Review: First There Was Forever by Juliana Romano

First There Was ForeverTitle: First There Was Forever

Author: Juliana Romano

Publisher: Dial Books

Release Date: April 14th, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Debut Author / Friendship

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Perfect for fans of Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Prettyand Huntley Fitzpatrick’s My Life Next Door, Juliana Romano’s expressive debut is an absorbing and bittersweet story about first love, first loss, and the friends that carry us through it all.

Lima and Hailey have always been best friends: Lima shy and sensitive, Hailey funny and free-spirited. But Hailey abandons Lima to party with the popular kids and pursue Nate, her disinterested crush. As their friendship falters, Lima and Nate begin spending more time together. And before Lima knows what she’s feeling, she and Nate do something irreversible. Something that would hurt Hailey….if she knew it happened.

Lima thinks she’s saving her friendship by lying, but she’s only buying time. As the secrets stack up, Lima is forced to make a choice: between her best friend forever, and the boy who wasn’t meant to be hers.

A number of my students will ask me to help them find books that deal with friendships, and I often struggle to think of titles worth recommending. Usually when my students are inquiring about a friendship book, they aren’t looking for a book heavy with romance. Many of the contemporary titles I read feature friendships, but many of those titles are also heavily focused on a romance.

I appreciate how much emphasis Juliana Romano puts on Lima and Hailey’s friendship. They’ve always been best friends, but their paths are veering away from one another and consequently their friendship is falling apart. This is common in friendships and consequently something many teen readers will identify with. This part of the story line was frustrating for me to read at times, however, because Lima keeps trying to retain her friendship with Hailey even though Hailey begins to treat her poorly. I wanted Lima to stand up for herself.

Part of the reason, I think, that Lima has a difficult time standing up to Hailey is because of her growing feelings for Hailey’s long-time unrequited love, Nate. Lima can’t get over the guilt she feels for developing feelings for him and that he may have feelings for her, too. This part of the story is where the majority of the focus falls, and that disappointed me. Conflicts like this happen in friendships, so I think it deserves to be part of the story, but I wanted there to be more focus on Lima and Hailey. I didn’t want the Lima-Nate dynamic to overshadow the problems in Lima and Hailey’s friendship because there was already enough there without focusing on the love triangle. It would have been interesting to see Lima discover herself without Hailey and without a love interest.

I did, however, really enjoy the setting. Juliana Romano created a captivating California setting for First There Was Forever. At times it felt like the setting was a character in the novel because it was so vivid.

The blurb says First There Was Forever is perfect for fans of The Summer I Turned Pretty and My Life Next Door, but I don’t know that I would hand this to readers who just finished either of those books. This debut fits better with Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer and Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti.

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