ARC Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

ARC Review: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler
Last Will and Testament
by Dahlia Adler

Genres: New Adult, Romance
Publication date: December 9, 2014
by Dahlia Adler

Format: eARC



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.

Rating Report
Overall: 3.9
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A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena


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  1. says

    I’ve gotten so wary about NA recently, but I keep hearing rave reviews of this one. The slow burn but sexy romance sounds delicious, and the fact that these two actually thought before they jumped into it. I think I need to check this out! I am a little worried about the bittersweet end, however. But sounds like it was worth it.
    Lauren @ Love is not a triangle recently posted…Early Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly BlackMy Profile

    • FayeFaye says

      Those reviews you speak of have told the truth ;) The hype is real – at least, for me anyway. Haha. I love how these two really considered the weight of the relationship before charging in. Some would just go blindly without thinking about it and would a bond with that person could mean and it’s certainly refreshing to see a change of pace here!

    • FayeFaye says

      Aw, in that case you may not like Lizzie as she’s a real party girl O.O I still hope you’ll give it a chance, though!

    • FayeFaye says

      Definitely non angsty! I mean, it has some angst, of course, but not in the usual exhaustive form we see most of the time in this demographic. It was an angst that we could really relate to and that is very familiar to us, thus, the “genuine vibe” I got from it! PILI YOU HAZ TO READ DIS!

    • FayeFaye says

      I know! I’m so happy to find books to love even in demographics I’m not really accustomed to :) That’s how you grow as a reader as well!

    • FayeFaye says

      Thanks, Madiha! I really connected to the MC even though we are so different from each other. Her struggles just felt so human, you know? Thanks, girl!

    • FayeFaye says

      Me, too, Kimberly! I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to “get” her much knowing how different both of us were, but alas, that wasn’t an issue at all ;) I can totally understand why you would wish that, though. So many NA books have such characters, but I feel like Lizzie here was written just right!

  2. says

    Faye have I ever mentioned that I absolutely LOVE your reviews? Because they are always so detailed, passionate and brilliant. This book sounds like it wasn’t your stereotypical new adult and it sounds like it has quite a lot of depth. Despite being disappointed in the lack of Filipino culture, it still sounds like Lizzie’s struggle was real and really brought it to life. I hope this means you’ll be reading more New Adult books, because I’d definitely love to read more of your reviews on them! xx
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  3. says

    This is the one you were telling me about! Okay now I want it. REALLY BADLY. I don’t particularly love reading sex scenes either (I mean, a lot of NA’s are just sex filled books and those aren’t fun) but a taboo student-teacher relationship? <—That king of reminds me of Unteachable by Laeh Raeder (which is SO GOOD BTW) but what makes this one different is how tragedy in responsibilities are what's tying them together. Lovely review! I'll be looking for this one!
    Lily recently posted…Amour Amour: ReviewMy Profile

  4. says

    Despite being a romance reader, I’m not a big fan of NA too. Just too angsty and yes, the sex scenes can be way too much even though I’m all for characters having sex. And admittedly, I’m not a big fan of student-teacher romance so I’ll probably not read this book but it’s pretty cool to have a Half-Filipina main character. I’ll probably recommend this to friends, I think there’s a big chance they’ll enjoy it as much as you did ;)

    I missed you patotoes so much!!!
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  5. says

    I’ve burnt myself out on NA so I don’t read it very much ether and only when highly recommended. This does sound like one I would really like though. A teacher/student romance is a fav of mine (like not those creepy ones but you know what I mean lol). Lizzie also sounds like a fab MC that I would def connect with, and I like that it’s not all about sex and actually has some relationship focus outside of that including family etc. Great review, Faye!
    Giselle recently posted…Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis-GravesMy Profile

  6. says

    I haven’t read too much of NA that wasn’t just YA with more sex, but I’m always on the look out for books to prove me wrong. I’m not into the whole student-teacher stuff, but this review makes me want to check it out. I’m a sucker for characters overcoming tragic deaths. xD Plus, hooray for diverse female lead! The lack of anything concretely Filipino is disappointing, but I appreciate the attempt.

    Great review, you’ve convinced me to put this on my tbr list.
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  7. says

    Ooh, I really need to give this one a try! I’m like you — I pretty much hate everything New Adult because there’s just zero originality most of the time, and bad boys? Ugh, so last season. Also, I can’t stand the female protagonists and how NA books always seem to need steamy sex scenes and shitloads of drama. I’m fine sticking with my YA contemporary novels, thank you very much. But I gotta admit, this one sounds different, and somewhat thought-provoking. And you did give it four stars.

    Lizzie kinda reminds me of Lily from Addicted to You, a NA book I actually enjoyed. Lily’s a sex addict, and even though that in itself would have been more than enough to distance us from each other, the authors did an incredible job with making her sympathizable. So I have a feeling that I’m going to love Lizzie’s narration just as much, too. I’m all for honesty and rawness!

