I first read this book over winter break. It is one of those books that I wasn’t sure of at first, mostly because I don’t read a lot of contemporary YA. I picked it up on a whim in an attempt to break my fantasy/sci-fi cycle.
The Problem with Forever hooked me the moment the two main characters, Rider and Mallory, recognized each other. They have a past that many of us cannot imagine, having been passed through the foster care system, and for a time were together in an abusive home. Rider, though only a little older than Mallory, was very brave and protective of her, trying to keep their abuser away.
When we enter the story, we find out that Mallory has been home-schooled for years now thanks to her new foster parents. She is in a stable home, no other foster kids, with great opportunities to grow and learn but is still held back by the fears that once surrounded her. She has decided to go to public school, which terrifies her but she wants to go. If you’ve read the book synopsis (I’ll put it at the bottom of the page), you will know that she runs into Rider on the very first day of school. This sets off problems in many directions, but in a great way.
At first what I liked about this story is that it was two childhood friends who are reunited for their senior year. I thought to myself… this will work out really well because they are friends. They have both changed, but they will be able to get through things now.
Ultimately though, what I loved about this book, is that it is a comeback story within a coming-of-age story. Mallory has intense psychological setbacks because of her history but she is a fighter and very little actually scares her (aside from public speaking). Her trained response may be to remain silent and hide, but she has moments of strength that are just heart-wrenching and beautiful.
Rider, too, has a journey of his own and at times I was mad at him, and at times I thought he was the greatest person alive. Actually that goes for Mallory too, sometimes I was incredibly frustrated with her, but then she would have a breakthrough or something. I really felt her intensity and anxiety and excitement along with her.
This felt like one of the quickest reads I’ve ever had, but it is nearly 500 pages long. So if you are like me, prepare to be absorbed and feel LOTS of feelings. Happy, sad, horror, depression, anxiety, relief, hallelujah (which is it’s own feeling, no matter what anyone says), love, fear, triumph–the whole gang is here. It’s inspiring. Not only for what the characters have been through, or what they have to overcome, but for their outlook on the world.
If I had to note one fault in The Problem with Forever, it would be an odd side story that begins with Mallory’s best friend, Ainsley. Ainsley is great as a safe harbor type friend. You’ll see what I mean about the ‘let’s just add one more thing to the side plot’ bit when you get there. Afterwards, let’s just pretend that didn’t happen.
Book blurb from Goodreads:
For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.
Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.
It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.