Goodreads summary: A girl who believes trust can be misplaced, promises are made to be broken, and loyalty is an illusion. A boy who believes truth is relative, lies can mask unbearable pain, and guilt is eternal. Will what they find in each other validate their conclusions, or disprove them all?
When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.
Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.
When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.
I’ve not read a lot of contemporary romance, mainly because I prefer to read speculative fiction as opposed to books set in the ‘real world’. It’s not so much a dislike of romance as an aversion to things such as ‘love at first sight’ (possibly because I’m incredibly cynical…) and whiny heroines who are utterly helpless without the presence of their 'soulmate' and completely incapable of making their own decisions (here’s looking at you, Bella Swan). But I’ve been seeing this book everywhere lately and it’s attracted a lot of positive reviews, so I decided to try something new. I like that ‘new adult’ is emerging as a genre, even though its successes so far seem to be mostly in the contemporary sphere (This is me hoping a publisher will take notice of my new Gothic urban fantasy series, which falls into the New Adult category because it features college-age protagonists (18+) and is set at a university with more mature content. Hey, I can dream!)
Anyway, I read Easy in one sitting. All I have to say is…wow. What an opening. The novel jumps straight into the action with a shocking scene involving the protagonist being assaulted by someone she thinks she knows – and then being rescued by a stranger. Jacqueline’s feelings were so vividly written in this chapter that I was completely drawn in – giving me the instant impression that this wasn’t a typical cliché YA romance. And I was right.
Jacqueline has recently split up with her long-term boyfriend two months into term at college. Now she’s stuck at a place she never really wanted to go to, and, thanks to her skipping two weeks’ of economics classes to avoid her ex, now finds herself failing for the first time in her life. To make things worse, her rescuer, Lucas, is in her class, and all she wants is to forget about the incident. Her tutor gives her a second chance to pass and she agrees to one-to-one tutoring with a fellow student, Landon. Whilst she’s struggling with complicated feelings for two guys, her friends complicate the situation by suggesting that Lucas should be her rebound. She finds herself flirting with Landon through exchanging emails, but is also falling for Lucas –and then finds out that they’re actually the same person. Meanwhile, when her attacker reappears and threatens her, she finally confesses to her friends about what happened. She now has to decide whether she can trust Lucas, knowing he has secrets – and learn how to fight back against her assaulter.
The author really nails the first person voice, managing to make us sympathise with Jacqueline’s situation whilst avoiding self-pitying monologuing. Jacqueline really grows in independence throughout the story; at first she is only just realising her naivety in assuming that she and her ex would always be together, and her dependence on him for a social life. She feels vulnerable, and the assault only makes things worse. But through her friends, and learning self-defence, she grows in confidence and really learns to stand up for her independence. This is a book about girl power – and it doesn’t hurt that it has a sexy hero and enough steamy scenes for the romance-lovers as well!
I’ve noticed a trend towards more realistic YA fiction lately, and whilst contemporary romance isn’t my favourite genre, books like this are great for older teens. Far from unrealistic escapism, it’s gritty and uncompromising, but ultimately empowering. It has a positive message and deals with issues such as sexual assault in a sensitive way. This is a romance with something to say, and it says it brilliantly – Easy is easily one of the best contemporary novels I’ve read in a long time, and sets a very high standard for New Adult fiction!