but what happened? And why did the writer portray the two funeral scenes exactly the same? Was it for parallels? Cause that was obvious enough without it feeling like it was copied and pasted.
Steph: I feel the same way. But I also want to know how Aunt Clare moved on with her life after Nikki and Zack left? Like, what happened with their relationship?
Q: Did you like the heat level of this book?
Amber: Because of the age of the characters, there wasn’t a lot of heat. I liked how it was done, but I could have used a little more build up maybe? They talk a lot about what happened between them in kind of an off handed way and while I like good Fade to Black spice scenes, I felt like it wasn’t even that most of the time.
Steph: Right, like it was more of just teenager teasing and flirting.
Q: Was the couple’s connection believable? If so, when did they click for you?
Steph: Yes, they clicked right away. They didn’t even have to speak to know that there was a connection.
Amber: Their first couple of meetings were really cute, with the not speaking to one another thing. I liked the little notes, especially when Nikki wrote one to Zack at the end.
Q: Are there any characters that you’d like to deliver a lecture to? If so, who? What would you say?
Amber: I have a list! OMG! Aunt Clare, why did you give up so easily on losing touch with your sister and your niece? Especially if you knew your niece could potentially be in danger? You knew where they were, why not reach out? Mrs. Bennet, WTF? Mrs. Fallon, dude. I know you had some mental health issues and some other health issues, but your daughter is NOT your caretaker, you are hers. Emily, CHILL OUT HOMEGIRL! It’s not that serious!
Steph: My first one is to Nikki’s Mom, I understand mental illnesses, but I am also a mother with those and I don’t understand how you could let your child down so harshly throughout her entire life. Aunt Clare, wanting children and never having any should have been the biggest reason to stay in touch with your sister so you could have a relationship with your niece. Mrs. Bennet, [redacted cussing] had you gotten the chance to get to know Nikki you would have realized how alike she was to the daughter you raised and hope that now that it’s all said and done, you regret your actions.
Amber: We did good at this. We done?
Steph: No, I’m gonna call Zack out as well. I understand you went through a tough loss at a young age, a lot like Nikki, but it wasn’t kind of you to treat Allie the way that you did. She was just trying to be there for you.
Q: Would you recommend this book to anyone? Who?
Amber: I don’t know. Teenagers maybe? It was a good book, I mean my mom stole it off of my shelf already.
Steph: Yes I would recommend it. It was a good read, a fast read, and I think that I’d recommend it to anyone between the ages of 16 -25 because I think they’d enjoy it more.
Amber: Do you think that the trauma experienced in this book and the recovery, or beginning of that recovery, is believable or would be relatable? We’ve both been through some of those things, the grief of losing a parent is something we both understand. Do you think the authors did a good job portraying that turmoil?
Steph: Yes I do. I think that they showed that the mental and emotional state with Zack dealing with his grief and trauma was so different from Nikki dealing with a similar issue because Nikki had been through so much with her mom already but Zack had never dealt with anything like that before.
Amber: I think it was done well. It was two vastly different reactions to similar situations which is often times true to life.
This book was good, like I said. We both really enjoyed how quick it was to read. It kept us hooked, I’d call it a beach read, or maybe a good plan book. You could get through most of it in a few hours. The romance angle kept you intrigued, as well as the personal struggles of each character. The characters were well developed, even the background characters, and they were true to their personalities. They were consistent. This was the second book we’ve read by the same author, and so far the writing style is consistent and still good. It wasn’t quite a five star, however. It got a little predictable in the sense that I figured out who Nikki’s long lost sister was long before she did. It didn’t stop the lump in my throat or the pain in my chest when she finally figured it out though. It was rough. I like things that make me feel something.
Disclaimer on the heat level: Due to the ages of the characters, there wasn’t the same level of heat in this book as the last by the same author. It wasn’t even quite fade to black, though the kissing scenes were intense and made both of us a little breathless because we remember being young and being kissed like that, and the fear/excitement of our first times. It was really well written, there just wasn’t a lot of it. So our rating reflects that. It isn’t meant to be judgmental or bad, not this time. There just wasn’t much to judge. Again, given the age of the characters, I’m okay with that.
This book deals with a lot of heavy emotions. Grief, Foster Care, Death, Mental Illness, Depression, First Times, the list goes on. It’s heavy in a lot of ways. What really stuck with me was that the authors never shied away from portraying these things accurately. As someone who has lost a parent (two in my case, one in Steph’s), has their own diagnosed “Mental Illness”, and remembers being a teenager, I appreciated that these concepts were dealt with maturely and were a good representation for how life really is. Zack was still grieving months after everyone else had started to move on and everyone started to get worried about him. That’s realistic and it happens. Sometimes you get stuck there and can’t get passed it. My favorite thing, as someone who is diagnosed Bipolar, is Nikki’s constant and consistent correction of anyone who called her mom crazy or anything else besides sick. I can’t remember now exactly how it went, but there’s even a moment where she’s talking to her best friend, and even though her friend makes an offhanded comment, that Nikki knows she doesn’t mean in a bad way, it’s an automatic correction. I appreciated that. I’m lucky, I don’t have it as bad as some others do, but I’m not crazy, my brain just isn’t always a rational place to live. I loved this book. Please go read it. Give it to your teens, or anyone really. My mom took it off my bookshelf the day after I finished it.
That’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed the review. See you this time next week!