Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Lauren Clay is an Army Sergeant returning home from Iraq. Despite experiencing trauma while deployed Lauren is able to rush through her our processing and return home to her father and brother just in time for Christmas. Lauren also reunites with her ex-boyfriend, Shane, best friend Holly and her former music teacher. It is evident from the beginning that Lauren has changed but it takes a crisis to realize just how changed she is.
Lauren had a tough up bringing, her mother abandoned her and her brother Danny as young children and her father was bedridden due to depression. Lauren was the provider, cook and parent forcing her to grow up quickly and learn to hide her emotions. Her relationship with her brother was unique and real. His letters to her while she was in Iraq were great and a nice addition to the book, it brought their relationship to life.
I was bothered by her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Shane, from the first moments we meet him through the end. I have a feeling their relationship was always dysfunctional. I didn't quite get the inclusion of Shane's uncles in the story, I found them an unnecessary distraction and I couldn't really figure out who was who or if it mattered. I liked Lauren and Holly's relationship, it seemed to be the least strained and Lauren was most like her old self when with Holly.
I had several big issues with the novel however, first how the author tried to make the story a thriller/mystery by leaving out some information and teasing us with little bits of information. Secondly, there were some off little side stories, such as Shane's uncles, their intelligence and failure to leave the neighborhood. Finally, I found the jumping around in time to be distracting and hard to follow.
I didn't like ending, it felt rushed and any problems were solved to conveniently. I really disliked how we learned about Lauren's experience in Iraq and wish the author would have explored that more as well as her connection to Daryl. There were also details that were not cleaned up, such as hints that Lauren spent time in jail or that she could face charges for her conduct in Iraq. These things could have been explored more so we had a better sense of how and why Lauren had become who she was.
As a former female Army sergeant there were parts of this novel I strongly identified with, that felt very real. While I never deployed to Iraq, I have some sense of what it is like to try and transition between military life and civilian life. However, I think Lauren's transition could have been more fully explored.
I received a copy of the novel from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
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