Sunday, 21 February 2016

Not If I See You First by Eric Landstrom disappointed me slightly

Not If I See You FirstTitle: Not If I See You First
Series: N/A
Author: Eric Lindstrom
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication: December 1st 2015, HarperCollins Children's Books
Pages: 416 Pages, Hardcover
Source: Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 
Rating: 3.5/5 Cupcakes!
The sensational debut YA of 2016 that everyone will be talking about.
Parker Grant doesn't need perfect vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there's only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Not If I See You First illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.

Most people know that contemporary novels are my favorite, whether they're fluffy or heart-rendering, I love most contemporary novels. So when I saw this was available to review on Netgalley I didn't hesitate to request it. It has a character that is trying to survive the harrowing aftermath after her father's sudden death, the return of a boy who broke her heart and shattered her trust in people and the day to day struggle of living with her disability...so needless to say, I thought I would love it and although I enjoyed it and it made me giggle and cry, there were quite a few issues I had with Not If I See You First.

Even now after finishing this book two days ago, I'm just as indecisive about how my feelings towards this book as I was when I turned the last page. Looking back, I enjoyed it, I loved the female friendship, the character development and the premise...however, the lack of plot and the unlikable main character made me feel slightly disconnected from the story and I didn't fall as in love with it as I hoped I would.

The biggest problem I had with this book was my inability to like our main character, Parker. Parker was a complicated character. She had just lost her father suddenly, her mother had died nine years ago in the car crash that had also taken Parker's eyesight and the boy who she loved and who betrayed her trust completely is back in her life and wanting to be a part of it. These catastrophic events that destroyed her last grip on normality have altered her and that is evident. She doesn't want to be pitied which leads to her being brusque with people just offering to help, she dishes out her honest thoughts with no softening of the blow that the people on the receiving end of her remarks will be hit with and she's often selfish as she's so wrapped up in her thoughts and because she has no vision she can't tell as easily when people are struggling with their lives, giving off the impression that she doesn't really care even though I think she would care more if she could see how things were affecting people. 

I just couldn't connect to Parker for most of the book. I'm a person that believes people should have tact, it's good to tell people the truth however it's not okay to say you're being honest when your words are cruel and thinly veiled by the excuse of you being honest. She was rude and hurtful and I just couldn't warm up to her for the majority of the book. However, she goes through immense character development, so by the end of the book she's learned how to handle certain things better and learned to forgive and give people second chances and isn't as harsh with her words. That was my biggest problem with the book. 

I really liked the secondary characters, however with all the characters in the book I never really felt like I got to know them. They didn't feel real to me but more like just characters in a book, which isn't how I like viewing my fictional friends. Despite that, I really liked them. I loved Sarah, Parker's best friend, she was fabulous. As were Parker's other friends: Faith, Scott, Molly, Kent (D.B.) and (most of the time) Jason. The friendship dynamics in this book were utterly phenomenal and were definitely focused more on than romance, which is always wonderful to see! 

The female friendships in this book were spot-on and I was even more impressed as this book was written by a male author. Parker's friendship with Sarah really warmed my heart and it reminded me very much of my friendship with my two best friends, especially when Sarah said she viewed Parker as not just a best friend, but as a sister. All Parker's friends, especially her female friends, were so supportive, kind and loyal. I LOVED how they were true friends, they helped her and built her up and didn't say catty things to her. SO MANY BOOKS I've read, the "best friends" insult each other, slut-shame and judge and I'm like no, just no. So the strong female friendship was something that I really enjoyed in this book.
“And this might sound strange but part of why I love her so much is that I don't take it for granted. I don't like to admit it but whenever I put my hand out a part of me worries that maybe she's not going to be there this time, that she's finally sick of all my selfishness and drama...' Sarah squeezes my hand tightly and presses her temple on my shoulder. '...and that's why I freaked out, but then she's always there for me and I'm so goddamn grateful I wonder what I could have possibly done to deserve her. If you want to know what a soul mate is, Marissa, that's it. Sarah's my soul mate. I would stand in front of a train for her, and I love her because she'd do it for me too.” 
“That's what love is, Marissa. It's not magic or voodoo. It's real. You can explain it. I an tell you exactly why I love Sarah." I hold my hand out and, thank God, Sarah gently interlaces her fingers with mine. 'I had lots of friends when I was little but by the time I turned eight they were mostly gone. It turns out blind Parker with a dead mom wasn't nearly as much fun as she was before the accident. I couldn't run around and play and I cried all the time and knocked over everything and turned into a royal bitch and one by one my friends disappeared until there were only two left. I'm not saying they were the only one who understood me or were nice, just that they were the ones who didn't go off and find easier people to be friends with. I love Sarah because she's been my best friend and stayed that way when it got really really hard to be my friend at all.”

As I said, romance isn't the central focus in Not If I See You First but it does occur on the side. There are two kind of romances in this book. There's a blossoming romance between Parker and Jason but those flames were quickly extinguished and then there's the friendship/romance/"it's complicated" relationship between Parker and Scott. Scott the boy who completely broke her heart. I immediately disliked Scott due to what Parker had told us about him but dammit, he stole my heart. He loves Parker. Like really loves her and you can see in all the lengths he goes to in order to protect her, whether it's from clearing danger from her path, warding off the snide comments about her disability and just being there for her, but also allowing her the freedom to do things by herself. I just really adored Scott and you can just see how scared he is to open up his heart again in case Parker shuts him out and GAH, it just killed me. That ending was quite open and I just...I need to know what happens with them.
“He [Scott] still looks at you [Parker] like he used to, even before you got together, like you're the most important thing in the word. Like if you were trapped on railroad tracks he'd break every finger to get you free without even noticing...and if he couldn't, he'd sit on the tracks and hold your hand and watch you instead of the train.”
This is also a highly character-driven novel and there isn't much of a plot, which did also decrease my enjoyment of the novel. I love contemporaries but I also need something to happen in them for me to love them. I don't if this is what made me also feel slightly disconnected from the novel? Perhaps.

Not If See You First was a book that I had high hopes for, but which left me slightly disappointed. I wasn't a major fan of the main character and the lack of plot decreased my overall enjoyment of this novel. However, the unbreakable female friendship, the enlightenment I received on how awful it truly is to have impaired vision and profound lessons learnt along with the main character saved the book for me. If you're looking for a character-driven novel, amazing friendships and a subtle romance, then I'd give this book a go!

I give it: 3.5 cupcakes

- Mild swearing 

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