Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publication date: April 15th 2014
Source: Received ARC for review (Thank you sooo much, Cassie and Jess! <3)
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
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?
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads.)
If there's one thing I realized after reading Don't Look Back, it's that Jennifer L. Armentrout can make me read anything (if she wrote the phonebook, I would read it). I'm not normally a fan of mystery/thriller novels because I usually figure out the culprit maybe 5 minutes into the book so I don't really get all that surprised (also, no point in me finishing the whole book since I already know what is going to happen). Which is why I was thoroughly impressed when JLA kept me guessing till the very end. I was suspicious of everyone so I couldn't really get a good grasp as to who really was the killer but more than that, being in someone like Sam's head will really mess you and your ideas up (which I think JLA was going for).
Quick rundown of what happened (don't worry, no spoilers): Having been missing for the last couple of days, Sam is discovered by a local policeman, she is found distraught and having no recollection of the past, at all. Sam is overwhelmed by all the information being thrown at her and the suspicions of the people only continue to grow. What really happened to Sam and Cassie? Who is Cassie? And... is Sam going crazy?
"Samantha is a stranger in her own life," is as accurate as it gets. When Sam gets her "life" back, there is no flash or even a flicker of recognition in her mind. She doesn't even know her own parents and that fact alone already proves how dire the situation is. As the days progress, Sam soon realizes that she was... well, hated. She was the stereotypical mean girl who belittled people, had a douche-bag jock boyfriend and had an even b*tchier sidekick. And who is this sidekick you ask? That's Cassie, but more on her later. To make it simple, Sam was pretty much the spawn of the devil for other people, she ruined lives and her relationship with her family wasn't any better; but here's the thing, when neo-Sam came back, it was like God decided to give her a second chance to be a better person, and she used it wisely. Now, people don't forgive and forget that easily so it didn't take Sam just an apology to make up for her past mistakes but you could see her remorse and disgust over her former self's actions. The fact is, when you meet the Old Sam, you will positively hate you. I guarantee it. And it was interesting to see the that neo-Sam was better. She was JLA's signature heroine: witty, a bit snarky and decisive as heck. But the question still stands... is Sam going crazy?
JLA will definitely throw you in a loop because of Sam's amnesia but more than that, Sam and you, as the reader, will question her (Sam not JLA) sanity as well. There will be hallucinations that may or may not be real, voices and other crazy things that will freak you out. Seriously. I told myself I wouldn't read it at night because all those scenes with "the guy" gave me tingles, and not in a good way. Those are the parts when I felt really bad for Sam, everyone was doubting her sanity especially since she was the only one who experienced all those creepy things. Were those images messages from her subconscious or did she make them up? As you go deeper into the story, all you are really left with are questions but will you get the answers for them? Hmm...
If there was one person meaner and more evil than Old Sam, it was Cassie. I honestly still don't even know if she was mentally unstable or what but I just hate her. Hated her then, still hate her now. Even if things will get clarified, she still rubbed me the wrong way. Cassie brought out the worst in Sam and if her being gone means that Sam becomes nicer, then why look a gift horse in the mouth? But as much as I'd like the case to stay unsolved, we still have no answers at this point. Yup. *cue suspenseful music*
Let's now move on to a more cheerful topic... Carson Ortiz. Oh God, even his name is attractive. Carson used to be one of Sam's targets when she needed to lash out at someone, but he gave just as good as he got. He wasn't a pushover and he definitely knew what he was doing. Neo-Sam's reaction to Carson was definitely amusing but unfortunately, he still dislikes her for what she did. Ouch. Anyway, Carson turns into someone Sam can trust and lean on. Plus, he serves as really good eye-/reading-candy. (So hot! *fans self*) He isn't just pretty, he's also very quick-witted and intuitive. Carson also has great input when it comes to the case and great news, he actually believes Sam (well, that's a first)! Yaaay! #TeamCarson5ever Seriously, Carson is one of my most favorite JLA guys ever. But no matter how much I loved him, you have to remember: you can't trust anyone.
I'm not going to go into particular details regarding the minor characters because I pretty much disliked all of Old Sam's friends and her boyfriend sucks, you'll find out as the story goes on. Sam's brother and his girlfriend are actually pretty cool and I was glad to see that Sam was able to reconnect with them. In terms of parental relationships, it was clear that Sam was closer to her dad than her mom. But going through that accident definitely put a strain in her relationship with both her parents. Also, her folks have an interesting backstory, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
I'd have to say that JLA's venture into the mystery/thriller world was very successful. There isn't a book of hers that I have not loved and to say that I loved Don't Look Back would be an understatement. JLA managed to place well-planned twists and traps that will make you doubt your own sanity and she will definitely steer you wrong because you will not see anything coming. Seriously. I would say that she wrapped this book up perfectly with a flourish, even. I always look forward to JLA's upcoming works and after reading this novel, I am even more excited to read what else she has in store for us! (Also, can I just say how much I love that book cover? It is so beautifully creepy but also very fitting for the story. *ominous laugh*)