Time of Our Lives is a dual narrative story following Fitz Holton whose mother has an early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and Juniper Ramirez who feels suffocated by her many siblings and family members. The two are both going on a college tour, Fitz with his brother and Juniper with her boyfriend. Fitz wants to go to a college in their hometown to stay close to his mother so he can care for her, whereas Juniper wants to study in another city and get some distance from her family. When the two meet they have an instant attraction, different views on college aside.
Because this is a novel that does not have a strong plot, it relies heavily on writing, characterization, and romance to keep readers engaged, three things that missed the mark for me. I was really surprised when I wasn’t enjoying the author-duo’s writing style because I have in their previous two novels. I found the descriptions in Juniper’s parts overly stylized, and not quite matching with the rest of her perspective, and as for Fitz’s part, I thought all the uncommon words and their definitions were an absolute chore to get through. At some point I honestly stopped bothering to pronounce the words or reading their definitions because I felt they did not add to the story in anyway.
As for the characters, let’s start with Fitz. I knew I was going to have a hard time getting along with Fitz because I tend not to like characters who are rigid and strongly opposed to change
I blame Pat of Silver Bush for scarring me forever, but I thought if anyone could make this type of character work for me it would be this author duo. Obviously I was wrong, and I had a hard time sympathizing with him. I know I should feel sympathetic towards his situation but he was so bull-headed, judgemental, and unwilling to understand the situations and motivations of others that it made it hard to like him. Throw in the fact that Fitz is obsessed with words and is constantly using uncommon words in conversation, only to have to define them for the people he is talking to because they’re unfamiliar with the word, it just makes for a really unlikeable character.
Juniper was more relatable, but still not a character I liked. She also has a “quirk” in that she has an amazing memory and is often reminding people of something they’ve said ages ago in whatever argument she’s having, then also proceeds to be annoyed at people for not remembering. You’d think at some point she’d realize that there’s no point in arguing over something someone’s said ages ago because people and their opinions can change. Also, the way in which Juniper is able to get over things at the speed of light doesn’t make me quick to root for her. It made her character come off as disingenuous and unrealistic. So, all in all I found both characters extremely annoying and snobbish and they made it that much more difficult for me to enjoy the story.
As for the romance, I was not expecting Juniper to have a boyfriend when we start off the novel. Knowing that beforehand might have actually deterred me from picking this one up, because that’s not a scenario I enjoy reading from. I’m not saying it’s impossible to have a platonic relationship with someone you’re attracted to, I’m saying its a problem when you know the other person is romantically interested in you and you spare your partner of this detail. The most “meaningful” interaction between Fitz and Juniper takes place while Juniper is still with her boyfriend and it gave me feelings in my tummy, not of butterflies, but of discomfort. I also did not buy into their “instant connection” and thought the two had zero chemistry together, making the romance a fail for me.
This was actually a 3-star read for me until the plot got extremely predictable and unrealistic, and during what I didn’t realise were the last few chapters (I was reading an e-book) I wondered how things were going to wrap up with such few pages left. Turns out the answer is not well, the ending is extremely abrupt and unsatisfying. On the plus side, I was rewarded for my reading efforts by getting to watch Fitz get a much deserved telling-off and through an extremely awkwardly placed cameo from characters of If I’m Being Honest (my favourite novel by the duo). I was really happy to see said main characters
but also felt that scene was very random and did not need to be there. I really appreciate that the authors had sensitivity readers and talked to people who were in similar situations given they were writing about experiences different than their own experiences, and really the next book they put out can only be better than this one, right?
Have you read Time of Our Lives? If not, do you plan to? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Happy reading! 💗