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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Melissa is a flirt. The entire world is aware of this. What the entire world is not aware of is what she hides behind that flirty persona. They don't know how broken and scarred she is. They don't know the pain she's suffered and what it'll take to recover from the blow the world has dealt her. Javier is also scarred. He escaped from a life in Cuba without being forced into a gang, but that is exactly what he'll do now. It's been 8 months since MS-13 ratted Diego out and got him killed. In that time, Javier has made a decision. He'll do whatever is necessary to find Wink, the asshole who is responsible for Diego's death and take him out. Nothing else matters. To do this, he'll need to talk to Diego's girl, Faith, who witnessed his death. To get to Faith, he'll need to befriend Melissa. What he doesn't expect is his attraction to flair up so quickly and with such force. Can they make it work?
Melissa was a character I loved in Before You. She was always watching out for Faith and supporting her when she needed it. That made this so much harder because Faith has ran off. She left because she couldn't take Diego's death and now she's not answering Melissa's calls. Right when Melissa needs her, Faith has shut her off. Leaving Melissa to deal with her problems alone. It's not that she blames Faith, but she needs her best friend. Those of us who read Before You, we know why Faith is avoiding Melissa. We know the truth Faith is hiding, but that doesn't make this any less heartbreaking. Melissa is hard not to sympathize with. What she is going through is traumatizing and she just carries on like nothing is wrong. She gets up and goes to work and tries to take care of her debts.
Javier was a character I was on the fence about. On one hand, he has lost his best friend and that is hard to take. On the other, he is a damned moron. How is taking out Wink going to solve anything? Diego will still be dead. It won't bring him back and it won't bring you closure. It'll just get you enlisted in a gang with the naive assumption you can get out with no consequences. His one shining point is his loyalty to his family.
His family, by the way, astounded me. The idea that any one woman would willing submit herself to the trauma of giving birth to 12 children is just crazy. Not to mention how much it costs to raise that many children. 12 mouths to feed plus Mom and Dad? How do you do that? The thought of the extra expense of a single child sends me into a mini-panic attack, much less 12. Beyond that, the pure racism and sexist nature of the household infuriated me. Javier's mom flat out refuses to allow any of her children to date anyone who is not Latina. She will not accept a white girl or a black girl or a Native American or anyone but a Hispanic girl for her sons. Period. That is appalling. People have the right to love who they love, period. Love doesn't know age (though relationships with a big age gap do kinda weird me out) or race or gender. The other thing is the fact that the girls are all pushed into the role of care-giver. It is the daughters responsibility to take care of the boys. Excuse me? Do we not live in the 21st century? Javier's mom needs a serious reality check. Though the girls don't seem to complain, I was floored by the role they were pushed into. What if the girls don't want to cook and clean and serve the food? What if the girls want to play soccer instead? What if one of the boys wants to learn to cook? What is wrong with that?!?!?
This novel a great sequel to the first, though it doesn't quite live up to the awesomeness that was Faith and Diego. I think that may have been because I wasn't as big of a Javier fan as I was a Diego fan. It might also be because I know that everything Javier was doing was in vain. There is no reason to do these things. Plus, I think it's incredibly stupid to believe there will be no consequences for joining a gang. To truly believe that you can join a gang and expect to get out without putting your family and friends at risk is fucking idiotic.
Besides being appalled with his family and not loving Javier quiet as much as I did Diego, this was a wonderful novel. Melissa and Javier have just enough tension to keep you begging for more. It's a novel that is hard to put down, even when you are disagreeing with what the characters are doing. I recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary YA or fans of Simon Elkekes Perfect Chemistry series.
****Thank you to K Teen for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review****