Published by Hyperion on April 15, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Young Adult
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The combination of mystery, murder and mean girls definitely makes for a good read, and Jennifer L. Armentrout mixes these elements to maximum effect in her novel, Don’t Look Back. She puts her own twist on the popular plot, namely in the form of a main character suffering from dissociative amnesia (a real thing according to Google).
I have to admit, I initially picked this book because of the creepy cover, and from the first page, it did not disappoint. Samantha comes to consciousness covered in blood and stumbling down a dirt road, and she has no idea how she got there, why, or even what her name is. Believe it or not, things just get weirder and more confusing for Sam from there, and she can’t really put herself back together with Cassie still missing. Sam may have been a brutal high school dictator, but Cassie was worse – like Regina George on steroids. Throw in one dreamboat childhood friend whom Sam now inexplicably hates, a super douche-y current boyfriend and devious high school politics, and you have all the elements of an addictive read. I should warn you, do not start Don’t Look Back right before bedtime, because you will have to know whodunit, sleep be damned.
Aside from the building tension, the best part of Don’t Look Back for me was Sam’s refusal to pigeonhole Cassie or their troubled relationship. Despite veiled threats, clear danger and that pesky amnesia, Sam persists, searching for the truth about Cassie’s disappearance. She can’t deny the toxic nature of their friendship or their history of mean-girl machinations, but she knows there is more to their story. Her tenacity in the face of loneliness, fear and betrayal made me like her. Heck, it made me believe that she really did want to be a better person post memory-loss.
Sam’s strange relationship with her boyfriend and her dysfunctional (to say the least) family dynamics are never really explained. But the way overachieving parents, twisted priorities and the pressures of high school can turn a sensitive, smart girl into a diminutive despot is fully explored. Sam’s journey back to being a good person is filled with death, deception and deviousness, but no one said the road to redemption is an easy one. Even for a prom queen.