I really like Armentrout's writing and even though I've only read her supernatural romances, I was looking forward to a troubled contemporary.
Mallory has had an insanely tough life, growing up in an abusive foster home. She had basically been conditioned to be as quiet as possible to avoid beatings, and has come a long way, difficult road with basically re-learning social skills. Finally though, she was confident to attend high school and there she meets (again) Rider, the boy who used to protect her, hide her, take the beatings for her.
Rider still has a hero complex, see's Mallory as "Mouse", the little girl in need of protecting. And although she has grown up now, Mallory likes him taking care of her, she does sometimes still need it and it is comforting to see Rider all grown up too. However, as they get closer, it becomes apparent that it is still a slightly damaging relationship as it takes them back to a horrible past. Mallory had been able to escape that life but Rider hadn't so much and this lack of confidence in himself is clear.
As it happens, a very cruel accident forced Mallory and Rider apart, but it takes a while to learn the details of it. But as they grew up differently after that, we see that while Mallory has more obvious problems, they both have issues that go beyond the surface. And getting to know the new them becomes another issue, as Rider lives in a tough part of town and his foster brothers are tangled in trouble.
I really liked this. I liked how Armentrout showed that some relationships are just ingrained into us and that something might seem good but can be damaging to our self-worth or confidence. And I especially liked how Mallory learned to put herself first, because as much as she loved Rider, she needed to know her mental health was just as important. Big parts of it was all sweeping romance, but it dealt with difficult domestic issues as well as gang violence, mental health and the foster care system.
Published 31st May 2016 by Mira Ink. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.