All This Time Disappointed Me (book thoughts)
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! PROCEED WITH CAUTION!
ABOUT THE BOOK/WHY I READ IT
Daughtry and Lippincott are the authors of one of my favorite books, Five Feet Apart, which is a YA contemporary romance about two teens with Cystic Fibrosis. The story is painful but beautiful and shows that while love can't conquer all it is still worth fighting for. So, you can imagine my delight when I learned that these authors had collaborated for another YA contemporary romance. I went into All This Time eager and with high expectations. The novel is about a boy (Kyle) whose girlfriend dies in a car accident the night of their senior graduation. He finds hope and healing after he meets a girl (Marley) who has experienced her own loss. When I found out what the novel was going to be about I was even more excited to read it. Ever since losing my grandparents a month apart in the summer of 2016 I have found myself drawn to books that deal with the topic of grief. Grief is, in a lot of ways, a taboo topic. A lot of times I didn't feel like I was allowed to express my grief or talk about it because our society expects us to just buck up and move on. Even now years later I find a strange sort of solace in novels about grief because I feel seen and understood.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT IT
Credit where credit is due, for the first 200 pages of the novel it was a 5 star read. I genuinely thought it was going to end up on my year end favorites list. The writing perfectly captured the debilitating weight of grief and the inevitable guilt one feels about moving on with their life when the deceased person cannot. Yet at the same time there is this hopefulness to the story as Kyle begins to understand that there are still new experiences to be had and things worth living for. As I mentioned above, I'm someone who has lived through the unbearable waves of grief and come to a point where, while I will always miss my grandparents, I can get through most days without feeling burdened by grief. I appreciated how the story showed that there is that rainbow after the grief storm. It never sugarcoated anything, but it allowed its characters to find happiness again.
WHERE IT WENT WRONG
At just after the 200 page mark the story has a massive twist. It turns out that Kim, Kyle's girlfriend, is actually alive and that, in the world's most overdone and ridiculous trope, he was asleep/in a coma the whole time. His entire relationship with Marley was a dream he had while Marley in real life was reading him stories that were incorporated into those dreams. Basically, his entire character development of finding out who he is outside of Kim and Marley's of gaining confidence was eradicated because it was never real. It made everything feel pointless and cheap.
What's worse, after Kyle wakes up from the coma and discovers that Marley is actually a real person and not just a dream figment he becomes obsessed with finding her. His borderline stalker behavior wasn't a cute look and didn't make me root for them as a couple like I was in the beginning. He eventually does find her and though they don't really know each other in real life their relationship moves at warp speed with them already declaring their love and planning their future together. It was wholly unrealistic.
After the twist came there wasn't much Daughtry and Lippincott could have done to salvage things for me, but the decisions they did make only served to worsen things. It's mind boggling to me that they managed to write a book I adore and then followed it up with one that was such an immense disappointment.
HOW WOULD I FIX IT?
I would never have put in the twist in the first place. I would have instead followed the formula that is very common in romance novels. Since the relationship between Kyle and Marley was going so smoothly I would have some conflict inevitably come between them. I might use the fact that Kyle is being haunted by Kim still or come up with something else. They would, of course, end up coming back together at the end.
If they HAD to keep the twist then I would have Kyle and Marley meet more organically than having him essentially stalk her. I would have the two get to know each other in the real world and not just automatically be in love but have that relationship slowly build. The ending (Marley nearly sacrifices herself to save a child from a speeding car which was how her sister died) is cliche. However, I didn't find it offensive even if it was a tad dramatic. So, I'd probably keep that in.
WILL I TRY THESE AUTHORS AGAIN?
I think this duo are talented writers. They demonstrated this with Five Feet Apart and the first 62% of All This Time. It baffles me why the decided to go with the whole "it was a dream the whole time" trope, but I don't think it means they've declined as authors. I think it means they made a...questionable writing decision. I am willing to give them another chance if they write another book, especially if the plot appeals to me. I have hopes that their next project will be an improvement over this one.