Monday, July 11, 2016

ARC Review: Swear on This Life by Renee Carlino

Swear on This Life
From the blurb:

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Heather's rating:

Swear on This Life already has a lot of hype and a lot of 5 star reviews, so I know I'll be in the minority with this one. That's okay. This book isn't a bad book by any means, and I read it all in one sitting, so it certainly has that readable quality to it. However, I don't think it delivered on the emotional intensity that I was expecting.

When I read the blurb of this story, I was immediately intrigued. I mean, what a cool concept, honestly. The long lost love of your life publishes the story of your childhood and profits off of it? I loved that set up. However, the execution left a lot to be desired. The story is basically a book with pieces of another book inside of it, one that tells the childhood story of Emi and Jase/Jax. Renee Carlino spends a lot of page time on the book that J. Colby (the grown up pen name of Jase) wrote, putting whole chapters of it within the story. It gives the book a feeling of being told in flashback, which isn't something I usually enjoy.

Swear on This Life is not a YA book or a new adult book, but it reads like one. A lot of that has to do with the fact that a lot of this book takes place in flashback, in the past when Emi and Jase were young children, but a good amount also has to do with the immaturity of the characters. These characters are supposed to be in their late 20s, but they easily read as older teenagers. They are self-absorbed, impulsive, and lack that feeling of maturity. The writing was also told in an easily digestible way, without a ton of depth to it. It certainly didn't feel like an adult book to me.

My biggest issue with the story, however, is how anticlimactic the whole thing was. This book is VERY angsty, with a lot of build-up to a big, emotional confrontation with Emiline and Jase, but when these two meet again, it just fizzles to nothing. I just didn't get the author's reunion vision between these two. I simply didn't understand why Jase didn't contact Emi eons ago. Why did he let all that time pass??? He had ample time and opportunity to reunite with her. It just didn't make sense. And Emi's very bland reaction to seeing him again and their falling into step with each other like no time had passed... no sense. It just felt very unrealistic and forced.

I also didn't love the love triangle aspect. First of all, a love triangle only really works for me if I actually have no idea who the MC will end up with. In this case, Emi's boyfriend was just filler-fluff, and it got annoying how long they let their relationship drag on.

There is also a lot of time where Emi wanders off and tries to find herself, but that felt... empty. There was one scene that moved me a little, but most of the other scenes with Emi confronting her past felt hollow and lacked emotional intensity. Emi's reactions felt off to me, and I didn't connect with her in those scenes.

The ending of the book that J. Colby wrote was supposed to be this mind-blowing conclusion that was going to make everything make sense to Emi, but when I got there I though, "This is it?" It was very predictable, and I didn't see how that would have so thoroughly changed Emi's mind. Why wouldn't these two just communicate about their feelings before? Why all the hoops? Why not just talk to one another?

I know many people will love this story, and I truly get why. I love second-chance love stories as much as the next person. I also love a "rising from the depths"-type of story, where people succeed against all odds, and Jase and Emi had every odd against them. However, I think that this story just didn't quite work to deliver on those themes, which is a shame.

**Copy provided in exchange for an honest review**

Buy this book:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Happy reading!

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