Updated: Jan 23
The Problem with Forever
by Jennifer L Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen
A story about friendship, survival, and finding your voice.
Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it's been four years since her nightmare ended, she's beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she'd run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn't seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn't take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she's not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider's life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.
RATED: 14+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Trigger Young Adult Emotional
Sexual references Coming of Age
Trigger Warning: This book deals with childhood neglect and abuse, and drug and gun violence.
The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout is a stand alone young adult book, featuring Mallory Dodge, a seventeen year old girl, who suffers from a traumatic upbringing in the foster system along with her best friend, and protector in a house of horrors, Rider Stark. After a tragic event rips her away from the only person who was her constant, she is eventually taken in by a successful, loving couple. After years of therapy and homeschooling, Mallory knows she needs to face her fears before going to college, and one step to that goal is going back to school. She had no idea that the handsome boy who would sit next to her in Speech class would be the person she was torn away from, Rider. Instantly, their connection with one another is just like it was when they were thirteen. As Mallory and Rider get to know one another again, Mallory learns that she isn't the only one struggling, and in order for her to help Rider, is if she faces her own fears, and speaks out.
Okay. Excuse me. I'm having a bit of an emotional hangover.
I'm always a little wary when I start reading a young adult book. I love young adult, but there needs to be an element of realism for me to truly love it. This means there needs to be real emotions and thoughts. Good and bad situations that teenagers may encounter. Right away, I knew I was going to love this book, and by the end, while ugly crying and drowning my emotions with Oreo's, I knew I stumbled on a beautiful, emotional story with an important message. The story was unique, and real. It's a sad reality that there are many kids in the foster system that was neglected and abused, and while hard to read, it needs to be known. The Problem with Forever's plot dug it's claws in me, and I honestly couldn't put it down.
Me. A 32 year old adult woman, with three kids, couldn't put down a young adult novel. I'm currently running on 2 and a half hours sleep and a pot of coffee because I couldn't sleep till I finished the story.
The Problem with Forever is beautiful written, heartbreaking, and sweet. It's message is potent, and I honestly can't recommend it enough, especially for teenagers.
The story isn't the only thing that is wonderful, but the characters are truly well-written. Mallory's emotional struggles, the effects of her PTSD, and her physical scars from her past are hard to read, but everything was .... real. Yes, there's that word again. Jennifer didn't romanticize what she goes through. Despite everything she has been through, she is kind, and incredibly intelligent. Empathetic. And while she doesn't think she is, she is strong. Rider's arc throughout the book is also not romanticized. He hides it well, but he struggles too. It's obvious how he feels about himself, and that he has given up. The fact that he is who he is, incredibly caring, considerate, fiercely intelligent and wonderfully talented makes the story that much more heartbreaking, because it's lost on him.
The connection between these two characters is instantaneous, but the attraction to one another is new, and the quiet chemistry between the two is rather beautiful. We don't need the physical passion that a lot of readers desire in a romance. Don't get me wrong, we do get physical intimacy between the two (be warned parents if this makes you uncomfortable), but it's truly not needed. The love between the two is beautifully written and obvious, and you can't help but root for them.
The side characters are also wonderfully written. Mallory's adoptive parents are truly great, despite some mistakes made along the way. Parents are not perfect. We make mistakes. Say the wrong thing. I love that this element is added to the story. Parents are often not overly involved in young adult stories, but Carl and Rosa's roles are so important to the story AND to young reader.
The young characters are also brilliantly written. Hector and Jayden are truly like Rider's brothers, even if Rider doesn't feel like he is apart of the family. Jayden's story is heartbreaking, and brutal, but happens every day. Mallory's best friend Ainsley is also great. She is kind of the definition of the perfect best friend. Ainsley's diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa (the same rare genetic disorder that Jennifer Armentrout herself was diagnosed with) is a clever way of teaching readers about this disorder, one that Jennifer is passionate about.
The Problem with Forever is very much deserving all the praise it gets. With a wonderfully written bittersweet story, beautiful and intricate characters, and elements of realism and romance, it truly is an amazing piece of work. I highly recommend not just for young adults (and I totally plan on sharing this book with my own teens), but adults as well.
Rider seeing Mallory for the first time in 4 years
Rider skipping class to spend time and get to know Mallory again
Rider going after Mallory when she clammed up in class
Mallory standing up for herself with Paige
Rider showing Mallory his art
Rider taking her to the garage, and him spray painting a heart between their names
Mallory finding the copy of The Velveteen Rabbit that he used to read to her on his bookshelf
Rider's sketch of Mallory
Mallory finally telling her adoptive parents how she feels about everything
Rider and Mallory telling each other they love one another
Mallory telling Rider that he needs to be the one who realizes he matters.
Carl telling Mallory about his brother, and him tell her he loves her for who she is
Mallory's speech in front of the class
Where to Buy
Rider: "It's okay. Remember? I promised I'd keep you safe forever."
His chest rose deeply, and when he spoke, his voice was low and rough
Rider: "Is that really you, Mouse?"
My tongue was useless, which for once was strange, because he ... he had been the one person I'd never had any problem talking to, but that had been a different world, a different lifetime.
That had been forever ago.
Rider: "Do you recognize me?"
His eyes continued to hold mine, and I spoke what turned out to be the easiest word I'd ever said in my life.
Rider: "Yeah, I made you a promise. I didn't keep that promise, not when it counted."
Mallory: "No. That ... wasn't a promise you should've ever had to make. Not to anyone."
Mallory: "Um, I'm ... I'm not really the rah-rah type."
Keira: "Do I look like a rah-rah type?"
Rider: "So in case you're wondering - yeah, I'm skipping class right now."
His eyes searched mine again.
