Book Thoughts: Return to Me by Justina Chen Headley

(**I received this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Nothing is going as planned for Rebecca Muir. She’s weeks away from starting college–at a school chosen specifically to put a few thousand miles of freedom between Reb and her parents. But her dad’s last-minute job opportunity has her entire family moving all those miles with her! And then there’s the matter of her unexpected, amazing boyfriend, Jackson, who is staying behind on the exact opposite coast.

And if that isn’t enough to deal with, mere days after moving cross-country, Reb’s dad drops shocking, life-changing news. With her mother and brother overwhelmed and confused, Reb is left alone to pick up the pieces of her former life. But how can she do that when everything can change in an instant? How can she trust her “perfect” boyfriend when her own dad let her down? Reb started the year knowing exactly what her future would hold, but now that her world has turned upside down, will she discover what she really wants?

Justina Chen, the acclaimed author of North of Beautiful, has created a moving and powerful novel about the struggles that arise from betrayal, the uncertainty of life after high school, and the joy that ultimately comes from discovering what’s truly in your heart.

Return to Me is a book that I had really hoped to get into, but in the end did not. From the moment I started reading, I had mixed feelings – and they never went away.

Rebecca, who goes by Reb,  is good character; nice, hard-working, and easily likeable and yet I wasn’t able to connect with her voice. The book is written in first person as if told by Rebecca, which allows the reader to enter and really get to know a particular character. In this story, I didn’t find that to be the case. I knew some things about her, like the fact that she was big on tree houses, but I did not truly understand the ‘gift’ that she has.

All of the females on her mom’s side of the family have been able to see snippets of the future, and with this gift, comes a curse of being alone their wholes lives. When Reb’s premonition was introduced, I thought there would have been more of an explanation of what was going on, or that there would be more frequent glimpses into the future; neither happened, which confused me on how important her gift was to the story. This power plays a huge role in the novel, which I can also say surprised me since the summary does not mention a word about it.

Even so, I enjoyed that aspect of the novel. Reb is afraid to tell her boyfriend Jackson about her premonitions because she is afraid that he won’t believe her, like her father did to her mom. The bomb that her father drops was very predictable, and leaves Reb and the rest of her family fighting for their own, which further causes rifts between Rebecca and Jackson. Every single situation in the aftermath of their father’s news was very realistic – from studying their new finance situation, to her mom seeing her doctor. The author writes every outcome of this situation, which made it terrifying; I could feel the protagonist’s emotions very realistically.

As bad of a situation Reb and her family are now in, they end up turning it into something positive. This book stresses the importance of family relationships – no matter how torn they may be. Reb knocks down the barriers between her and her mom, by learning how to comfort and be there for others, even if the roles are supposed to be reversed. There is also a lot of character development in secondary characters, such as Reb’s mom and Reb’s younger brother, Reid. All of them learn to forgive and be thankful for what their lives have brought them, even though they had to suffer through a lot of pain.

The whole book constantly had things that I was really glad to see, and things I was not glad to see. For example, I was disappointed to find out that Reb was another female protagonist who had no self confidence, but had gorgeous friends. I also thought parts of the books were awkwardly worded and paced. On the other hand, I really loved the fact that Reb dates a younger guy (you do not normally see that in YA) and that the author uses slang that my friends and I do (such as the word ‘salty’). There were enough positives and negatives about this book that my mind could not decide which side to just stay on…

Still, I did like this novel. Unfortunately, I never got pulled fully into this novel. It was a good read, and if you are looking for a book that will give you a positive outlook on life, I suggest checking this one out.

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