Don’t Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout
~post by Katie P.
The first rule of good Young Adult fiction is this: Never underestimate your audience. It’s immediately apparent when an author breaks this rule, and dilutes plot, censors reactions, or clarifies all ethical ambiguities so that the reader doesn’t have to. It’s apparent, and insulting. Young adults are a dream audience; they’re intelligent, curious, brave, searching and quick to form deep emotional attachments to characters. New York Times-bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout’s latest YA thriller, Don’t Look Back, takes care to follow the golden YA rule, and benefits greatly from it.
First in Don’t Look Back’s favor is its main character, Samantha Franco. When Sam regains consciousness, she has no memory of who she is, where she is, or how she got there. Her family and friends are strangers, and, more than that, the stories they’re telling her about who she was before she disappeared make it clear that she’s a stranger to herself. Like many teenagers, Sam has a lot going on, and her author gets that. Teenagers always have a lot going on. They can handle it, and they can handle reading about it. Samantha’s multitasking is typical in some ways: she needs to catch up in school, she needs to figure out who her real friends are, she has to pick between two love interests who represent very different parts of her personality. She also, however, needs to figure out what happened the night she lost her memory – her best friend was with her that night, and never came home. There are lives at stake, and as Sam gets closer to remembering, someone comes closer and closer to making sure she stays quiet.
It’s in the darkest moments of Don’t Look Back that the author’s accomplishments vis-à-vis trusting her audience are clearest. She could have toned down the thriller angle, and played up the love story, but she doesn’t. Perhaps most young adults aren’t dealing with life and death in their quotidian lives, but it can feel like they are, and it’s to Armentrout’s great credit that she knows that young adults are large, contain multitudes, and will, like adult readers, follow any good story into the dark.
Jennifer Armentrout will be in-store on August 5th at 7PM! She will be speaking and signing her book, Opposition which will be released the day of the event! Pre-order your signed copy today in-store or via bookpeople.com.