Book Review: Always You by Caroline Khoury

Publisher: Penguin
Format: ebook
Release Date: 20th April 2023
Genre: Contemporary – Romantic

DNF @ 20%

I really wanted to like this but unfortunately struggled so much to get into it, and just wasn’t enjoying it at all. It has an interesting premise, but the pacing was incredibly slow, the characters felt strange, and in large part I think the arc feels like it was rushed out – hopefully there will be further editing done on this between now and publication in April, and it might be a book I pick up in its completed form once it’s out.

Lina and Ash buried a time capsule when they were at school. As young adults, they went their separate ways, but when Ash returns, they have the idea of digging up the capsule. I’m not sure what happens after that point as it took such a long time to get there. When the novel opens, Lina has a ten-year FWB ‘relationship’ with her best friend, though seems happy to let everyone else think they have a full romantic relationship, even (apparently) said friend. She keeps insisting this arrangement works for them, but it’s clear he has deeper feelings for her.

This was point 1 that really bugged me. It made him as a character feel a bit spineless, and Lina, well, it made her feel cruel in some ways, as it gives the impression she’s kind of stringing him and his family along. It also felt a bit messy, as it was never clear what was actually going on between these two. The first 20% also felt like it introduced way too many questions, and the way characters talked around certain issues made this aspect feel forced. I’m happy for questions to be raised when starting a book, but when the answers are ones the first-person narrator knows, as well as everyone around them, it gets infuriating when it’s deliberately hidden from the reader.

It’s something very hard to pull off, and Khoury doesn’t quite do so here. It’s clear there’s supposed to be an air of mystery around why Lina and Ash fell out, why Lina and her brother fell out, etc (there’s definitely a common pattern there), but even when Lina apologies to Ash, it’s wishy-washy – “Sorry for what happened that night. That thing. You know.” Rather than (random example) “I’m sorry for yelling at you about not washing the dishes.” She discusses the situation around her brother with her dad, and it’s a similar thing, but here Dad is willing to travel out to see said brother, and suggests Lina needs to move on from whatever happened, and she…basically refuses.

It was also around this point things were just really, really bleak. As much as I’m a sucker for characters hitting and working through a low point, right now I just struggled with actually feeling sorry for Lina.

This has had some great reviews, so I strongly suggest checking these out before making a decision on this book, as this is, of course, just my personal opinion. But for now, looks like I’ll have to try and dig out a different friends-to-lovers book for the Disney Reading Challenge.

Thank you to Penguin for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley. Views remain my own.


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