Hadley St. Clair's life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing the ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-her dad most of all-to leave her alone. Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably "feels like home" to Hadley. Hadley and Sam's connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret about his family that could ruin everything. Funny and passionate, Suffer Love is a story about first love, family dysfunction, and the fickle hand of fate.
To be clear, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that approach. One of the main audiences of YA is, in fact, teenagers, and it makes total sense that they'd want to read stories about characters their age, not about their parents. I find absolutely no fault with authors who would rather focus on their teen characters and keep adults mostly out of the mix.
However, I'm a little bit backwards. I was one of those teens who read a lot of adult literature, and now I'm an adult who reads a lot of YA. As such, I've always been drawn to stories that feature both perspectives, the adult and the teen. I find it fascinating to explore where they clash, where they overlap, where the gap in years of life experience is an asset and where it's a hindrance.
Suffer Love is one of those rare YA books that, while remaining solidly YA, really digs in and explores those questions. Sam and Hadley, the two teen narrators, are both dealing with the fallout of their parents' infidelity. One family has already split apart, the other is trying to stay together but finding it a challenge. One narrator knows the sordid details of their parent's affair, the other does not. Both are struggling to redefine their relationships with their parents and families, while still working through lingering feelings of anger and betrayal. The parents in both families are well-drawn, fully realized characters, but even when they're not on the page, their presence is felt. Suffer Love doesn't shy away from asking hard questions about the relationships between parents and teens, the mistakes both sides can make, and how both parties can move forward after being shaken to their core.
But much as I loved the way Suffer Love is a story about parents and kids and the particular hurting and healing that occurs within families, it's about more than that. It's about first love, and grief, and friendship. It's two people in pain finding each other and realizing that they can heal better together than they can apart. It's about loyalty, and secrets, and trying to make a good decision when all of the choices available to you are bad.
Sam and Hadley both felt like real people to me as I read. The alternating points of view were never confusing, with each having their own distinct voice and purpose. The side characters never felt peripheral either, and each had their own moments to shine, particularly Sam's best friend Ajay (my favorite character) and Sam's younger sister, Livy. Suffer Love is one of those books where you just want to hang out with several of the characters after the book ends, and maybe give a few of them hugs, not just because they need one, but also because you feel so connected to them.
The prose is lush and gorgeous but never gets overly flowery, and is infused with plenty of humor, as well as a hefty dose of Shakespearean references (including quite a few nods to my favorite Shakespeare play, Much Ado About Nothing, from which Suffer Love gets its title). It's one of those books that strikes the perfect balance between lovely writing and compulsive readability, and I found that once the pages started turning, they didn't stop.
Suffer Love is a beautiful, emotional story of grief and healing, of trust and friendship, of heartbreak and first love. It is about romance, and family, and the lengths a person will go to for the people they love. If you already love contemporary YA, or haven't tried it yet and are searching for just the right book to get your feet wet, Ashley Herring Blake's Suffer Love is a riveting and poignant debut, and I can't wait to read what she writes next.
WHAT I LIKED:
Blake’s writing style is excellent and consistent. The story grabs attention easily and it definitely brings you on edge. The characters also show interesting development.
I really adore the chemistry between Sam and Hadley. The dual POV makes it really easier to understand both characters. They do well both as separate characters and as a couple. I also love Livy, Sam’s sister; Kat and Ajay, Hadley and Sam’s respective bestfriends.
WHAT LEFT ME WANTING MORE:
The romance might be a bit cliche and cheesy but I really love how the story folds. It’s raw, gripping, and ultimately heartbreaking. It's a great romance which needs more storytelling.
Overall, this book offers a lot of great things. It’s a very exceptional debut and I’m really looking forward to more of Blake’s works in the future!
Review originally posted on The Bibliophile Confessions (http://thebibliophileconfessions.reads-it.com/2016/04/arc-review-giveaway-suffer-love-by-ashley-herring-blake/)
The dynamics between the teenage characters were great. I loved the sibling bond between Sam and his sister Liv, and both of their relationships with Sam’s friend Ajay, and Hadley’s friendship with her best friend Kat. Even the dynamics between the supporting teen characters were great and a lot of fun to read. It was interesting to see these two groups(Sam, Liv, Ajay/Hadley, Kat) merge together.
If the book had focused on the teens and them overcoming the secrets that threatened their future as a couple or as friends, I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Where the book lost me was with the adult characters who acted more like children than their actual children. I spent so much time being angry at the adults for how they were behaving that it took away from the times I should have been laughing and enjoying the scenes with the teens.
The writing was great and the overall plot was interesting. It made me excited to see what Ashley Herring Blake writes next.