Friday, November 16, 2018

Always Forever Maybe, by Anica Mrose Rissi

Betts has dated before, but never with someone as wonderful and perfect as Aiden.  While the things Aiden does, from drinking coffee black to riding a motorcycle, are outside of her comfort zone and far removed from how she sees herself, Betts finds it easy to change.  After all, aren’t relationships about compromise? She is changing more and more, becoming more like he wants and less like she does. Without even realizing what is happening, she is losing herself.  At the same time, the relationship slowly becomes abusive.  But by the time anyone realizes what is happening, it is almost too late.

The obvious comparison is with Sarah Dessen’s novel on adolescent abusive relationships Dreamland, which is still the superior novel for probing the abandonment of self that young women go through in abusive relationships.  Rissi's novel, however, takes a different tactic and has its own strength:  focusing on the importance of friendships for rescue and recovery.  Even as Aiden attempts to isolate Betts, it is Betts’s strong bonds of friendship that ultimately save her (as Betts’s long-suffering BFF Jo ably represents).

The story becomes much more than an account of the descent into abuse, providing us a thread of hope. I still would have preferred if Rissi had spent more time showing how Betts was primed to be relatively easily ensnared in this unhealthy relationship from her relationship with her parents and her prior life choices (in contrast, she spends considerable effort showing what drives Aiden), because there is a story there as well and the silence leaves Betts as a passive victim of circumstances who  needs outsiders to help her out.

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