Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: A Season of Eden by Jennifer Laurens

A Season of Eden by Jennifer Laurens is not my normal read. While contemporary has long been my favorite genre, I don'r really read a lot of romantic fiction. A love story alongside my plot is nice, but I don't generally read books where the main plot revolves around a love story. But, I had really been in the mood for a nice YA Contemporary Romance, and I had won a copy of Laurens Overprotected. I read it, and it was exactly what I had wanted in a book at the time. Absolutely perfect. So, when I was given the opportunity to read Eden, I took it.

Unfortunately, this book didn't live up to what I had hoped it to be. That's not to say it was a bad book, but it just... didn't quite work for me. Eden is an 18 year old, (hot) senior in high school who develops a crush on her young, handsome, 22 year old music teacher, James, and the feelings are mutual. Eden is used to getting whatever and whoever she wants, although she's an awful lot nicer than the 'mean girls' she's stereotyped as. She wants James and so she goes after him. She's a little uncertain, which is definitely a new feeling for her, and she is very aware of the potential consequences of being caught in a compromising situation with a teacher.

For the most part, the growing interest between these two characters really worked for me. Eden quickly becomes infatuated with James, and she wants to know more about it. So, she gets a little teenage creepy and does a little undercover stalking (like following him home from school, so she can figure out where he lives) and tries to make sure he is aware of her. She offers to help out in class, stops by at lunch, etc. James was a bit of a nerd in high school and doesn't have a lot of experience with women. He's fresh out of college, concerned about his job and still lives with his mom. I totally get that being right out of college is hard, that sometimes you don't have anywhere else to go, other than home. But if I were a student, and I found out my teacher still lived with his or her parents?! It would have seriously undermined any respect I had for them, and I can't imagine it being different for very many teenagers.

The biggest problem I had with this novel is that every single relationship seemed to ring flat and false. Eden pretty much completely drops her group of friends, now that she is spending more time with James, (although in her defense here, they were also pretty harsh after she dumped her boyfriend), her relationship with her dad and his much younger wife is incredibly strained and, well... really non-existent, but worst of all, Eden and James are awkward together. I don't mean that cute awkward where you are trying to learn how to move and interact together, I mean that awkward that makes any of those 'swoon' or 'sigh' moments impossible because you can't stop thinking about the fact that no one talks like that, no one reacts like that, eye roll here, did she really just say that?! etc. It's... awkward and if you want me to believe in or care about a relationship, don't make it painfully awkward.

Going hand in hand with the awkward interactions between Eden and James is their big 'confrontation/conflict' toward the end of the story. I don't want to give spoilers away here, but both of the characters crossed some lines. One of the characters (who should have known better) shifted all the blame to the other character, who accepted this as truth and let it really get to them, let it really hurt them. Because, the relationship is now going to disappear because I couldn't manage to (blablabla spoiler). Now, I'm all for making someone apologize when they are in the wrong. But when both people are clearly in the wrong, or worse, when no one is actually in the wrong but through misunderstandings and what have you people get hurt, one party should not be shifting or shoving the guilt and blame onto the other. That is wrong.

I spent a lot of the novel feeling like their relationship is one sided. And they don't seem to really communicate well. Eden is struggling with the fact that she is more sexually experienced than James, and this makes her feel dirty and unworthy. But, instead of telling him this, trying to talk to him about it, she avoids the subject, and redirects the conversation, and answers just enough of James' question that he stops asking, but doesn't actually give him the information he's looking for. And James doesn't really know what to do with or about Eden. It's a little bit sad, actually...

Even though this book wasn't quite what I had hoped for, and there were certain resolutions that felt forced and out of character (specifically what ends up happening between Eden and her dad) I did enjoy the read. I had a long Twitter conversation about this book with someone who absolutely loved it (read her review here) and while I'm not going to replay that conversation for you, we talked about a lot of things that made me see the characters in a slightly different light, which did ultimately leave me with a more positive feeling about the book in general.

I'll be honest here. While I did enjoy this story, it isn't my favorite, and it's not one that I would recommend to people who aren't normally fans of YA Contemporary Romance. If this is a genre you read and enjoy regularly, then this might be a great book for you. But, if it's not, I think starting somewhere else could be a better option. I am glad I read this book. It gave me an opportunity to get to know someone I hadn't really talked to before, to share and discuss different thoughts and attitudes we noticed within the story and to grow and change. The story wasn't perfect. There were things I would have changed if I could. But I'm not the writer here, and I understand (mostly) why Laurens took her characters where she did. Have you read this one? Please, let me know what you think!

*Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair review through the Teen Book Scene tour site.