My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think that all of us, at the end of the day, just want to be real and want to be loved. — Jennifer L. Armentrout
Before I begin, I would like to let you know that this essay is going to be less than a holistic review and more like a subjective character analysis. Why? Because honestly, The Problem with Forever doesn’t have that much of a plot to evaluate or reminisce about. Still, despite its generally uneventful content, I think that everyone with a beating heart should read this book.
The Problem with Forever mainly revolves around Mallory Dodge (aka Mouse) and Rider Stark, two teenagers with a seriously horrible past. To simply put it, they are raised for more than a decade by a pair of abusive criminals. Eventually, they are saved from their hellish environment, but they are separated and taken in by different families. Four years later, they are miraculously reunited, and one would expect them to be okay and have a completely happy story.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble because Mallory and Rider are anything but “okay.” As a result of their traumatic upbringing, Mallory becomes as silent as a mouse (hence the nickname), unable to stand up for herself nor have a “normal” social life. As for Rider, he appears to be relatively unscathed. However, as we all know, things are not always as they seem.
Since I’ve always been interested in psychology, I liked that The Problem with Forever featured a character-driven story. This book contains almost 500 pages, and each chapter is dedicated to helping readers get to know Mallory and Rider on a nearly personal level. With that in mind, it was great how JLA made her characters so palpable. Each of their thoughts and emotions was precious to me because they were the keys to unlocking their depth and worth as literary figures.
Because the book was written in the first person POV, I logically learned more about Mallory than Rider. For the most part, it was nice to be in her mind. She was a good daughter, a loyal friend, and a passionate girlfriend. She also had this way of being optimistic and pessimistic at the same time, which I found to be weird, if not very interesting. Furthermore, her journey towards “recovery”/”normalcy” was very inspiring. I was so proud of her when she finally embraced her past and came out of her shell of perpetual silence. There were also many times she made me laugh. Despite her lack of romantic experience, her thoughts about Rider weren’t totally innocent. Overall, Mallory had more character development than Rider.
Although my perception of Rider was quite limited, I loved him as much as I loved Mallory. Like most YA dudes, he was heartbreakingly handsome. (Like…DUH). Thankfully, he was more than just a pretty face. If Rider were a character in Divergent, he would definitely be in Abnegation. He was selfless to a fault, to the point that Mallory criticized him for having no sense of self-preservation. He had protected Mallory during their childhood, so it was only natural for him to be her fairy-tale-ish knight now that they were teenagers. When I come to think of it, his loyalty to Mallory was downright unearthly. I’m not sure if such a guy exists in real life. Haha. Nevertheless, his devotion to Mallory was something worthy of emulation.
Besides the aforementioned protagonists, The Problem with Forever featured a diverse cast of supporting characters. JLA did not create them as mere plot devices, and I applaud her for that. Mallory and Rider were indeed the stars of the show, but I would really love to read a novella about Ainsley, Paige, or Jayden. Fan-fic, anyone? Hahaha.
As I’ve implied before, the only thing I did not like about The Problem with Forever was its uneventful content. JLA’s writing style was engaging and easy to comprehend, but it took me more than a month to finish this novel because I kept on putting it down. Some chapters were really slow-paced, I often felt sleepy while reading them.
In the end, I enjoyed reading The Problem with Forever because of its priceless and inspiring characters. I will always be fond of Mallory and Rider, who taught me the following truths:
1. It never pays to keep secrets from those you love.
2. You cannot escape your past, but you should not let it define or control your future.
3. You must first learn to love yourself before you can expect others to love you.
4. There is a difference between living and existing.
5. Moments of weakness don’t equate to an eternity of them (Armentrout 2016).