*This review will contain spoilers!*
This is the first Jennifer L. Armentrout book I’ve read, but after hearing such amazing reviews for her Lux series, I was expecting way more than I got from this novel, so I am feeling beyond disappointed right now. It’s a YA murder mystery, with the least important word in that sentence apparently being mystery, because I worked out who the murderer was (and predicted the motive correctly) in just over one hundred pages, which left me feeling deflated and irritated through just under three hundred more pages.
‘Don’t Look Back’ tells us the story of Samantha Franco, a girl who is found on the side of the road covered in blood and dirt after being missing for four days, unable to remember anything from her entire past. Her best friend, Cassie Winchester, went missing on the same day, so we pick up the story with the police still on the hunt for Cassie, looking for answers from Sam even though she can’t remember anything from the night she disappeared.
It annoys me that I got the murderer and the motive right, because up until the climax of the novel it was actually kind of impressing me. Yes, there were an awful lot of grammatical mistakes which kept annoying me, but sometimes those things get through, so I wasn’t going to base my entire rating off of that issue. The character of Sam was really good – the popular girl who couldn’t remember being popular, therefore redeeming herself by becoming a genuinely good person, was a nice premise in itself. The amount of times I found myself thinking that I absolutely hated who she was before the accident, and then she would comment that she “was seriously starting to believe [she] was the Antichrist” and “the more [she] heard about [herself] the more [she] wanted to slam [her] head into the coffee table”, meant that she was really easy to relate to. I loved the character of Carson; the fact that Sam had wronged him so many times in her previous life, because he was poor, and he forgave her, and that through flashbacks we discovered that both of them had had extremely strong feelings for each other their entire lives, made me feel like the accident had been a blessing for all those around her. Their relationship was really lovely: her learning to deal with her feelings for him despite the fact that she was practically betrothed to “Del the Dick”, him learning to trust her again after all of the shit she’d thrown at him in their past… It was just really lovely to see someone who was almost as confused as her, which was hard to match with her in the amnesiac position.
Furthermore, the book was actually fairly exciting. Starting a novel with a girl wandering down the road with no idea who she is was an extremely exciting starting point, so my hopes were raised very high from the outset, but in the cold light of day it’s really not that good of a book. In my opinion it was extremely obvious that Sam and Cassie shared a dad from the moment Sam went into her room and spotted their matching music boxes (made even more obvious if you have the alternate cover of the novel, in which the music box is the focal image), so the big reveal seemed extremely anti-climactic, while the constant flipping between who Sam suspected just dragged. With every person that she directly focussed upon as a suspect she was just eliminating another potential alleyway, because in my experience with murder mystery novels, if someone is questioned it normally means that they definitely didn’t do it.
Despite the fact that some scenes have their merits (Sam being chased through the woods by a mysterious figure and the prom sequence with the advancement of Sam and Carson’s relationship and her beginning acceptance by members of her school being two of the stand out moments in my opinion) overall I just felt deflated, and I’m not sure if I’ll actually be able to force myself to read any more of Jennifer’s novels in the future, even though I had been really excited about the Lux novels.