Suffer Love – Ashley Herring Blake – HMH Books for Young Readers – Published 3 May 2016
Hadley St. Clair’s life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing the ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-her dad most of all-to leave her alone.
Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably “feels like home” to Hadley. Hadley and Sam’s connection is undeniable, but Sam has a secret about his family that could ruin everything.
When I saw that this book was recommended by both Miranda Kenneally and Courtney C. Stevens, two of my favourite authors, I knew I had to read it.
Unfortunately, I have to admit to being disappointed with this book. Initially, it wasn’t what I was expecting and the girl hooking up with random guys didn’t seem like the Hadley from the summary. It quickly descended into stereotypes, the hurting girl using intimacy to distance herself from her life, the sort-of supportive best friend and the resident nasty girls. But, trying not to be too judgemental, I continued with an open(ish) mind, hoping these character castings would develop into something deeper, more three-dimensional.
Fortunately the next chapter switches to Sam’s perspective and he offers a far more complicated and intriguing scenario: difficult relationship with his mother for some as-yet-unknown reason, sister with emotional needs for some possibly traumatic reason, absent father, and moving into a new home but returning to an old neighbourhood.
As we switch between Hadley and Sam’s perspectives the reader learns more about their respective family situations and what ties them together and threatens to force them apart.
I swung between liking Sam and Hadley and disliking them. I was waiting for something to push it one way or the other. I liked Hadley through Sam’s eyes and liked Sam when he was looking out for his sister. By the end though, I think I’m sitting more on the dislike side, especially with Hadley. While I agree that family breakdowns are incredibly traumatic, it felt like all Hadley did was whinge, whine and punish everyone for daring to hurt her. Livy, Sam’s sister, and Ajay, Sam’s best friend, however are the heart and humour this book so desperately needed. I really enjoyed these two characters and only wish there was more of them in the book.
I feel this story is much less a romance and far more the fallout from family infidelity and the resulting breakdown. Forgiveness, hope, guilt and blame are all key themes. I liked how the story was resolved and enjoyed the game-changing reveal.
I wish I could have liked this book more; I know I am in the minority here with my distaste. I liked the Shakespeare references and great use of SAT-worthy vocab, I just needed to connect with the main characters more to be able to enjoy their story.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Family, adultery, sex and dating, romance, sister.
Reading age guide: Ages 14/15 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, f***, s***, sl**, dou***, bit**. Crude, sexual references. Sexual scenes, minimal and implied details.
Published: 3 May 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers.
Format: Hardcover, ebook.