Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Title: Nowhere But Here
Author: Katie McGarry
Series: Thunder Road, Book One
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Published Date: 26 May 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository

I received this book through NetGalley from Harlequin Teen (Australia) for review.

An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.
(summary from Goodreads)

I almost didn't finish this book. I found the first half to be incredibly frustrating and I was so very close to giving up on it. But I was intrigued enough about discovering the truth of Emily's past, and enticed by the steamy romance between Emily and Oz, to push through. I am glad I finished it. There were things about the last half I truly liked and if it had have been more of that, believe me, I would have loved Nowhere But Here. As it is though, this one gets the 'just okay' treatment. 

I was definitely fascinated by the summary for Nowhere But Here, and as I started reading I was hopeful this would be one heck of an engrossing read. As it continued though I found myself shaking my head, rolling my eyes, sighing in frustration. Honestly, I just found it so melodramatic. Emily comes across as wishy-washy. Sometimes she's childish in her fear and paranoia, then she's strong, capable and throwing out attitude. But it never felt real. I get that certain 'holy shit' moments in her childhood had scarred her, and I'm all for that, but these moments of inconsistency felt forced. I never actually became invested in Emily. If only she'd displayed more smarts I might've gotten there. Despite the book alternating between Emily and Oz's point of views, it's really all about Emily. I liked Oz as a character, but with his focus always on Emily I can't help but feel that his point of view chapters were indistinct. The way the other characters treated Emily really rubbed me the wrong way. This whole 'treat her like glass, actually no, push her to be fiercer, push her to realise her life's a lie, but wait, she can't know, take it back, take it back' stuff was over the top and I honestly felt like it was all such a manipulation. I was liking none of these characters! I think I'd have handled it better if it was accepted that yes, Emily may be in real danger. The pushing of the possibility it's all exaggerated or even delusional? Melodramatic and unnecessary. 

Added to this, I was quickly over the biker gang versus biker club stuff. In some ways I quite liked the look into Oz and Eli's way of life, but it was also drawn out too much. The heart of the story - Emily and Oz finding their place and Emily's learning to love her biological father's family - was lost to these attempts to force drama. As I said, I pushed through because I wanted to find out the truth about Eli and Meg's past relationship and see how it all ended. In doing so, I got into the rest of the story. But I will note, the truth? Not as effecting as I'd hoped, which is another downside. Though a minor one, in comparison to the everything of the beginning that almost had me quitting Nowhere But Here.

What I wish is that the middle was condensed some, and that the focus shifted more to the many relationships littered throughout Nowhere But Here. That would've made this book a winner for me, I think. I enjoyed Oz and Emily's romance. McGarry certainly knows how to write some steamy scenes! As I continued reading, I even learnt to like many of the characters that frustrated me earlier on. I found myself wanting more of Olivia, Eli, Izzie and Violet. What I became invested in were the relationships Emily and Oz had with other characters. These touched on emotion, rather than drama for the sake of drama, and if these had been more fleshed out, I would've been bordering on gushing. It didn't sit well with me that Emily's parents were missing for so much of the book when the secrets all revolved around them. Olivia's letter to Oz and Emily at the end had me tearing up, and it actually describes what was great about Nowhere But Here - the love stories. Not just the romantic, but that of friends and family. The love McGarry touches on, that's worth it. 

Nowhere But Here has a heart to it that I can't overlook and wish was grander. It's unfortunate it's so overshadowed by a disappointing storyline.



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