Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris

{I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.}

Review, Curated Soundtrack and Excerpt

It's been awhile since I read a Young Adult novel that I really loved. However, The Natural History of Us by Rachel Harris might just kick me off on a YA reading binge. I adored this book. The Natural History of Us had a lot of really imaginative and fun things going for it. Peyton and Justin were each really well written. Their thoughts, feelings and internal struggles were clearly articulated and felt authentic. Beyond the characters, the plot and Harris' writing style really grabbed me from the first page.

The Good

  • I like books that go back and forth between the past and the present. This book's use of the technique was only assisted by the clever descriptions of the chapter's time period. "18 Weeks until Disaster-Freshman Year", "Aftermath-Freshman Year" and "Almost Free-Senior Year" are just a few of the delightful and informative time descriptions that greet readers at the start of each chapter. 
  • The way Harris brought the characters together in their senior year was so on point. I certainly had to do a fake-baby project in high school and, although I didn't have to do it with a partner, it was fun for Peyton and Justin to rekindle their romance this way. The assignment also added a maturity element to their romance. Justin and Peyton were high schoolers, but they needed to talk about things like a honeymoon and a budget. Small, "mature" elements like the conversations that grew out of the assignment go along way in my ability to enjoy young adult romances.
The Bad
  • Was it just me or were there a lot of characters in this book? For some reason I had trouble keeping track of all the gals...Lauren, Aly, MiMi, Faith...it was just too much. Besides Lauren's role, I'm not sure what purpose the additional female characters served.
  • SO MUCH TENSION. I get that tension is good. However, when I'm reading YA for some reason the tension stands out that much more. I'm afraid that the heroine's heart will just be broken beyond repair. OMG, I hope this isn't a Mom thing, I sound like Mom with this review...
The Unique
  • The Natural History of Us blended a lot of different sub-genres together. It was YA, but also a sports romance, and also kind of a western. Luckily, the different sub-genres did not seem to distract from the plot and the emotional connection of the romance. It was particularly lovely to see the sports and western elements of the book show us the stark contrast between Peyton and Justin's upbringings. Very clever, Harris, very clever.
The Playlist
  • The one music mention in this book was a locker room song for Justin. The baseball team plays "Hey Ya!" in the locker room and dances around. Well...I can work with that! The curated soundtrack for this book is collection of locker room "pump-up" jams.

A musical laugh sprang free, her happy smile trailing behind, and I was in heaven. “Until you,” she agreed. She squinted one eye and added, “Though you should know, I’m probably gonna be really, really bad at it.”
The expression on her face said she honestly believed it, and I couldn’t wait to prove her wrong. I leaned close to her ear and whispered across her skin, “That’s impossible.”

Peyton’s breath caught in a gasp, and I angled back to see her face.

That’s when the moment changed.

Sounds of the emptying baseball field fell away. The cool air around us kindled. The soft smile on her face faded as she looked into my eyes, shifting her gaze between them to see what I’d do next. Part of me wondered the same thing. 

I’d kissed dozens of girls before. Some I wanted, others purely because I was bored. But I’d never felt anything like this. Anticipation. Want. Fear. Unlike any other kiss I’d ever shared, this one needed to be epic. Girls remembered their first kiss for the rest of their lives, and I had to leave Peyton with something good to cling to later… when I inevitably screwed everything up.

Gauging her reaction, I slowly lowered my head and watched her soft lips part. Adrenaline surged through my veins at the swipe of her tongue. She nodded once, silently giving me permission, then closed her eyes.

Inhaling the scent of sunflowers, I kissed her. 

Soft and sweet. Those two words defined this girl. She tasted like sugar and her sigh was addictive as I brushed her mouth with mine. Again and again. I couldn’t get enough. Her hands clenched my wrists, tugging me closer. I could’ve lived in that moment forever. 

My restless hands memorized the curve of Peyton’s spine, the dip of her waist. Hers slid down my arms and around my back, fisting my shirt before slipping underneath. A jolt of electricity ran over my skin. When her nails raked down my spine, I jerked and groaned into her mouth. She was a fast learner.

I kissed the corners of her triumphant smile, licked the bow of her top lip, and nipped at the bottom one. She sighed again and sank in my arms, matching me kiss for kiss, playful tug for playful tug. And still, I needed more. I’d probably always need more. 

Tilting my head for better access, I grazed her cheeks with my fingertips. Traced the seam of her mouth with my tongue, silently asking for what I wanted. Hoping like hell she’d open up. Her answer was one shy flick. The shiver reached my toes.

No girl had gotten to me like this. Burrowed under my skin, held my interest, or had me thinking about tomorrow. Wishing I could be that guy. I lost myself in the strawberry taste of Peyton’s mouth, the sweet sounds in her throat, and I didn’t fully emerge until hours later. When I did, it was with one thought circling my brain:

How long until I mess this up?

About Rachel Harris

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New York Times bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls-next-door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Vibrant settings, witty banter, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books…and kissing. Lots of kissing.

An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict and homeschool mom, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romances, and LOVES talking with readers!

I rate this book:
What did you think of The Natural History of Us?
Are there any songs that remind you of Justin, Peyton and their HEA?

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