Book Review: Then and Always (Blog Tour)

unnamedRachel Wiltshire has everything she’s ever wanted: a close group of friends, a handsome boyfriend, and acceptance to the journalism program at her top-choice college. But one fateful evening, tragedy tears her world apart. Five years later, Rachel is still coping with her grief, and can’t stop thinking about the bright future she almost had. But when a sudden fall lands her in the hospital, Rachel wakes to find that her life has completely changed. Now she has her dream job as a writer, and a stylish apartment, but the people she loves most are not the way she remembers them. Unable to trust her own recollections, Rachel tries to piece together what really happened, and not even she can predict the astonishing truth.

 

ashley | Then and Always caught my attention right from the beginning with the foreshadowing intro that mentions someone waking up to a room full of friends and family and someone who has been dead for many years. Is this supernatural? Is this the result of a medical issue? Are we reliving that epic Buffy episode where she wakes up in a mental institute and realizes that her entire life fighting vampires was all in her head? I love the beginning of books like this, there is so much potential and it can really go in any direction and I can never wait to get there.

Picture this. Rachel is at her prime, just finishing high school and about to leave for college to pursue her journalism dream. She has a rich, beautiful beau who adores her, even though she’s too insecure to understand why. She has loyal best friends and life is good. Until one night, a night that is supposed to celebrate her last day before leaving for bigger things ends up changing her life forever. A terrible accident kills her closest friends and leaves her tragically deformed and the guilt of it all pushes her to withdraw entirely from everything she knew.

That’s when Rachel’s life splits from what she always knew to what she’ll come to know. The lonely, isolated life she knew to be hers is suddenly replaced with the perfect life she would have had if that night never happened. But how did she suddenly go from one life to another? Why does she have such vivid memories of things she couldn’t possibly know? These are the questions Rachel tries to answer as she struggles to piece together the missing memories from the past five years and make sense of what is happening to her.

I liked Rachel as a character. I found her insecurities and low self esteem a little frustrating at times, but I held a lot of sympathy for her as she struggled to find her footing in this lopsided new life she finds herself living. I also appreciated the taste of reality Atkins layers into her story; the reality of friends losing touch over the years, how a person changes – or doesn’t change – as they grow older. There was a real humbling feeling lingering in the background of everything else that was happening. Life is a strange journey sometimes and it leaves you with a lot of feels.

Atkins did a fair job of keeping me on my toes; any time a question seems to be answered, a number of other ones pop up. For a long stretch there, I surrendered to the fact that this was turning out to be typical chick lit with a happy ending all wrapped up in a pretty bow without ever really addressing the questions I had. It seemed like once Rachel started to accept her new life, finding the answers I wanted to know didn’t seem as much of a priority and as long as Rachel ended up happily ever after, what do the details matter? Thankfully, Atkins didn’t leave those frustrating loose ends and you do end up seeing the entire picture.

I had a big problem with the existence of Chapter 3, however. This is how Atkins chose to represent this split in Rachel’s life, but I don’t think it worked as well as it could have. The entire book is written from Rachel’s point of view, even when her life splits and she finds herself in a completely different life. It’s still the same Rachel we meet at the very start. Chapter 3, however, shows us a different Rachel. It’s the Rachel in the life that our original Rachel steps into, but this is the only chapter that gives any mention to that particular moment, the only time you see that Rachel personified and I think it’s completely out of place. I think the book and representing the split in Rachel’s life would have had a stronger impact if instead of describing the events to us in a chapter like this, we learned about what happened through a retelling to Rachel after she woke up in her new life. Having that context ahead of time actually kind of puts that entire chapter out of context after you realize that this ‘other’ Rachel is never actually addressed again throughout the rest of the book.

That all seemed complicated and that’s kind of my point, Chapter 3 makes it more complicated than it had to be. But I guess it added another layer  to things in the start to keep throwing the reader off track from that point forward. My suggestion is to just skip over Chapter 3 all together and then this story and Rachel’s life will all come together as it should.

jen | Then And Always, is about a girl named Rachel. Who had everything going for her, a good looking boyfriend and accepted into the journalism studies at University that she wanted. Everything was looking bright for her future, when a horrible accident ruined everything. Skip a few years and we catch up with Rachel again, but she is only a shadow of her former self. Tragedy strikes again, only this time she’s woken up to a new life, one that she doesn’t remember having.

This story was well written but you were able to guess how the story was ending. I have to admit, there was a bit of confusion near the middle of the book and I did have to reread a couple of pages to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I felt sad for Rachel and the tragedies that she had to endure. I kept hoping as I read along that it wouldn’t end the way that I thought it would end, but it did.

Dani Atkins takes you on a journey of both Rachel’s lives but if you pay attention you’ll know your destination before you get there. Overall I did enjoy the book; it was a journey of many emotions. Be prepared with some tissues.

 Then and Always is available May 20 everywhere your favourite books are sold.

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