Lately there's a lot of chatter about "New Adult" novels, and New Adult romance in particular. The idea, I suppose, is to have a genre that bridges the gap between YA and...just plain A, with characters that are traditional college age (18-23, or so). They are still young enough to be in that very transitional period where all of the good character development that we see in YA can happen. The important difference is, in NA they can have sex. I feel like that's often the main motivation--character is 18, she can choose to have sex now without all the backlash. There's also the factor that most of these characters are now living independently from their parents in some capacity, so they have all of the new freedoms and troubles associated with that.
The reason that I'm offering up this unnecessarily long explanation of what I think New Adult is, is that this is the first review on this blog that I will actually be labeling as New Adult. That's not to say that I haven't reviewed books that authors or other readers might call NA, because I know I have. I know I've reviewed a lot of books that might technically fall in that genre by virtue of the character's age alone. This is just the first one that I feel qualifies for the label in terms of age range, content, and labels already assigned by other readers--my gut tells me this is a true NA, and so it is. This is the ceremonial induction of a new sub-genre on RtP.
And on to the review.
Willow Avery is a famous young actress who's gone off the deep end a time or two, a la Lindsay Lohan. The book opens up with her just getting out of rehab and already being told by her agent that she needs to get back to work, and he has a role lined up for her as the heroine of Tidal--a remake of an old beach drama. She'll be playing a surfer, so she has to learn the basics of surfing. Enter out hero, Cooper, who at the tender age of 22 is the best surfing guru in Hawaii. Willow isn't sure how she'll stay clean, or even if she wants to, but she does know that Cooper is an excellent distraction. Cooper wants Willow from the moment he sees her, but is he willing to violate his professional rules in order to be with her?
If you're thinking that you won't like this book because the heroine sounds like an unpleasant, self absorbed, drug-using tool, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. Somewhat. The author does a good job of making her sympathetic and helping us to understand how she became such a mess, without removing all of the blame from her. It's fairly clear that Willow's parents see her as a source of cash, and while they do still care about her on some human level, all of that cash definitely got in the way of the normal parenting that would have helped prevent the slide into rampant drug use. As the story goes on, we learn of Willow's depression which mostly centers around one big event in her past (you'll be able to guess it early on, but I won't spoil it anyway), this one event that made her want the numbed out state that being high brings. Again, she's partly responsible for that event, but her parents and the other people in her life are also responsible for handling it so very poorly. No one is demonized to the point of being the villain of the piece (well, maybe Willow's best friend), and so I ended up feeling my heart crack a little, if not break entirely over Willow's sadness.
Cooper is not as thoroughly developed by any stretch of the imagination. He's kind of just there as this nice guy who cares very deeply about Willow, and he wants to see her stay happy and healthy. His love helps her open up, and it helps her want to do better for herself, but it doesn't cure her. That's important, and I really liked that the author didn't make their relationship the magic solution to all of Willow's problems. One of the things I felt was a bit weak, in terms of story telling, was Cooper's relationship with his parents. I won't say too much for fear of spoilers, but again, his story is just not as well developed.
The reason that I knocked some stars off of this book is that in the end, it does treat a lot of the issues with a softer hand than I would like. It handles these really big issues competently, but somewhat predictably. It's not going to help you understand drug use or depression or family drama on a deeper level. I also felt that Willow and Cooper's relationship lacked the epicness, the really deep tug between two characters who you are convinced will end up together. They love each other, but I'm not sure I saw enough between them to call it swoon worthy.
And so there you have our first New Adult book. Do I recommend it? Yes. Don't let the heroine discourage you. This is a well developed belated coming of age story with a sweet little romance that's reasonably enjoyable. 3.5 stars.