Title: As Long as You Love Me
Author: Ann Aguirre
Summary: Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. She has her reasons – missing her family, losing her college scholarship. But then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.
Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He’s the guy who women love and leave, not the one who makes them think of forever – until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her.
Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.
**This review contains spoilers.**
I have to say this upfront – I never would have read As Long as You Love Me if I hadn’t won a free copy from Book Riot. (And yet I signed up for said giveaway… idk.) It’s kind of my perfect genre, but I didn’t know that because New Adult wasn’t really a thing when I was in high school and college (my prime romance-reading-years, y’all). I was stuck either reading about chaste young adults or single thirty-somethings having straight up sex – neither of which really hit the sexy-times-for-people-my-age for which I was really looking.
And then I discovered Ann Aguirre’s 2B trilogy. (Behold!!!)
As Long as You Love Me is the second book in the loosely connected trilogy of Nadia (I Want it That Way), Lauren (As Long as You Love Me), and Courtney (The Shape of My Heart), roommates of – wait for it – apartment 2B. (So fear very minor spoilers for I Want It That Way‘s ending – which you essentially know is going to happen anyway because, well, romance.) This kind of sequential-but-not-really-connected storytelling is one of my genre kryptonites, so Aguirre already scored points for writing her story in this way. (Bonus points for having the events of I Want it That Way, As Long as You Love Me, and The Shape of My Heart happen simultaneously!!!) She then got in some home runs/three-pointers/hole-in-ones/your sports metaphor of choice for making her story laugh-out-loud funny, squee-inducing cute, and fan-myself hot all at once. For example:
“In what world [would you need to lose weight]?… You’d lost all the oomph and most of your bam.”
“Tell me, is the oomph up front or is that the bam?”
“It’s your body. By now, you should know all about your oomph and bam. I shouldn’t have to explain these things to you.”
Aguirre also writes about flawed characters who are not flawed because of their clinical anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or [SPOILER!] history of being molested [/SPOILER!]. They’re flawed because of the choices they make – regardless of whether those disabilities factor into said decisions. It’s a small inclusion, but definitely appreciated; nobody is perfect, and reading about said imperfections reinforces the belief that disabilities are debilitating but also so incredibly normal. These factors are something which authors routinely overlook because nobody is supposed to admit that things like depression or anxiety even exist – let alone affect people in tangible ways.
With that said, however, there were a lot of things which annoyed me and lowered As Long as You Love Me from 3-3½ stars to 2½:
- Aguirre often ended chapters in the middle of a scene or conversation, opening the next chapter with either prose (that really only needed a line break) or the next line of dialogue (which – hello! – finished the conversation). A chapter is a defined closing point within a novel and thus should behave as one. You don’t see scene breaks in between questions and their answers or a fade-to-black before two characters have finished their conversation – because that is not what happens in a play or a movie. So, why is it happening here?
- As Long as You Love Me is narrated from Lauren’s point-of-view but written in third-person narration; this gives Aguirre latitude to view events through Lauren’s eyes but also lets her cheat by inserting random points of foreshadowing. Just once. In the middle of a happy point. UGH. WHY.
“I shook my head, arms tightening on his waist. “Can we stay like this for a big longer?”
“As long as you want,” he promised. “I’m not going anywhere.”
And like an idiot, I believed him.
This trick cheapens all the work Aguirre did before we arrive at that point and then taints the experience we have once we get past it. Just let us have all the hurt-feels as they punch us in the gut, okay? We can take it.
- Because of this consistent Lauren-POV, understanding Rob’s actions, thoughts, and feelings during the climax of the story is hard. It feels like everything he says and does comes out of nowhere because Aguirre doesn’t build up his low self-esteem enough for it to really work as one of his defining characteristics. [SPOILER!] Lauren explains that her relationship with Rob couldn’t work before said climax because she and Rob were together in “codependent dysfunction” – but we don’t really get that from the story itself. It’s just kind of tacked onto the end as, “Oh, yeah, my super low self-esteem is why I believed you when you lied to me because of your anxiety.” The novel is told from Lauren’s POV but, as I mentioned, Aguirre uses third-person narration to get away with this explanation. Why couldn’t she have peppered the story with more Rob-centric explanations TO Lauren throughout? Or make us feel Rob’s low self-esteem just as we feel Lauren’s anxiety? [/SPOILER!]
- As Long as You Love Me ends on such a high note that it almost seems really lame in comparison to the rest of the book. Everything is awesome at the end – don’t get me wrong – but it took us so long to get there that it almost seems rushed in comparison. (Or maybe I’ve been reading too many books with stupidly high obstacles??) If everything works out for Rob and Lauren, why did it take so long? Why couldn’t our main characters have found a way to work out their shit that didn’t involve heartbreak or deceit? I mean, I get why what happens happens, but I wish Aguirre could have tweaked her novel just enough that my reaction was “UGH. WTF. DON’T” at the story instead of at the writing itself.
(I will, however, be gobbling up I Want it That Way and The Shape of My Heart. Take that as you will.)