(Actual rating: 2.5 stars)
I received a free copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
In many ways, Without A Doubt was a pleasant surprise. So far, my experience with New Adult fiction hasn’t been quite as positive as I would like, so I went into the story cautiously optimistic yet bracing myself for the usual pitfalls I run into with the genre. Happily, Without A Doubt ended up side-stepping those pitfalls and standing out as an example of New Adult done well.
Emerson and Eva make an adorable couple. Emerson’s not your cocky, swaggering, impossibly chiseled love interest – he’s just a regular guy, cute and sweet and chill. Eva, too, is likable and pleasant. They’re both good people, practical, hard-working, and down to earth. They do normal things together like baking brownies, hanging out with mutual friends, and watching movies. In short, they’re refreshingly authentic.
There’s no pointless drama in their relationship, which is a pleasant change. They have their disagreements, but they’re mature enough and respect each other enough to open a dialogue and air any potential issues before they burgeon into real problems. As compelling as I find dysfunctional relationships in fiction, it is occasionally nice to see a happy, healthy romance represented. Emerson and Eva are playful and cute and fit together so well. When Emerson says something sweet, it doesn’t seem like a line – it just seems like Emerson:
“Emerson wraps around me and I cuddle closer. ‘How was your day?’
‘Similar to yours.’ His blinks are coming in longer intervals and I know he’s getting closer to falling asleep.
‘How come you never have bad days?’ I ask […].
‘I do,’ he reassures me, never opening his eyes. ‘But then I see you and it all goes away.’”
Another huge win for this book is its approach to sex. Eva and Emerson treat sex as important and meaningful, something to be valued but not rushed into. When they do get physical, the scenes are tasteful and avoid graphic play-by-plays. The sex doesn’t overshadow characterization or plot, and it’s not a constant in the book. Emerson and Eva are flirtatious and sensual, but their relationship isn’t all sex, all the time. There are moments when Eva and Emerson pass up an opportunity to be intimate because they have stuff to do, or are sad, or have somewhere to be. Hooray for realism in books!
Something else that impressed me about Without A Doubt is that school is actually a significant part of the characters’ lives. Several of the New Adult books I’ve read have been set at universities, but you’d never know the characters are students other than a passing reference to a homework assignment or the occasional use of the words “after class.” In Without A Doubt, though, Emerson and Eva are students first and foremost. They spend lots of their time working on assignments, writing papers, and studying for tests, and the events of their personal lives have to be scheduled around their school obligations.
With all these positives I’ve listed, you’re probably wondering why I only gave Without A Doubt 2.5 stars. The problem was that it was just missing that “wow” factor for me. It was a cute, light read…and that’s about it. There’s a fine line between excluding unnecessary drama and still having some level of conflict and tension to keep things interesting. The plot and writing style are very simplistic, and Emerson and Eva’s relationship is just too…easy, I guess? Most of their arguments are over little things that are quickly resolved. The few major conflicts seem kind of far-fetched and are over almost as soon as they’ve begun. The main challenge the couple faces – Emerson’s lingering ties with his ex-girlfriend – doesn’t cause nearly as much trouble as I expected, resulting in a very laid-back, chill kind of book. While that may work for many readers, it wasn’t enough to really draw me in and keep me engaged.
That being said, I’m still very pleased by how authentic and fresh Without A Doubt felt and am hopeful that it signifies a positive direction for a genre I haven’t been too crazy about up to this point. Between Without A Doubt and my recent success with Informant by Ava Archer Payne, I’m starting to think there may be a future for New Adult fiction and me after all!