Rider: "You know, hearing you say my name isn't something I ever expected to hear again. I don't give a shit about missing one class if that means w e get to catch up a little."
Mallory: "You ... you won't get in trouble?"
Glancing over his shoulder, he shrugged
Rider: "Worth it."
Rider: "Where did your freckles go?"
Mallory: "I don't know. They ran away."
The deep chuckle cam again, coasting over my skin
Rider: "You used to have three right here."
He tapped my cheekbone lightly.
Rider: "And then two over here."
His finger grazed the bridge of my nose and then he lowered his hand.
Rider: "Can I tell you something?"
His lashes lowered and the lopsided grin appeared.
Rider: "I always knew you'd be beautiful one day."
A flush swept across his cheeks as one side of his lips kicked up.
Rider: "I just never thought I'd get to see how beautiful you'd become."
Mallory: "You're beautiful, too. I mean, you're hot. But I always knew you would be."
My eyes widened as I realized what just streamed out of my mouth, and his grin turned into a smile.
Mallory: "Oh my God, I did not just say ... any of that out loud."
Rider: "You did."
Tipping his head back, he laughed deeply.
I started to place my hands over my flaming face, but he caught my wrists, holding them between us. His eyes were lighter, dancing.
Rider: "I can pretend you didn't say that if that makes you feel better."
Rider: "I won't forget it, though."
Rider: "I like it down. Though I kind of miss the orange. Made it easy to pick you put in a crowd."
Rider: "Ah, I'm lying. Still easy to pick you out. A mile away."
Mallory: "Because I'm shorter ... than everyone in a crowd."
His gaze flickered over my face in that strange, concentrated way.
Rider: "No, not that at all."
Our eyes met for a moment, and I didn't want him to leave. An urge took me like it had during lunch, and I all but bounced forward. Gripping his arms, I stretched up and kissed his cheek. It was pretty much just a peck, so I figured it wasn't crossing any lines, but the feel of his skin under my lips was still unnerving and unexpected.
Mallory: "Be careful."
Rider's grin faded from his handsome face. A moment passed before he spoke.
Rider: "Always, Mouse."
Rider: "My name is Rider Stark. I like working with my hands. And I don't like classrooms. Maybe saying I didn't like classrooms would be a bad choice, but I could say something like I don't like bananas."
He nodded with a small grin.
Rider: "I discovered about three years ago that I absolutely hate those damn things."
Mallory: "But they're just bananas."
Rider: "They're the fruit of the devil."
A surprised laugh burst out of me.
Mallory: "My name is Mallory ... Dodge. And I like ... I like reading. And I don't like ... I don't like who I am."
Jayden: "You know what they say about me, muneca? That I can sell ice to an Eskimo. I'm just that cool and charmin'."
Hector: "How are you feeling, bebita?"
Mallory: "What does ... bebita mean?"
Rider blinked and his lips slowly parted. Surprise splashed across his face.
Biting down on my lip to stop from grinning, I dared a peek at Hector.
His light green eyes were wide, then he smiled broadly.
Hector: "Means, uh, baby girl."
Rider: "It also means something he doesn't need to be calling you."
Hector: "My bad."
Rider: "You eating?"
I rolled my eyes
Mallory: "I'm not a child. I can ... eat on my own."
Rider raised a brow and there was no mistaking the slow slide that started at the top of my head and traveled downward. My cheeks pinked.
Rider: "Trust me. I know that. Trying to wrap my head around it, but I know that."
Mallory: "You ... you said something to her."
Rider raised his brows
Mallory: "I ... You can't do that. What did you say to her?"
His eyes searched mine.
Rider: "I just told her that you are important to me and since I never thought I'd have you back in my life, I didn't want anything or anyone messing with that. She understands."
Mallory: "Understands what?"
Rider: "She understands that if I have to pick between you two, it's not going to be her."
Rider: "You're different now, Mallory."
Mallory: "I am."
Rider started to close my door, but bent down instead. Our gazes connected again. An eternity stretched out and then he leaned in. My heart stuttered when his lips brushed my forehead, lingering for several seconds.
Rider: "I probably shouldn't have done that. See you tomorrow, Mouse."
Rider: "I just don't see it in my future. I mean, hell, people would probably fall over dead from shock if my ass ended up in college."
Mallory: "I wouldn't."
Mallory: "I ... I hate that I have to think about every single word. It's embarrassing. People are going to make fun ... of me."
Rider: "People are assholes, Mouse. You already know that. And there's nothing to be embarrassed about."
Mallory: "It is ... embarrassing."
Rider: "Not if you don't let it be. You have the power over that. People can say crap. They can think whatever they want, but you control how you feel about it."
Rider: "None of that really matters, right? You don't have anything to be embarrassed about. The way you talk isn't a big deal. And if people are asses, they're not important. Only you can let yourself make them important."
Mallory: "And what if none of that works?"
Rider: "i'll just start beating people up."
My brows flew up
Tipping back my head, I laughed - laughed long and hard - and when I looked at him, he was staring at me in his intense way.
He gave a little shake of his head
Rider: "Nothing. It's just that I haven't heard you laugh like that in ... yeah, a long time. It's nice."
I was smiling again
Rider: "Really nice. I hope you do it more often."
Hector: "Esa chica esta bien caliente." (That girl is so hot.)
Hector laughed as Rider shook his head.
Ainsley stiffened across from me.
Hector: "Me gustaria a llearla a mi casa y comermela." (I would like to take it to my house and eat it)
Ainsley cocked her head to the side as she brushed her long, blond hair over her shoulder.
Ainsley: "Gracias! Pero no hay ni una parta de mi que tu te as a comer." (Thank you! But there is not a part of me that you eat.)