    Too bad the other characters seem to have taken a backseat, though I don’t think that’s too big a problem considering how emotional this book sounds already. I wonder how the romance was, though? Most of the time I dislike romance in NA because it’s overly dramatic and so generic. Hoping that that wasn’t the case here! >< Anywhooo, awesome review as usual, Faye! Thanks for putting this one on my radar. We definitely need more beautiful New Adult books like this!
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  8. says

    It’s lovely to see you back with the spuds reviewing Faye, we’ve missed you! <3

    You had me at rawness. I stopped reading NA for that reason, a lack of realism and too much ridiculous drama. The fact that she's in a position where she HAS responsibility and not just another virgin looking to get her rocks off. Its books like this one that make me want to try NA again, but will need to be a lot more selective. I might just start with this one.

    Thanks for the brilliant review and recommendation Faye <3
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  9. says

    If you say that this new adult book is awesome, then I should definitely try it out! haha

    I’ve been reading a lot of NA lately, and I have to admit that I am growing bored of the genre (that’s why I’ve been infused with dark romance and watching Legend of Korra lately), I hope that I get to like this like you did Faye! I need a great read soon :D

  10. says

    ROLF! Faye your description of NA was to the point! I couldn’t do it better than you I mean that’s so awesome. But still I’m so happy that NA managed to surprise you. I’ll tell ya a little secret, I think that NA faeries put some spell on us cause I’ve been enjoying NA lately. So think about that. Anyhow amazing review, girl :)
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  11. says

    You know how I am about new adult Faye (I have the same issues with it as you do), but I think you just managed to convince me to possibly give this one a try. It sounds like one of the less-angsty books in the genre, so it’s probably a good introduction to the genre for people like you and I who aren’t really into it much, you know? And I’m so glad to hear that the main character is so relatable, even if she is completely different from you. Thanks for sharing, and, as always, fabulous review! ♥
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  12. says

    I wish this book touched more on the Filipino culture as well, I’m very curious to learn more and read about characters that are not American…you know. I do like the occasional NA myself, although like you, only when I suddenly feel like a sexy read. I tend to lean more towards fantasy, so contemporaries and contemporary NAs tend to get ignored more often than not.

    This book seems to have a wonderful plot, and it’s crazy to think how fast the main character had to grow up because of what happened. I love the fact that you described the romance as slow burning and that each person knew about the repercussions. So good to see that they’re mature in their decisions, and that sometimes love just overtakes common sense. Those are the types of loves I want to read about. Where both parties are smart, but can’t help but fall into the trap of love.

    Wonderful, wonderful review Faye! I will certainly be adding this to the TBR! Thanks for the awesome review xx
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  13. Laila BC says

    i’m in a slump this week Faye…so i am stocking up books to read when the mood will finally strike me again…this is quite a high praise from you regarding this NA genre…i do read a lot of these books and yes i do know that most of those books are drama angst filled and i will check this out and put this on my tbr :)

  14. says

    I have an ARC of this, and I better kick myself to finish all the other ARCs that I have to finish soon! Because I can’t get to wait to this one. I don’t read NA much either, but hey, since you rated it so well, I’m really going to bump it up the list. I’m a little sad that the whole half-Filipina concept wasn’t fully explored, though. I mean, honestly, if you’re going to put a different culture in a book, then there should be at least a bit more in-depth, proper exploration of that culture, to educate others and to let others understand that culture.
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  15. says

    Like you I don’t really read NA not because I don’t dig sex scenes, I just don’t seek them out. I think it’s because NA seems to be a mostly romance genre and I’m not usually in a strictly romance mood, actually I rarely ever am. I like it being part of the story, not being the main part. This does sounds like a good one tho.
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  16. says

    I need it. Your review has definitely convinced me, this book definitely screams to be read from just the synopsis but I love how you described the story and the main heroine. “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.” THIS. I’m so glad this one turned out to be more than that. Too bad it didn’t explore more of the Philippine culture though, I would have wanted that as well. Bittersweet endings always get me! Great review, Faye :3
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  17. says

    Ever since I read Unteachable by Leah Raeder, I’ve been on the lookout for a solid teacher-student romance and can’t wait to give this one a shot. I’m so glad you enjoyed it and though I’m disappointed the cultural factor isn’t explored in more depth, I feel as if the rest of the novel likely makes up for it. Wonderful review! :)
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  18. says

    Ohhh, you’ve totally sold me!! 0.0 I confess…I avoid NA like the plague. The ones I’ve read have been totally cheesy and, eh bleh I’m just not really interested in reading sex scenes. Particularly when the book is like 80% sex and 20% crappy lovey speeches. BUT! I fear I’ve had a bad introduction to NA! This sounds really interesting the premise kind of intrigues me toooooo and. WELL. I’m going to goodreads. *nods*
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