December 3, 2013

Review: The Vow by Jessica Martinez

 The Vow
Author: Jessica Martinez
Release Date: October 15th, 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Page Count: 432
Source: Purchased
First Reaction: Oh jeeze my poor freaking heart is battered at the end of this one.
No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends?

Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him.

Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


Mo and Annie are best friends - but they're not secretly in love with each other. They really are just best friends who platonically love each other very much - Annie having gone through the murder of her big sister just as Mo, the very foreign, vaguely Muslim boy moved to Annie's ignorant small town. They were both ostracized and there for each other at just the right  moment, really. So when Mo is being ushered back to a society that won't accept him now that he's become Westernized, Annie decides the only course of action is marriage. However, marriage becomes less and less of an option as Annie realizes the distance it creates between herself and everything she holds dear. So it's up to Annie, and Mo, to figure out a way to live with themselves.

I Liked:
  • The Emotion: Oh gosh, talk about pulling your heart strings. This book'll absolutely kill you. I mean, you know before you start that Mo's going to be deported, but you don't know all the emotional baggage/history between the two and this book does a really good job of painting the picture. Annie and Mo have absolutely always been there for each other. They might bicker, but it's not real fighting - it's just messing around. They can read each other so well and know what the other does and doesn't like down to the smallest thing. They lean so heavily on each other and it's all so well portrayed in their actions that you can't even imagine them being separated after only the first chapter.
  • The Situation: The prose does an excellent job of making you really feel for these characters, but it's also a tough situation in general. I know people who've faced the possibility of deportation and it's a truly terrifying thing. To go back to a place you don't even really know where hardly know the language, have no one and will be seen as an outsider? Yeah, I wouldn't want that. Annie's situation is also really tough, what with her murdered sister and overprotective parents. Not to mention the fact that she finally finds love (in a town where everyone knows about her murdered sister and won't even really look at her with anything more than pity) just as Mo's being sent away. I mean, no one's really gonna win in this one.
  • The Prose: I've mentioned the emotional prose, of course, but my all-time favorite part of this book is the way the chapters end and begin. They kind of lead into one another. Like, the last sentence in the chapter will be like, "He's the only one." And the first sentence in the next chapter is, "I can't be the only one." (*Example taken from the book.*) This structure is 1. incredibly clever 2. so very different from anything else I've read and 3. addictive. It made it so hard to put this book down. I just wanted to keep going and going, seeing how one sentence leads into the next. 
  • Annie and Mo: I feel like my bullet point "The Emotion" covers why I love these two. They're just so perfect together in a platonic way (even though that line maybe gets blurred a little later in the book). The ease and comfort between the two of them in enviable and it's nice to see a solid friendship in a book - one so good that the girl would offer to marry the guy in order to keep him in the country. Obviously, marriage is more complicated than a solid friendship, though. Although, that doesn't mean this book ends in one way or another. You'll have to read to find out how it all goes down.
  • Reed: This boy is so delicious I cannot even. That is all. 
  • Sam: I like this surrogate older sister Jessica Martinez stuck into this book for Annie. Sam's exactly what Annie needs. She's the sounding board, the no questions asked adviser and the judgement-less friend. Even though Sam plays such a small role, I don't think Annie could have gotten as far as she did without her.
  • The Message: I think a lot of this book is about identity. One layer of this bullet point can be found in Mo's nationality. Is he American, is he Jordanian, is he a hybrid no one can really accept? And what does it mean if he's the last one? And then there's Annie. She doesn't seem to have an identity either. She's the only child left behind after a terrible murder. She's hidden away and jerked around so much that who she is get shoved inside this box - it doesn't matter as long as she's alive. Now, only Mo and Annie really see each other for who they are, which is part of the reason Annie wants Mo to stay so badly, but in trying to keep Mo with her, is Annie giving away those bit she keeps hidden inside? Is she tethering too much to Mo? Does she need to have things/get control of things herself? And maybe she's always had things - her family, included, despite the tight leach - that she wasn't even aware of and doesn't want to lose. It's an interesting set of questions I'm still thinking about. 
I Disliked:
  • The Structure - Sort Of: This is one of those dual narrative books. One chapter is from Annie's POV and one's from Mo's, back and forth. I like this. I think this book needed that in order to really cover all it's bases. However, I sometimes felt like I wanted to see one thing or another from someone else's perspective - mostly because I thought the other character's perspective on the events would be more compelling. I also felt like Annie was the dominant one of the two. She's the one with the potential real love interest. She's also the one who holds all the power in the marriage decision. Finally, she won't have to move to a foreign country if she doesn't get married. Mo's kind of at Annie's mercy, really, and that made me mad at certain points of the book. But I don't think I would have been half as mad if there'd been a little bit more from Mo on the emotions and whatever he felt about going back. There definitely was some of that, but I would have liked more.
  • Annie: Like I mentioned, Annie has all the power. And I like that she takes control of her life and her choices - y'know, because she'd pretty much been trying to be her sister for the whole book - but I didn't love her moments of selfishness. Mo's being deported/kicked out of the country and she can't stop thinking about this boy in the frozen yogurt shop. Even when she moves out and infuriates her parents, that's all that matters. And, y'know, I love Reed too, but I kept feeling like she'd have her priorities in better order after everything she'd been through. I didn't not like her, I just think she could have been a little bit more practical. 

The long and short of it?

Plot: Heartbreakingly different from everything I've read recently (and least plot-wise) and highly emotional.
World Building: I know a couple of people who've gone through this and it's just as miserable as this book makes it out to be.
Character Development: I liked the way each of the main characters progressed, even though I could have used a little more or less from both of them.
Prose: Like the plot, so very different, emotional and incredibly addictive.
Would I Recommend This Book?: This is one for lovers of contemporary - especially issue books. It's not about drugs or suicide or anything like that, but I think it runs through a lot of those high-emotion situations that contain these heartbreakingly impossible choices. So if you're looking for something unique in the sea of contemporary books, this is the one for you.

I feel like this one hit just below the radar for me. Have you heard of it? Are you interested? Talk to me in the comments below!