June 30, 2014

What Are You Willing to Fight For?

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Release Date:
 July 1, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Washington Square Press
Pages: 352 pages
Source & Format: 
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When Lauren and Ryan’s marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.

Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren’s ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?

This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after. 

Thoughts on After I Do
Earlier this year, I grabbed Forever, Interrupted from the library based on Estelle's recommendation. The summary sounded really good, so I was excited when I saw it on the "New Releases" shelf. Well, I read the book in a span of a few hours and was in love. I knew after a few chapters that the book was going to be a new favorite, and I was thrilled that I was right!

But I'm seriously the worst at writing about books that I've loved that much right after I finish. I just can't do it. I need to let them sit with me for a bit before I'm able to tell others about them. In this case, too much time passed. I let months go by without writing about it, and now I want to re-read before I share my thoughts. Either way, it was definitely included in my top ten books so far in 2014. Then, a few days after posting my list, I read After I Do.

HOLY CRAP, Y'ALL. I thought I loved Forever, Interrupted, but After I Do just took it to a whole new level. I'll back up and give an idea of what it's about - I just thought you should know right off the bat that this will definitely be in my top ten books at the end of 2014.

Lauren and Ryan met in college and married not long after graduating. For years, things were great... until one day they looked at each other and realized they couldn't even stand to be in the same room together. Where had it all gone wrong? Rather than call it quits altogether, they come up with an unconventional plan: they'll take one year off from their marriage in hopes in hopes of remembering why they fell in love in the first place. The only rule: they cannot contact each other.

The lines from the summary that absolutely sold me on this book? "This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It’s about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you’ve got." Everything about those two sentences made me want to read this book. In adult fiction, I feel like most books focus on either 1) a marriage as it falls apart or 2) someone picking up the pieces after the marriage is over. I honestly can't think of a book that I've read that's quite like this one: set during that time in between those two periods. The marriage is on the breaking point, but the couple isn't ready yet to call it quits.

I started this book, and I did not move from my bed until I'd finished reading it. It was pretty much everything I wanted but even better. The book opens with a present-day scene, and then it jumps back to Ryan and Lauren meeting. The next few chapters chart the progress of their relationship right up until the scene that opened the book. Forever, Interrupted did something somewhat similar (opening with present, flashing back to first meeting) and it convinced me of one thing: Reid could write a better, more compelling and more believable love story in one chapter than most people could do in an entire book. I'm totally serious. In both books, Reid had me totally and completely invested in her main characters within one chapter. I don't know what it is about the way she writes, but I absolutely love everything about it.

These characters. I love them, even with (and maybe because of) their flaws. They felt like real people, like friends I talk to every day, even like someone I see when I look in the mirror. There was this line in the book that perfectly encapsulated one of my favorite things about the characters and their relationship:
"We can hate and love, miss and loathe each other all within the same breath. We can never want to see each other again while never wanting to let go."
The rawness and realness of that statement, and how it applies to marriage, just hit me while I was reading. I've been married three years, and I dated my husband for three years before we got married. While we aren't where Lauren and Ryan are in their relationship, I could still recognize so much truth in Reid's words. The depiction of how resentment can fester and grow, the illustration of how keeping things to yourself can backfire, the ultimate question of the book - What are you willing to fight for? - was all something that I just felt so connected to as I was reading.

I highlighted line after line in the digital ARC, and I pre-ordered a copy almost immediately after I finished reading it. This is going to be one of those books that becomes a staple recommendation for me. It's not often that I read a book and feel so invested in and emotionally attached to the characters and their story. I've written so many words, but have I really said enough about how much I loved this one or even why I did? I know there's a certain part of me that loved it because of what it said about marriage, but I also loved these characters and Reid's writing style.

This book solidified Reid as an auto-buy author for me. I don't care what she writes in the future - I know I want to read it. And I have no doubt that I'll be re-reading After I Do and Forever, Interrupted again before the end of the year. If you like contemporary fiction or just a damn good book, you need to read this one. I REPEAT: BUY THIS BOOK. And while you're at it, buy Forever, Interrupted, too. You won't regret it!

So Quotable
"I've come to realize that resentment is malignant. That it starts small and festers. That it grows wild and unfettered inside of you until it's so expansive that it has worked its way into the furthest, deepest parts of you and holds on for dear life."
*I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for review consideration. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

7 comments:

  1. I love how well your enthusiasm shines through in this review, Hannah! It's lovely.
    I know about the premise of Forever, Interrupted and I know that I just cannot read it, even if it is really good. That's just too depressing for me. This, however, I can definitely see myself reading. Like you said, the premise here and exact place their relationship is at seems rather unique and I'm eager to see where this story goes.
    And, wow, are those some beautiful quotes.
    Adding this to my TBR. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. :)

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  2. I don't think this is the kind of book I would normally pick up, but your obsessed with rating has me intrigued -- it's definitely an interesting premise!

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  3. Ever since I saw you add this on Goodreads, I've been really wanting to read it. It just sounds like a book that I'd really like. And now your review has COMPLETELY SOLD ME. I want to go out and buy this book right. now.

    Have you/are you going to read Landline by Rainbow Rowell? How you were talking about this one kind of made me think of my reactions to Landline. It sounds similar in that it's about a marriage that's breaking apart, but they're sort of in this weird in-between stage, trying to figure stuff out. I really enjoyed that one and felt like it was such a REAL portrayal of marital love. This one sounds like it has that same sort of element, so I'm convinced that I need to give this one a try as well :)

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  4. I'm beating myself up that I couldn't get to the last Reid book that I had checked out from the library before everyone that lives east of the Miss. River wanted to borrow it. (: I'm so glad, though, that this one is being so GUSHED over because it makes me happy that she has multiple books out there that are highly recommended by people that I trust so much. This one sounds really fantastic, maybe more than the last one, and I think it'll probably stick with me whenever I pick it up. I want to buy these two, maybe. But they're solidly on my to-read list, don't worry.

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  5. I'm so excited to read After I Do! I have it coming up on my reading pile, and your review just heightened my anticipation for it. (In fact, I may just have to read it tonight!) But seriously, Reid's stories and her characters sound FANTASTIC, and I'm looking forward to falling in love with a new author.

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  6. As if I needed more convincing. :) Great review. Taylor is fantastic!

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  7. I've had this review up in a tab for almost a month now (!!) and I still have no idea what to say. Every time I start it just comes out as keysmashes and exclamation marks.

    I had the chance to review Forever, Interrupted and I passed on it and I've been kicking myself ever since! Then I saw Estelle's vlog and immediately went to add After I Do on goodreads...and noticed your 5-star ratings for BOTH books. Not even going to bother with the library for these two; they need to come home with me.

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