Title: Can’t Lose You
Type: Stand Alone
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Disclaimer: I received this book from Xpresso Book Tours. I would like to send big thanks to them, and to the author herself.
My name is Elizabeth Grace Payton. I just graduated high school and am looking forward to enjoying my last summer with Jayce before we go off to college together. Jayce isn’t just my boyfriend, he’s my everything.
I’ve heard stories about people saying there can be one moment that changes their entire life. As if this moment flipped their entire life upside down. They said that once that moment happened things never went back to what could’ve been, what should’ve been. I always thought these people were being a little dramatic. I mean, how could one moment change everything? Change your entire life?
Well, apparently I was naïve because that’s exactly what happened to me and I never even saw it coming.
One night changed everything. I ended up in the wrong place, at the wrong time. My dreams, my future, and my life were taken away from me. I can no longer be Elizabeth Grace Payton.
I am now Riley Lynn Anderson.
The book is a contemporary novel set in present decade. Most of the action takes place in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Since it’s not a fantasy novel, there is no new world that needs to be build. However, since I’ve never been to Virginia Beach, I have no idea how is this place. I know there is a beach and an ocean, since the name Virginia Beach. Some description about the town, inserted here and there, would’ve been great; they would’ve help me picture the place. Other than that, the world created it’s pretty alright.
The main plot of this book is Elle/Riley getting back together with Jayce. Therefore, the romance is the main idea of this story. There is also sub-plot, which is the reason why these two cannot be together, and why they had to break up in the first place.
I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, but I will mention the reason why Elisabeth had to move; it’s in the first chapter. The main character witnessed something horrible, and she had to go under the witness protection program. Therefore, Ella and her family were given new identities, and they had to move to another state.
Now, the idea is pretty interesting. However, it could’ve been done better. There is not much suspense; Riley mentioning a few times that she has a feeling she’s being watch kinda ruined the big revelation, since the reader got the hints pretty early in the story and it wasn’t a big surprise. I would’ve like it more if there was some build-up for the scene where Elisabeth witness that terrible thing. Also, the witness protection program is not explained. I am not very familiar with it, so a little bit of information about it would’ve been welcome; otherwise, it appear to be a little bit exaggerated. I would also liked to read more about Riley’s situation right after she moved from her home state. What she did, what she felt, how did she cope and so on. Sure, Riley mentioned in passing what happened, but since it’s in the past, the emotional impact it’s not there. Moreover, the action is told, not showed: this, this and this happened.
As I mentioned, the main idea is interesting. A girl forced to leave everything behind and to start over under a new identity. The execution is so-so. Actually, not the plot it’s the main problem, it’s the narrative.
I’ll talk more about the main plot below (Romance).
The novel it’s a first person narrative, present time, and it has a limited point of view – the reader sees through the main character’s eyes.
More often than not, most first person narrative have a lot of interior monologue. It is not necessarily bad, if it’s connected with the story and reveals the character’s personality. However, sometimes it can become info-dumping: this happened, than this, I feel like this, now I feel like that.
In this novel, we get a lot of information through Riley’s inner thoughts, not through her action. Some scenes can be re-written to be more emotional or suspenseful; others can be taken out completely, such us:
“I toss my phone on my bed, get a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and go to the bathroom to change. After I put my hair up I walk into my room and put on my running shoes. Once I have my phone and earbuds I walk into the kitchen. I don’t see Daphne, so I assume she is in her room. I decide to leave her a note letting her know I’m going out for a bit just in case she comes looking for me,then I leave.” (J.R.Brown, page 72)
Did this, did that, and then she left.
It is not relevant to the story. At best, this passage could’ve been shorten:
“I dress for my run, and put my hair in a ponytail. I don’t see Daphne, so I wrote her a note to let her know I’m going out. I take my phone and my earbuds, and head for the door.”
or even shorter
“I got ready for a run, and pick up my phone. I leave a note for Daphne, and go out the door.”
A description of how a person gets ready for a run it’s not interesting. Everybody knows people wear sport clothes and shoes when they do physical activities. Unless it is connected to the characters, or to the plot, these kind of descriptions are not necessary.
The paragraph above is just one example. There are many passages like that in the book.
