Author: Lisa Becker
Genre: YA, Romance
Published On: August 1st 2017
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Source: Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 3 Stars
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In high school, Charlotte Windham was a typical student going through an awkward phase -- glasses and all. She harbored a crush on Garrett Stephens, the teen heartthrob everyone can’t help but fall for during that unfortunate ugly duckling phase of one’s teen years. Flash forward fifteen years later, and Charlotte and Garrett have a second chance encounter at a Los Angeles restaurant. However, this time around, Charlotte has leveled the playing field. She’s a bestselling novelist and no longer “Glasses,” the humiliating nickname Garrett called her in high school. In short, she’s a catch now and, thanks to corrective eye surgery, it’s not just her eyes that see better…so does her heart! Garrett hasn’t fared poorly either, transforming from teen heartbreaker to adult lothario. A now successful professional golfer, he’s recently suffered a major setback in the form of a possible career-ending injury. With the upper hand, can Charlotte forgive Garrett for his past ways, and for his more recent Don Juan lifestyle? Will she even want to? And, can Garrett change his ways for a second chance with Charlotte, who may just be the perfect fit for him?
Warning: There will be spoilers!!
Also: I’ll probably ramble a lot!!
I was really excited to read Links after seeing the blurb. Lisa Becker did a good job of pulling me in by writing about my guilty pleasure: second chance romances. I’ve recently had an itch for mysteries and crime novels, but Lisa Becker delivered a book that was easy to read and didn’t require too much processing between chapters. A couple times, I found myself wishing there were more areas that didn’t feel so, well, high school, but we’ll get into that more later. I’m giving Links 3 out of 5 stars, for the following reasons.
Lisa Becker did a great job of painting a solid picture in your mind of each of her characters. From the first few chapters, I knew instantly that Charlotte was the quirky, relatable, wears-shirts-with-funny-sayings-on-them kind of girl, and she went from a total dork in high school to a successful writer in adulthood. I also knew that Garrett was the sporty, not the smartest but definitely a sweetie pie, loyal to a fault guy who Charlotte fell in love with in high school. I also appreciated the realistic changes in personality, emphasized by Garrett being shown as a player in high school who evolves into a pretty articulate, goal-oriented adult.
These characters also had real life issues. They weren’t filthy with upscale mansions, and they didn’t have perfect lives. Charlotte deals with her insecurities and trust issues, and Garrett deals with a life altering injury. It was nice to know that these characters weren’t falling in love with no issues whatsoever, but that they actually had to work on their relationship!
One thing I loved about Charlotte was her unwillingness to stand down. She was really shy in high school, but as an adult, she’s a successful author who teaches at low income schools and who fights for what she believes in. It’s a pretty stellar character trait, and I’m always a sucker for a strong heroine. Another trait Charlotte had that I loved was that she didn’t really change herself to get the guy. Yes, she got corrective eye surgery and wears sleek outfits to parties, but often we simply see her lounging around in sweats and glasses, being a down to earth woman who isn’t ashamed of her weight or her flaws.
I did find some flaws with the characters, though. I found myself disliking some of the conversations they had, because they felt forced or unnatural. For example, later in the book when Garrett accompanies Charlotte to the elementary school, she says:
“No, I heard the distinct rumble of your engine from down the street,” I say with a laugh, “and I did remember you weren’t the most punctual.”
Links did follow a mainly streamlined plot: girl falls in love with boy in high school -> girl sees boy a few years later -> they slowly fall in love over again -> happily ever after. It’s a tried and true format that is almost always successful, and in the grand scheme of things, it was! I enjoyed the slow burn (emphasis on SLOW, I was on page 155 and they still were ‘just friends’). of the romance between Charlotte and Garrett, and I also enjoyed that they both led their own lives, so that they weren’t completely wrapped up in each other. It felt optimistic and realistic at the same time.
The story also, however, took the reader on a journey of about 10-20 different subplots that really had no place in the plot. The story would jump from Charlotte and Garrett at trivia night, to Charlotte and Garrett visiting inner city kids that Charlotte teaches in her free time, and then to Charlotte being jealous over Garrett possibly showing interest in such a small secondary character that it was laughable she’d even show a hint of jealousy. Some things honestly didn’t flow, and I found myself confused and having to go back a chapter or two to re-read and figure out what was happening. I tried not to be too hard on Links because of the subplot issue, because I know that for two characters to connect, they have to go out and be with each other, so it made sense to have subplots that gave them that person to person experience, but it definitely felt like the ideas weren’t fleshed out enough and the ends weren’t tied up enough for me to care about them.
I enjoyed the shift from Charlotte and Garrett’s points of view. I think that it gave the reader the chance to actually get to know them from their own thoughts. I’ve read so many books where the point of view is static, and every time I’ll be absolutely dying to know what’s in the other characters’ heads!!
I also thought that the addition of plot conveyed through texts was a nifty idea. Sometimes it fell flat, because once again I’ve never met two adults who text as eloquently as Charlotte and Garrett, but hey, I bet they’re out there! Texting was a quick and easy way to get a lot of information to the reader in a short amount of time, and didn’t have to waste time describing scenery, etc.
Links teaches a lot of valuable lessons. It teaches us that we can’t let our pasts define us, because we are constantly adapting, and we aren’t the same people we were as teenagers. It also teaches us that we don’t have to force love, and we are allowed to turn love down – like I mentioned above, it took until well over halfway through the book for Charlotte and Garrett to truly commit to a relationship, and there’s no issue with that! I appreciated the fact that they took time to contemplate what they wanted, and let themselves fall slowly into a meaningful relationship, instead of rushing into one that they weren’t prepared for.
One of the most important things that this book teaches you is that you don’t fit into one box – you aren’t just an actor, or a football player, or a cook, etc. I think Garrett as a character emphasized this the most with learning how to cope with a possibly career-ending injury. He spends a lot of time worrying that golf is all he is and that without it, he isn’t important. Throughout the book, he learns that this isn’t true – that he is special even without golf, and I loved that.
Overall I’m giving this 3 out of 5 stars, because it really was a good, easy read, and I liked how Lisa Becker created and fleshed out her characters. I didn’t like some of the plot development, though, as I feel like those different ideas didn’t get enough emphasis or detail to really make the reader care about them. It felt like something I had to get through to get back to the main plot. I did enjoy this book! If I had the chance to read it again without knowing ahead of time that I was going to be critiquing it, I’d definitely do it.