180 Seconds – Jessica Park – Skyscape – Published 25 April 2017
After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.
One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.
When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.
Wow. Wow. God save the Queen. God save the Queen wow. Whatever that was I was not expecting that. That!!! That mess of human emotions that was so achingly, amazingly, indulgently perfect. I want to read it again. Indulge and fall in love and feel it all again. I melted and laughed and overheated and cried buckets. This review may not be coherent because of reasons. Many reasons.
Allison is starting her junior years of college. She is happy her roommate never shows and is content to spend her college experience as she always has – hiding in her room, studying and blocking out the world. Her sixteen years in foster care taught her to never expect anything, to protect herself and build the walls around her heart as high and thick as she can. It’s safer to keep everyone out, even her adoptive father. Everyone except her best friend Steffi. And then, Allison finds herself pulled into a social experiment, where she unwittingly spends 180 seconds with (unbeknownst to her) social media celebrity Ebsen Baylor. 180 torturous, amazing, emotional-roller-coaster seconds. Her reaction: run. Steffi encourages her to chase after what could be and to be brave, but Allison isn’t sure if it could ever be worth the risk.
Okay, I realise that I should have picked up on the fact that the characters form a relationship after just 180 seconds. Should I have suspected insta-love? Well, actually, it was good I didn’t because this is so much more than insta-love. Yes, Allison and Esben have a connection during their 180 seconds. Yes, it gets intense. But that is only the very start of their story. Allison reacts to the whole thing by running. Never once does she deviate from her character. She is shy, unassuming, emotionally distant and remains that way even after first meeting Esben. I have to admit my heart was pounding, both during their 180 seconds and after as Allison reflects, freaks out, stresses, and tries to forget the whole thing even happened. She hates the attention she receives as the video of the experiment goes viral. Hates how it makes her feel. Thank goodness for Steffi otherwise the whole thing would have ended with those 180 seconds. Instead, the reader is treated to the romance of the century. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but still.
I loved how it takes those things like insta-love that often trigger an immediate reaction and assumption from readers (guilty), and tackles them head on. Esben and Allison even discuss insta-love. I love Esben’s comments about it. Why can’t it exist? And this book does the same thing with other topics just like that. Allison and Esben slowly and carefully build a relationship. But as well as the romance, there is so much going on in this story. Like the issues of foster care. I am a moth to flame for stories that contain characters who have experienced or are in foster care. Allison deals with so many issues around belonging, trust, commitment, and celebration. I thought Allison was a hugely authentic character, especially in her social anxiety. So many times I was thinking, “yes, it’s just like that” or “I do that too!!”. And Esben. Wow. Perfection? But just before I thought he was too perfect we learn he is just as human and loveable as Allison. And then there is Allison’s best friend, Steffi, and her adoptive father Simon and Esben’s sister. I loved how multifaceted and wonderful this story was.
180 Seconds is a fantastic crossover between young adult and new adult. The main characters are a few years into college, but the tone and content of the book retains that young adult delicacy and innocence that I love.
And yes, sometimes this book seemed impossible or incredulous or crazy but it turns out I kind of love impossible and crazy. I highly recommend this book for readers who love romance, stories of overcoming hardship and learning to trust again.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: New adult fiction.
Themes: Romance, friendship, social experiments, foster care, parents, family, belonging, social anxiety, College,
Reading age guide: Ages 16 and up.
Advisory: Sex scenes with minimal details, implied sex scenes, and sexual references. Coarse language, sh** (8), as***** (2), bi*** (1).
Published: 25 April 2017 by Skyscape.
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 300 pages.