What I’ve Done by Jen Naumann
Format: Kindle Edition
Lily Rossow used to have a great life until her father died. After that it all went downhill: her mother picked up some awful drug habits and a predilection for skipping town in order to avoid her dealers’ demands for money. She also gave Lily a half-sister 11 years younger and forces Lily to raise her since she is incapacitated most of the time. When her mom decides to transplant their little family all the way to California, Lily is devastated to leave behind friends and school especially with only a few months left in her senior year. She has no choice though and they leave immediately. When their bus arrives in San Diego, Lily discovers that her mother has stolen a lot of money from her ruthless drug dealers and what’s worse, has actually died en route. Lily realizes that she must protect herself and her sister, Rose, from the men who surely want it back and leaves her mother’s body on the bus, never once looking back. Lily is a survivor and does what she can to stay alive, creating new identities for them both and doing whatever it takes to make things work. In a surprising twist, her world is turned completely upside down when she meets two enigmatic men who each have devastating secrets about the world she lives in and her past. They force her to rethink everything she thought was real and decide once and for all what she wants out of her life.
So rarely does this happen but I’m on the fence about this book, guys. “Why, Judith?” You’re no doubt asking yourselves. “What’s there to be on the fence about? You either liked it or you didn’t. That’s why we’re reading your reviews so which is it!” Well that’s my problem! Let me break it down like this and woah, before I continue, big caveat: there is a MAJOR SPOILER in about 6 sentences so do not read on if you don’t want the entire book ruined for you. I’m serious. Skip to the very end to see the number of stars if you must know whether you should read this or not because once the secret is out, you won’t be able to put it away again.
You ready? Okay here it is: I liked the first half of the book immensely. It was poignant, thought provoking, and teeming with raw emotion. I think I even teared up at one incredible scene because the problems and scenarios Lily faces are gut-wrenching. Girlfriend is strong though and she rides out the awful storm that is her life with a strength and quiet composure that a lot of adults would be unable to find within them. She is an incredible character and what she is forced to deal with is so spot on that I remember thinking, this book is fabulous! Why don’t I know more about this author? But then it happened. Out of nowhere into this aching and realistic plotline the author introduces ANGELS. Yes, that’s right, those who must not be named crop up right in the middle of this fabulous and poignant tear jerker and their inclusion just felt awkward and out of place. I felt like I was reading two different halves of two different books. And to be honest, I didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love love love the beginning of the book. I even love when she introduces the first angel because
he just seems like a normal guy who wants to help Lily and make her life easier. He helps her find a job and feeds her and while his help seems a little too free and nice to be real (because we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch), but well, I wanted to hope that someone could help shoulder Lily’s burdens and give her some good in her sad life. But oh no, it couldn’t stay simple. The guy had to turn out to be an angel. An angel who goes to her high school no less. And then, another angel crops up and Lily’s all, these two hot guys–I mean, angels cause angels really do exist–are in my life. What do I do?! Well, she does the only thing a naive human girl can do when faced with angels: she falls in love with one of them (the good one) and shuns the other (the evil one). Sigh.
This book has a lot of potential but I really felt like the paranormal twist was out of place and would have been better suited somewhere else. This would have made a great coming of age story and after the first hundred pages, that’s what I assumed I was getting. I was actually happy with that because it was so darn good. But as it stands, and I’ve mentioned about 12 times already, I find the fantastic elements awkward and unbelievable. Plus they come out of nowhere! We’re blindsided by angels and the endearing story first presented vanishes. Lily becomes more concerned with falling in love with one of them than anything else and it’s as if the tough, street-smart survivor of the first half disappears for good. The angels are constantly saving her instead of forcing her to save herself and as a result, the girl she is at the end of the book is a pale shadow in comparison to the feisty girl we’re first introduced to. It would have been so much better if this had remained a story of redemption and perserverence.
So in the end, I’ll give it 7/10.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: For the first half: 10. Lily could handle anything! She was so fragile yet brave and willing to stick by her little sister even though it would have been so easy to just wash her hands of her addict mother and walk out. When life gave her problems, she thought through them and made her situation work. She was smart on her feet, quick witted, and willing to take on the world even going so far as heading deep into the ghetto for fake IDs. For the second half: 2. Why did Lily become someone who needed saving constantly? Part one she’s managing to dodge drug dealers and over zealous frat boys. Part two she needs an angel to help her out of every difficult situation including attending high school classes. It’s a weird about face that just didn’t sit well.
How much did I like the love interest: Gabe or Eli. Bad angel or good angel? I can’t really come up with an accurate number here since I liked Gabe aka the bad angel when he was just a surfer dude trying to help Lily out. When he started getting manipulative and all badass angel, his coolness factor dropped to about a 2. Now Eli was immediately the good guy, helping Lily out of some stressful situations. But he was also the reason she started needing somebody to save her and he just ate that damsel in distress act up with a spoon. He was an enabler of the worst sort in that he actually wanted her to need him to save her.
How believable is the plot: For the first half: 10. Said it a million times but the first half was superb! I felt like I was forced to make agonizing decisions along with Lily and her darkest moments were pitch perfect. For the second half: Angels! I didn’t buy them showing up at all. Out of place and just AWKWARD.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 9. The writing is consistently good throughout and I’m gonna beat a dead horse here but the first half was nothing short of amazing. But when the angels showed up, all bets were off. I don’t remember any glaring grammar or spelling mistakes and the dialogue was pretty fluid. All in all, solid writing.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. I kept wanting it to return to the poignant and compelling teen drama of the first half! The fact that it never did didn’t keep me from hoping…
Final Score: 7/10. Read it for the heart warming story of a girl facing insurmountable adversity and not for the paranormal twist. If you skipped to here from the spoiler section above, you’ve been warned: there is a twist and you may or may not see it coming!
****Disclaimer: I got this book for free from the author. I swear I didn’t bribe her in any way, or get paid for my review. And we might not be legit enough to need this disclaimer but after working at a law firm for many years it’s better safe than sorry!****
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