Published by Simon Pulse Pages: 336
To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, way-too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god who led Lawton High to the state championships. But while West may be Big Man on Campus on the outside, on the inside he’s battling the grief that comes with watching his father slowly die of cancer.
Two years ago, Maggie Carleton’s life fell apart when her father murdered her mother. And after she told the police what happened, she stopped speaking and hasn’t spoken since. Even the move to Lawton, Alabama, couldn’t draw Maggie back out. So she stayed quiet, keeping her sorrow and her fractured heart hidden away.
As West’s pain becomes too much to handle, he knows he needs to talk to someone about his father—so in the dark shadows of a post-game party, he opens up to the one girl who he knows won’t tell anyone else.
West expected that talking about his dad would bring some relief, or at least a flood of emotions he couldn’t control. But he never expected the quiet new girl to reply, to reveal a pain even deeper than his own—or for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go…
I have discovered I have a bit of a bittersweet reaction to the few YA romance books I have read over the last few years. On the one hand, I adore the incredible variety offered in this particular genre – there are heroines and heroes of all walks of life, complicated and richly developed story lines with many tackling challenging situations and issues, and heart wrenching / heartwarming love stories that remind me what it felt to fall in love for the first time.
On the other hand, YA romance is so far removed from my reality – over a quarter century of time has passed since I graduated high school after all – that some of the stories feel so naïve, and innocent, and lacking depth that I find myself connecting with the character’s parents far more often than the characters themselves which definitely makes for a less satisfying read.
And these bittersweet feelings permeated my reading of Abbi Glines’ Until Friday Night. Actually, this book had my feelings all over the board as I read it which, I both appreciated and also found incredibly annoying by the end.
“This wasn’t home. Nothing ever would be again.”
My favorite thing about the book was the friendship that developed between Maggie and West. Their ability to trust each other, to help each other through rough moments, and to be there when they each felt most alone was really sweet to read and I was definitely rooting for them to have their “Happily-Ever-After” moment.
Maggie’s pain and her response to the trauma she had been through that caused that pain gave her character some true depth I appreciated. She was fragile without being completely broken, damaged but with a quiet strength that made me respect her. And the issue of her not talking as a result of everything she had been through felt organic and authentic and offered the book a unique twist I had not seen before but one which I really liked. I also was very happy that Maggie changed as the story moved forward and was living a better life by the end of the book.
I have to also give praise to the story line involving West and his parents. Reading about how his Dad succumbed to cancer brought more than a few tears to my eyes and hit me in all the feels. I do wish it could have been something else the dad had to battle – cancer seems to be a popular disease in YA novels – I still liked the emotional gravity and somberness this element of the plot provided.
The romance that develops between Maggie and West felt authentic for their age group and I believed both its intensity and fragility in light of who the characters were, what they had gone through, and how I remember young love feeling and behaving. I especially appreciated when Maggie protected herself – and her heart – when things seemed to be moving too fast instead of just getting pushed into something she was not comfortable with even when it got hard.
One element of the book that had me on the fence as to whether I liked it or not was the protective nature displayed by Brady for his cousin, Maggie. On the one hand, there is a sweetness to his desire to protect Maggie from his friends – though it is troublesome that this desire comes from Brady knowing how his friends actually treat girls and not wanting them to do this to Maggie – because this protectiveness seems to allow Maggie a feeling of safety. On the other hand, Brady is not Maggie’s father and he treats her like a child instead of a peer. I especially did not understand his desire to keep Maggie and West from getting involved when West was supposed to be his best friend. Isn’t that the guy you should trust the most? What does this hyper vigilant need to protect Maggie say about the guys’ friendships, their morals as individuals and teammates, and the general behavior of boys in this small town? Not much, unfortunately, not much.
My biggest issue with this book, and something I keep returning to long after I read the final words, was the treatment of all the girls in this book besides Maggie, the MC. Slut shaming? Yep, this was done in abundance. So many instances of the male characters KNOWING they were treating the girls horribly and it being acceptable. But never towards Maggie – no, she was held aloft an invisible pedestal and revered for being so beautiful, so perfect, SO MUCH BETTER than the other girls. And granted, some of those girls behaved as catty as they could, but they still deserved more respect than they received. I have to say as a mother of boys, I would be horrified and disappointed to learn my sons talked and/or felt about women the way the boys in this book do on several occasions.
Another problem I had with the novel was the abundance of overused tropes running rampant in the book. From arrogant jocks to “too perfect to actually exist” girls to testosterone fueled jealousy and so on. The book definitely seemed to have a checklist of teenage stereotypes to fulfill and it did it well.
This book had issues – there is no way to forget that – and one of those issues, namely the misogyny and slut shaming behavior was troublesome and problematic and should definitely be of concern to anyone who wants to read the book. That being said, I still found myself liking the book on some level I can’t explain fully. There was something bout West and Maggie’s love story I couldn’t help but root for no matter how messed up their story might have been and that is why I gave the book 3 stars. But I doubt I will continue with this series because I doubt the issues I identified in this book with be fixed in future novels and that makes me sad. So now I am off in search of another YA romance series – wish me luck.
Have you read this series?
What did you think of Maggie and West’s story?
Do you have issues with misogyny / slut shaming in books?