Saturday, April 4, 2015

REVIEW: Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler

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. 


Shel: You know how you LOVE someone on social media and you're scared shitless to read their work, especially if you interact with them? Well, I love Dahlia Adler. She's one of my twitter heroines. She's funny and smart and champions the same causes I do and she's so widely respected..and I was scared to read her novel and review it because what if she didn't like my review? What if ..what if..what if.. Court: We jumped in with both feet anyway didn't we? We ain't skurred. 

Shel: Well, I decided to say fuck it. I knew I'd like her novel and guess what? I didn't like it. I loved it. Court: Tell me how much you love it, love.

Shel: Here are my garbled thoughts about why I loved it and why you will too:

Shel: 1. I love humor and I know it's really hard to write so when I come across a writer who makes me laugh out loud on almost every page, I feel the need to share. Dahlia and her characters are hysterical. I cracked up early and often. Court: Laughter through pain, I say...and yes, it is hard to make something genuine and funny, and fun...and also have serious scenes too. So, I thought this was executed brilliantly, and I still am laughing at some of the great quotes we shared. This book is quotable, and I am a person who doesn't all...and I did a lot during this one. 

Shel: 2. Connor + Lizzie. They compliment each other so well. He's the voice of reason, typically, and she's the voice of confidence, typically; and when they aren't they reverse roles. It works. His ability to see her strength and offer her support and her ability to call him on his shit and offer him support are great. Even greater, their snark. Even greater? Their raw and uncomfortable honesty. Court: Lizzie has to grow up obviously, even when she doesn't want I think her maturity is amazing. I see myself in her. Not because of everything she does, but in her speak before thinking ways, and saying it like it is. I am inspired by heroines like these...and Connor was such a lovely surprise. I really enjoyed him. His texts. His inability to let Lizzie off the hook for things. 

Shel: 3. Cait + Frankie. These girls are each getting a book in this series and I'm so glad. I got a nice taste for who I think they are and hints about things I hope to come and I'm eager to see how this all goes down. I also love that Cait and Frankie love Lizzie and aren't the smothery stereotype BFF's we always see in NA. They're more true to form. They're busy. They love Lizzie and want to be there for her but they don't invade the story--they're the perfect secondary characters--there when they need to be. Does this even make sense? Court: AGREED 1000% EFFING PERCENT. And what did I tell you last night, that I am so in love with these characters because I want to be them, and have friends like them. Honest. Trustworthy. Independent. Let's you do your thing without judgement or fear...and that is how it SHOULD BE. OMG, I can't wait to read more from them. 

Shel: 4. Sexual tension...I liked it. The looks they exchanged. The desire. The kisses and touches. I'm getting hot just thinking about it. *takes a break, comes back* I like that they didn't jump into a sexual relationship; the intimacy they built was important. And when they did have sex? It was WELL WORTH THE WAIT. Court: I agree, because sex was the precursor to our story, and really caused a lot of problems with our heroine early really seeing her make a go at the whole adult thing, and relationship thing: be it with her brothers, or her friends or definitely Connor...was a major growth spurt for her emotionally. I liked that...because it added depth to the characters we were already rooting for. We love the sex, but we also like things other than the sex.

Shel: 5. To build a little on #1 and #4, writing is important, right? Court and I wade through a ton of meh-ness, or we have in the past..trying to NOT do that if we can help it, these days.Anyway.  This was so well written and edited. I kept thinking about all of the small observations Dahlia had her characters make...which tells me that Dahlia makes them and these observations and her characters' mannerisms breathed life onto every page. Court: Ohh. I accidentally clicked on pink, and by george I think I like it! Woot! Hahaha. But really, yes. Dahlia's a force to be reckoned with on Twitter with her humor, and I can't help but smile when I see the things she posts. She is a beautiful and smart individual, so of course her writing is too legit to quit. I was so impressed, and Shel and I - jaded individuals that we are - were so refreshed, and could NOT put this book down! I hope you won't either, if you get this far in our review!! 

