Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash. But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?
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What I loved:
I really enjoyed Sam's character. I am all for characters with redeeming qualities. So, this book was spot on for me. Sam used to be a horrendously mean person. She said horrible things to people at her high school, she was exceptionally mean to them. However, now that she can't remember any of that, she's actually quite decent. Thank goodness. It was so hard reading about what an awful person she was before. However, it was so sad to experience her learning all these awful things about herself, with her. What a second chance she has been given. To be different, to be better, to make things right. I'm all about second chances!!
Carson's character. Holy moly. How does JLA write all these amazing guy characters? I adore his character. He is so patient with Sam, even though she has been awful to him! Actually, a lot of people Sam was awful to are willing to help her now. Yay human race!
I really couldn't stand Del. I knew something was "off" with him from the first page he was on. Ugh. Disgusting man. I really wanted Sam to just punch him and tell him to leave her alone. For reals! Honestly, all of her "before the incident" friends were just horrible people that I would never want to be around!
I won't give away any spoilers, but I will say I called the "killer" from the get go. I don't think it's blatantly obvious, but I had my suspicions and they turned out to be right. That being said, the book still kept me on the edge of my seat and it's definitely worth the read. It's JLA, come on! Great mystery, amazing romance (again, it's JLA!), and a must read for all Armentrout fans!
Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of the few super popular YA authors I’d actually never read. Actually, I was a little scared (okay, a lot scared) to try her books, because I wasn’t sure if they would be my thing. Then Don’t Look Back showed up on my doorstep as part of the Summer of Chills marketing campaign. Even though I was doubly skeptical about liking it, since I also am not much of a mystery reader, I decided to give it a try, because why not right? Reading a few chapters won’t hurt me. Turns out, I had a whole lot of fun reading Don’t Look Back. Well, played Disney-Hyperion.
The reason I’m not generally much of a mystery reader is that they tend to be more plot-driven than character-driven. Mystery readers like the whodunit and the howdunit. There’s nothing wrong with being into that, but I happen not to be. Don’t Look Back is definitely character-driven. The plot was highly entertaining to me, but I’m a bit skeptical as to the resolution satisfying people in it for the mystery element, based on the fact that I cackled madly through the ending.
The hook of Don’t Look Back is pretty awesome though. Sam comes to as she’s walking all covered in cuts, and has no memory of anything before that. In the hospital, she’s introduced to parents she doesn’t know and asked about the whereabouts of her best friend, Cassie, who she doesn’t remember. Needless to say, amnesia under such circumstances is overwhelming.
The largest conflict of the book isn’t really the murder mystery so much as the conflict between who Sam was before and who she is now. Sam’s having to deal with the fact that the person she was isn’t someone that the her now would have liked. Sam treated people execrably. Everyone tells Sam that she’s acting more like she did as a child, and opinions are split on whether this is a good thing or not. The reader’s opinion will not be split though; amnesia is clearly the best thing to ever happen to Sam.
What made me such a fan of this book is how many typical YA tropes it not only side-steps but subtly face-punches. There’s a POC love interest (he’s latino), but he never speaks in Spanish. There is one use of “exotic” as a descriptor, but that’s the worst trespass. When one of Sam’s friends from before calls him Española, Sam calls the girl out for not calling him by his name and for being “freaking rude, like, on a disgusting level.” Though Sam used to be just like that girl, the new Sam is the kind of person who calls people out for bullying. She does something similar to defend a girl who one of her former friends called fat. I wanted to high five her constantly.
The other big difference is how slowly the romance progressed. There was definite chemistry, but Sam and Carson were actually fairly logical about jumping into anything. On some levels it was too easy, but I liked that they weren’t totally driven by hormones. When her ex-besties told Sam some rumors, Sam actually confronted him about them, rather than just judging him by slander which might not be true. Also, Carson refused to start anything until Sam dealt with her boyfriend from before the amnesia. She actually takes the time to see if she and Del could have anything, giving her past self a chance.
Throughout everything she’s dealing with, Sam is honest with Carson. She keeps him in the loop. It’s AMAZING. This basically never happens in fiction, with conflict driven by all the things people don’t tell one another. She trusts him enough to tell him she thinks she may be going crazy. She makes some mistakes and jumps to some conclusions, but she’s always up front about things, which I loved about her. Also, I thought it was awesome that she was determined to find the truth, even though she was afraid it would implicate her. The new Sam is such an honest and direct person. It was really refreshing.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The resolution of the mystery.
The Final Verdict:
Don’t Look Back was greatly entertaining and had enough suspense to keep me turning the pages, even if I didn’t love the resolution of the mystery. I’m definitely more curious to check out Armentrout’s other b
Okay, maybe a little.
Everyone makes mistakes and there isn't one person who hasn't said, "Can I get a do-over, please?" at least once in their life. Sam is no different, except she didn't exactly ask for her "do-over", especially since it involves blood, cryptic notes and one creepyars music box.
But Sam does the best she can to piece together what few details she remembers about "that night", while attempting to make amends with the people she wasn't very nice to. People like her twin brother Scott, and Julie and Carson. Even her mother who is not the easiest of people to like. But most of all, Carson.
Carson and Sam used to be close, like, no shirt, no shoes required, close. (Okay, so they were little kids, but still.) And then things changed. Sam changed when she started hanging out with Cassie and Del. By the time "that night" happens, Carson has been relegated to the son of the help. Silly, silly, Sam.
But as she starts to remember more about what happened and the kind of person she was, Sam discovers things aren't all rainbows and sunshine. It's more like, well, I can't really say without ruining the story, but let's go with, dangerous, shocking, and heartbreaking.
One of my favorite things about this book, other than Carson, because we've already established that, is how the people around Sam, the ones she's hurt the most in recent years, are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. Even if she might not deserve it.
Don't Look Back is definitely full of chills. Read it for yourself, but you might wanna stay away from music boxes because they're just creepy.
This is a good mystery with lots of twists and turns. It keeps your attention throughout the book and has a lovely romance packaged between the drama/events. It's interesting in theory with the trauma-induced amnesia, but I found that like Samantha, I did not like the person she had been before her memory loss. However, the book ends on a positive note with some resolutions to the major conflicts and mysteries.
The book is well-written and moves fast, it's a great read for those who like a mild thriller/mystery!