Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she's acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she'll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn't exactly Lizzie's biggest fan.
But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you're ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks... and that she'd like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he's not the kind of guy who'd ever reciprocate.
Until he does.
Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.
Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
If you guys know me, then you should know that I rarely read New Adult. Mostly, it’s because I’m not into the “bad boy meets virgin girl and they both undergo an angsty drama” thingy that a lot of them are unfortunately full of. Another reason is that I’m not really into reading sex scenes. I’m not against it particularly, but it’s just something I seek once in a blue moon and when I’m in the right mood for it. What’s interesting is that when I chanced upon this book, I wasn’t feeling like reading one under this genre at all, but after taking a sneak peek at the blurb, I just knew I had to get my hands on it.
An age gap? A taboo teacher and student relationship? An orphan girl suddenly becoming the guardian of two minor kids?
Dude, something like that just screams to be read.
And I did read it and I really liked it. And it’s not because I’m Filipina and the heroine is a Fil-Am – this book is legitimately awesome.
First of all, I’m not someone who is sexually active. I don’t seek sex when I go party and I don’t sleep around. That automatically makes Lizzie and I different, because she enjoys having sex and sees it as somehow as an escape from the problems that envelope her. But even though she and I were different, especially when it came to this certain lifestyle, I still couldn’t help but feel for her and understand what she was going through. Dahlia Adler gave her a voice that was equally riveting and raw, making her someone easy to relate to and sympathize with. It’s hard to lose your parents in a blink of an eye and be suddenly responsible for two other younger lives, just like what happened to Lizzie and her two siblings, because it forces you to grow up faster and put the needs and worries of other people before your own. And this book perfectly shows Lizzie’s struggle while trying to look for her place in this big, confusing, and demanding world.
I absolutely loved reading how Lizzie tried to juggle so many things in her life since the advent of her parents’ death – her dwindling grades, her grief, her brothers’ grief, the gossips around campus, and of course, her newfound feelings for the Teacher’s Assistant, Connor Lawson. Like I previously said, her narration had that perfect balance of rawness and honesty that were just so enchanting to read. We can really feel how confused and exhausted she was, but she tried her best to hide them because she had her brothers’ interests at heart. You’d think this to be emotional in a dark way, but it actually wasn’t (at least for me). It was rather emotional in a way that was more… heartfelt. Genuine. More human and not over-the-top.
Plus, she was a snarky, cool person to boot, and I loved how she would make fun of herself sometimes even if the situation weren’t exactly all rainbows and butterflies.
And the romance was simply awesome. I loved the pace it took them to realize their feelings. I loved how there were already so much tension between the two of them from the very first scene they had together. I loved how they liked each other while recognizing at the same time the repercussions of their feelings due to their current situation, and how they gave each other space because they both understood, and how they kept finding each other all the same. It certainly was refreshing for both of them to have doubts in their relationship in the beginning, not charging into it blindly like a lovestruck fool. When you love someone, you just don’t love parts of them that are convenient to you. You need to accept them wholeheartedly for who and what they are, baggage and all. And it’s great that this was one of the many things that this book emphasizes.
Plus, the sex scenes! They were hot, and I loved how it teased a lot because it was, in essence, “slow and steady”. If I’m not making sense, then you better read this book to find out :P
There were a few things that I wish were improved on, however…
For instance, the main heroine is a half-Filipina. While this makes me happy because I’m Filipina myself, I am quite disappointed at how the Philippine culture wasn’t given much of a highlight. In my opinion, if you make a character someone of color, it’s necessary to be able to give details that are representative of that person’s background, that can make someone from that country say, “Yes! This is truly WHO we are!” But aside from the fact that her mom made lumpia, and that the Philippines is largely Catholic and conservative (which is hardly true today with the more recent generations. Trust me, *I* know.), nothing else were really mentioned which was really a bummer. I really wanted to feel her being a Filipina, even just a little, but it felt like this fact was more in the background than anything else.
Also, while I loved the sibling interaction going in between Lizzie and her brothers, I wish her brothers’ grief were more prominent. I think it would be more traumatic to lose parents at a younger age (13 and 7) because it is during that time that they are dependent on adults and need a mother and a father to look up to. I know this is mostly about Lizzie and how she coped with all the crazy things going on around her, but it would have given the book an incredible amount of depth if we were given a look into how the kiddos were coping as well. Their struggle were mostly behind the scenes and more implied, which bummed me out a little bit because I wanted them to have their own stories alongside their sister, and not just have them be merely a background for Lizzie’s.
As for the ending, it certainly wasn’t what I expected. It was more bittersweet in my opinion, but I greatly appreciated the messages it were sending – that we can’t handle all our problems by ourselves. That no man is an island. That there are loving and caring people out there who are willing to share with our pain and lift them from our shoulders and carry them for us. That families and friends may walk different paths, but there will always be something that would connect us back together in one way or another.
And those messages were absolutely beautiful.
All in all, Last Will and Testament was a wonderful read for me. It’s not an angsty New Adult, but a more heartfelt and genuine story of a confused and lost girl trying to get back on her feet with some help along the way – from family, friends, and a man with a big heart. Dahlia Adler is definitely someone to watch out for! I know I’ll be reading her next books for sure.
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