Shel: 6. Tyler + Max + Nancy + plot = sweetness. These three were often the three who could pull on Lizzie's heartstrings (and therefore, mine). They made what could've been a disingenuous, snarky, embittered novel about the hardships of what Lizzie has to deal with something honest and challenging and sweet. Throw Connor into the mix and between the times of laughter, I'd feel my heart squeeze in sadness, hope, or melt with the tender moments. Court: I couldn't agree with you more. We see Lizzie's struggles and thoughts first hand, and sometimes I would even forget about all of the other characters...and then the plot (and Dahlia) would remind us with a slap in the face with some hard stuff. There are definitely struggles in this family, and their dynamic has changed so much...I couldn't even imagine how they were handling it all. Whew. 

Shel: 7. The Angst. This one is hard to explain. I had a few moments where I wanted to throat punch people..not all in one spot but sprinkled throughout. The worry and anxiety (FUCKING SOPHIE) kept me on my toes and waiting for the shit to hit the fan. UGGGGHHH. I made it to the end without hurting anyone, but barely. Court: YES. I was so afraid for how things would turn out...and that girl deserves to be you know what-ed in the you know what. A subtle reminder awful people do awful things, and then get away with it...but as long as my favs learned something I was happy. And Lizzie definitely did A LOT of learning.

Shel: And thank goodness Dahlia kept it real. She didn't try to make it a perfect ending; it was a perfect for now ending which I appreciate on so many levels. Court: Realism at its finest, but still a hopeful story about overcoming loss, and embracing love. Last Will and Testament will be sticking with me for a while, folks.

Shel: 8. I hate that I even have to mention this in this day and age. It's 2015 shouldn't be a thing. What am I talking about? I'm talking about having the main character be biracial. I love that it's not even a deal in the book (except for her mother's family--can you write that story Dahlia?!) and it shouldn't be. Don't we all have friends and families of other races/genders/religious and sexual preferences? I do. But is it evident in this genre? NOT ENOUGH. Hopefully one day it's not anything to be noted because it's the norm...but until then I like to mention it because I think it's important to note. Does that make me douchey? Am I making this sound wrong? I support diversity in books. Until our books are representative of the world in which we live, I feel it's important to support books who give us that. (I'm so clumsy...please forgive me if this is coming out all wrong). Court: It blows my mind still that this is a thing, because it doesn't change a single thing about how I feel about this story. It enriched it. Connor's heritage, and Lizzie's and all of the things they study in history is so fascinating to me...and I like learning more and more about other people and their culture, and what makes them...well, them. I love it, and I love that diversity in books is getting a chance to step up on the platform and show us what's up. I love it, a lot. Then again though I still live in a bubble where I think that a man would take a recommendation of any genre of book from me and enjoy it...but I've been proved wrong by that I need to step up, and clear my throat, and let our opinions fly, what say you?

Shel: To sum up:
I loved this book. I will buy and read and review every book in this series. 
Like funny, snarky, smart heroines?
Like smart dialogue and perfect comedic timing?
Like sweet, sensitive, hot TA's?
You will LOVE Last Will and Testament.

Court: Girl me too. You said you were loving it. I love when we both read and love stuff. SO I dropped every freaking thing to join you. And I spent time being late for work because I woke up and read, went to bed reading, carried my phone with this book open every where I went...and I loved every minute of it. The humor carried us through the hard times, but the writing, plot, and pace will definitely having us taking a bigger bite of what Dahlia is offering us!!! 

Shel: I've missed important things, I KNOW..but I'm nervous about Dahlia reading this and I cannot think straight so I reserve the right to add more later. Court: You're so cute! 

ADDENDUM: Thank you, Dahlia, for NO PLEATED PANTS. We should make this a PSA. Court can you make us a graphic?


I'm an Associate Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and I blog at The Daily Dahlia, YA Misfits, and the Barnes & Noble book blog. I also write contemporary YA (The Daylight Falls duology) and NA (The Radleigh University series). Rec-ing books is approximately my favorite thing in the universe, with macarons being a close second. Come say hi on Twitter, where I'm @MissDahlELama!

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1 comment

  1. I one-clicked this the other day and this makes me want to read it so much sooner!!


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