the cover of this book is so pretty, i could just stare at it forever. i didn't, i read the book, and am more ambivalent about that. saying goodbye is a two-part story that i've only read part one of. so my take on this is incomplete, but also an argument against these kinds of duologies. i get the business model, but the reader experience is often frustrating given the stop in action.
as far as cliffhangers go, though, this one isn't bad. in some respects, you can say this is a complete story. samantha barnes meets ethan hunter at a frat party. she's already had three relationships that she considers mistakes and isn't looking for #4. she's studying japanese and has a semester abroad planned in january and doesn't need the commitment or drama of a relationship.
at first, ethan seems so different from the other college guys she knows. he's more mature, in part because he had to take a year off for reasons that aren't explained until later. things move quickly in their relationship, getting serious in ways that sam never intended to be. when he tells her he loves her, she says it in return. except as she is doing it she acknowledges that she doesn't actually feel that way about him.
and this is the hardest thing about sam, we spend all this time in her head, and we know how she really feels about people. but she doesn't treat them well. the author tries to portray ethan as controlling, and sam's friends claim he's borderline abusive, except that while he was certainly jealous and took the lead on planning most of their time together, the parts of the relationship you do see don't seem to be all that bad. it's clear that he is a guy who has some issues, but the reality is that sam is just not as into him, so he keeps trying harder and harder to make things perfect so that she won't leave him. and if she had actually expressed what she wanted, maybe things would have been different. the thing is she was attracted to ethan, and she wanted to sleep with him. and the sex was great. and then she found herself in a relationship where things meant more to him than they did to her and she didn't know how to be the bad guy in that scenario. but that's not a good excuse. especially given how all these people keep warning her to be careful with him.
so when things come to a head, alongside all this other heavy stuff going on with one of ethan's frat brothers and one of sam's sorority sisters, it all blows up impressively. there are reasons why ethan is the way he is. when he starts to go off the rails it's kind of obvious that something is going on with him, and sam's inability to fully comprehend his issues, as well as her inability to express what she really wants in her friendships and her relationships that exacerbate the situation to an untenable degree. and i think it's my ambivalence about sam given that she carries the book, that makes it difficult to discern my feelings about the part of the story i do have. my guess is that the second part will do more to redeem sam than the first one is able to.
**saying goodbye published on september 16, 2016. i received a reader copy courtesy of netgalley/backlit publicity in exchange for my honest review.