Another thing connected with the generic style. Many times it is explained in details what the characters does. For example:
“I nod, grab a cap, and pour some coffee. I find the creamer and pour a little in my coffee then put it back in the fridge.” (Brown, page 131)
How about “I make a coffee.”?
Because the narrative is so generic, it is also passive. Too much “I begin to do something” instead of “I’m doing this”.
One more thing. Since the novel is written in first person, the main character cannot see herself, and talk like an distant narrator. I’ll give an example:
“My cheeks turn a shade of pink at his intense stare.” (Brown, p.80)
Was she looking in a mirror? No? Than how does she know her cheeks “turn a shade of pink”? And why a specific shade of pink, and no just pink? And what kind of shade of pink? Ah, she can feel the blood rush to her cheeks, and she can assume she blushed; feel, not see.
The narrative, as in “what the reader sees and hears of what happens – and how he sees and hears it.” (Caro Clarke – Plot and Narrative), is the biggest issue I have with Can’t Lose You by Brown.
The main character is Riley. I can’t say much about her, since her actions are told, not shown, so you cannot get much about her personality. I would also describe her as a static character. Sure, she feels relives when the problems are solved, but everybody can feel that without changing. I would’ve like to see more growth in her. She is not a terrible character, neither annoying; she’s dull. Riley goes to school, she works, she seems to be a good friend, she likes physical actives, she loves Jayce. From this I can gather that she is responsible, loyal, kind, and maybe ambitious. How about her flaws? And not cute flaws, but real flaws? Everybody has them, even the most kind person on the planet has 1 bad flaw. How about show me more than what she does? How about why she does this things?
Jayce is the love interest.Why is he a guy worthy of love? What are his hobbies? His flaws?
Daphne is the best friend.Why? What’s her story?
The parents are your typical YA parents.
Frank is the bad guy. Why? What happened to him? What made him do those stuff? Even bad guys have 1 good quality.
In general, the characters are interesting enough to make to read the story. However, they’re not very complex and memorable. And this is because of the narrative. It is hard to see a character as real person when the narrative is generic and essay-like.
In my opinion, the novel would’ve been better if it would’ve been written from Daphne’s or Jayce’s point of view. They don’t know everything about Riley, and they can discover everything as the story unfolds. It would’ve reduce the info-dumping, since they had to do something to find out Riley’s secrets. This way the novel would’ve also been more suspenseful.
The romance is the main plot of this novel. As I mentioned, Riley cannot be with Jayce because of the witness protection thingy. Therefore, she goes through certain events in order to finally be with him.
As the premise suggests, Riley’s path is intersected with Jayce once again. They spend some time together, but then Riley decides to go no contact in order to protect the love of her life.
Throughout the novel, it is mentioned all the time that Riley was with Jacey for a couple of years while in high school. However, the reader does not see this suppose love between them. I think more backstory would’ve been helpful, but not told as a memory. Maybe a couple more chapters with Riley and Jacey during the summer holiday, especially since in the “after 3 years” chapters their love is not shown, only told.
I can understand loving someone for 2-3 years without seeing him/her, especially if you were forced to break up with that person. However, most of the time, you are in love with the idea of that person, with the 2-3 years ago person. People change a lot, especially when they’re are young. A 15 year old has a different mentality than a 18 year old, even though the age difference is not that big.
I’ve found it nice that Riley and Jayce wanted to try it again. The problem is, they don’t spend time knowing each other. They go from “We haven’t seen each other in 3 years” to “I love you” in less than 1 week. It is not insta-love, though; as I mentioned above, they seemed more in love with the idea of them being together.
However, the romance itself is pretty cute. I don’t have problems with the concept behind it, rather with the way it was told.
Based on the problems mentioned above, one might think I had a bad experience while reading this book. Actually, no; quite the contrary. I enjoyed reading it. It was entertaining, and an easy, relaxing read. A fluffy book that you need to read after a complicated novel.
Can’t Lose You by Brown was a easy read. I think most teenagers would love this novel (I said most, not all 😛 ). If I would’ve read this when I was 14, I would’ve given it a higher rating. However, I encourage you to read the novel for yourself, and make your own opinions. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it.