by Tracy Sweeney
Twenty-nine-year-old Jillian Cross refuses to believe that a pair of skinny jeans has led to her untimely demise. Life just isn’t that cruel. But when an overly-enthusiastic attempt at squeezing herself into them leads her to fall and lose consciousness, she is faced with just that possibility. When she awakens with both a bruised ego and a bump on her head, she’s not in her tiny apartment but her childhood bedroom circa 1999-the spring of her senior year in high school. Jillian knows that time travel isn’t logical. But then again, neither was her decision to wear skinny jeans. As she attempts to navigate her way through the halls of Reynolds High, walking the same path and making the same choices she made years before, she knows that any change she makes can have a catastrophic effect on her future. But when she strikes up an unexpected friendship with motorcycle-riding, cigarette-smoking Luke Chambers, can she pretend to be the same shy girl she once was? At least she has her pink sparkly flask to take the edge off. One little change won’t hurt, right?
Before I rounded the corner to the rear of the gym, I knew something felt off. I just couldn’t figure out what it was. Turning the corner, I saw that for the first time all year, I wasn’t alone. A girl was sitting on one of the milk crates. Her long brown hair was hiding her face as she bent over. In her hands, dangling between her legs was what looked like a flask. She looked more like someone who belonged at Jonas’s pub than at a high school. The girl hadn’t heard me coming and I was irritated because I just wanted some peace and quiet. Grabbing a cigarette from my pack, I cleared my throat not knowing how else I could get her attention and tell her to leave. She looked up, startled, and nearly knocked the wind out of me. It was Jillian Cross. Jillian Cross was sitting on my milk crate. Behind the gym. In my place. With a flask. And it was pink.
After reading Ms. Sweeney’s bio, there is nothing ridiculous in Living Backwards. Sure, it was funnier than hell in parts, sad and heartbreaking in others but don’t let her fool you with she is writing ridiculous. Far from it. I have put this book as a best of 2013 and a place on the permanent keeper shelf. This is a book that I will re-read over and over for the above mentioned reasons. Plus, Luke is just too yummy for words.
The book starts off in the present and it features our heroine Jillian and her college roommates, Meg and Danielle getting ready for an impromptu high school reunion. Danielle, the girliest of them, decides that they are wearing something from 1999 (the year that they graduated high school), Jillian goes to her room to put on her skinny jeans and falls down and hits her head and BAM…back in her room in 1999.
Now, before you think of Peggie Sue Got Married, this book is much more than that. I mean, really would you go back to high school for a do over? Me, no because I was bullied because I physically matured before the other girls and was made fun of intensely. Would I mind a couple of do overs in my 20’s? You bet. LOL! All kidding aside, this time travel book had substance and depth. Plus a heroine and hero worth rooting for.
Jillian was the quiet one in high school. Content spending her lunch time in the library, not socializing much, she decides that she is going to change that in her do over. Meg and Danielle are two girls that she is reintroduced to the first day of college and they end up being best friends and roommates for life. In Jillian’s do over, she is actually friends with them in high school and their respective boyfriends. On her first day back in high school she meets the love of her life, Luke Chambers.
I wish I could tell you more about what transpires in 1999 but I would definitely spoil it for you. You really need to read the book. Jillian doesn’t alter anyone’s life for the worst, just her own. Yes, her own and Luke’s. They weren’t supposed to meet and date in high school. She was supposed to figure out a way to get back to the present but her relationship with Luke alters her future and his.
While I liked the sweet and tension building relationship when they were teenagers, it wasn’t until the present that I really cried buckets for them. My heart still hurts for them in some respects. Wasted years of not being together and complete non-communication at graduation leaves to a lot of heartache for them but also gives them time to grow up and realize what they want in life and that’s each other.
The road to their HEA is extremely messy, rocky and very emotional. While 50% of the book is when they were teenagers, the other 50% is when they are adults. I mean Jillian and Luke had really only one date, Prom, in their teenage years. Most of their time was spent at school. Luke knew he was goner when Joan, the pink flask was taking away from Jillian and ended her up in Detention with him. Again, I will spoil it for you when they were teenagers. But Joan, the pink flask is a character within the book.
One of the other things that was strong in the book were the secondary characters. Meg, Nate, Danielle, Josh, Grace, Carter and even Jillian’s parents were well thought out and didn’t intrude on Jillian and Luke’s relationship. They only added to the depth of the book and ultimately, Jillian and Luke’s happiness.
I would be remiss to mention all of the 90’s references, either movies, clothes and especially the music. Either Ms. Sweeney is a product of the late 90’s or heavily researched the period…she nailed it. I was 32 in 1999, so I remembered everything with a wince. LOL!
I can’t recommend Ms. Sweeney’s debut book highly enough. It starts out as a lighthearted look at having that do over in high school but mushrooms into fighting for a love that you never would have had if you HADN’T had the do over. Also, don’t worry about the smexy times…they are behind closed-door for the most part but the sexual tension and teasing are there and honestly, the scene behind the cafeteria with Dream Jillian…PRICELESS. Just saying…
I’d give more if I could. 😉
Tracy Sweeney graduated with a degree in Management and Finance but prefers writing ridiculous things to crunching ridiculous numbers. She lives north of Boston, Massachusetts with her two young boys. Her short stories have appeared in Literary Juice, Solecisms and Slice of Life Magazines. Her debut novel, LIVING BACKWARDS, was published in January 2013. She is currently working on her second novel which will be equally as ridiculous.
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