**I received this book from Around the World ARC tours for review**
Synopsis (from Goodreads):When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.
At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.
I really thought the author did an amazing job tackling a very difficult issue in this book. It was a big eye opener for me as I have always been someone who has been unsympathetic if an abused person did not leave their abuser (I know...I'm horrible right?). There were a few issues I had with the book but otherwise I thought it was very good and the author did a great job!
I loved Bethany and Zack! They felt like very real people to me and I understood their hurt and anger at Alex. Zack was a great protector and I even understood how Bethany appears to give up on Alex after awhile. Bethany was very bitter and angry yet at the same time, she was still worried about her best friend and loved her. I really liked how the author had these two characters move on though and not pine away after Alex.
Georgia was also a character I really enjoyed. She was the mom that Alex never had and she was very smart in figuring out what was happening. I loved how she interacted with Alex and joked around but I also liked how she was there for Alex but didn't push Alex too much.
Alex was difficult for me. I both loved and hated her. I can completely understand though how she was afraid to leave Cole. She had no one that really showed her that they loved her until Cole and she so desperately craved that attention and love. She knew what he was doing was wrong and she knew she shouldn't put up with it yet at the same time she began to doubt herself. Maybe it was her fault. Maybe she did deserve it. She didn't want people (like I would have) to think that she was stupid for going back to Cole time after time and now I can understand a little more that it wasn't about her being stupid but about her being afraid of never feeling that love again (when Cole was in his "good" moods).
Cole was a mystery to me and this was where I had some issues. I just wish that there was more information on Cole and his issues. Does he watch his dad beat his mom? Obviously his mother was abused but whether physically or emotionally we never found out. Was Cole beaten by his father ever? And after the last time Cole beat Alex up, what happened to him? Did Alex press charges? Did it just all go away and he got to beat some other girl? There were just a lot of questions that weren't answered for Cole.
I feel this book would be better for older teens. It has some sexual humor (the song Zack had to sing for his play and the innuendos that were there, etc.) and Cole and Alex did have a sexual relationship (although it was absolutely not graphic at all). While I think the author handled both well (after all, all high schoolers joke about sex), I just feel that between the sexual issues and the fact that the book was about abuse, it would be more suitable for teens 16 and older.