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Review: Heat of the Moment by Lauren Barnholdt

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Heat of the Moment
Lauren Barnholdt

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 304 Pages
Publication: May 12, 2015
by Harper Teen

Before graduation, I promise to...learn to trust.

Each book in this paperback original series is told from the perspective of a different girl—Lyla, Aven, and Quinn—former best friends who wrote emails to their future selves back in freshman year about one thing they hope to accomplish before they graduate. When the emails get delivered on the first morning of their senior trip all three girls will spend the next three days trying to keep the promises they made to themselves four years ago. While each book follow’s one girl’s life-changing adventure, you have to read them all to get the whole story, including why they’re no longer friends and whether they can get their friendship back on track.

Lyla McAfee had all but forgotten the email that she wrote to herself freshman year and scheduled to be delivered right before graduation—the one promising that she’d learn to trust by the end of senior year. But when she receives it the first morning of her senior trip to Florida her life is sent into a tailspin. Soon she’s questioning her seemingly perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Derrick; her attraction to the school player, Beckett; and whether ending her friendship with Aven and Quinn, her former BFFs, was one of the biggest mistakes of her life.


Heat of the Moment is beautiful in its themes of love, trust, and friendship. I love novels where characters learn life lessons that help them grow, and Lyla's character and what she learns over the course of the novel reminds me of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Barnholdt portrays a side of high school life with which we're all too familiar in YA territory nowadays: the clubbing, the drinking, the hookups. Frankly, I'm not happy with how many novels in the YA market nowadays tend to portray this as the norm or at least all there is to life outside of school. It's not representative of everyone's high school experiences; there is so much more out there. In Heat of the Moment, however, I think it works because of how Lyla's expectations are broken down. She thinks that she needs to do all these things to make other people happy when it's pretty obvious early on that she needs to learn how to pursue her own happiness outside of other peoples' expectations. And this is part of what this novel is about.

That said, Lyla's transformation is not executed as well as it could have been. It isn't until at least halfway in the novel that I realized that Lyla and Derrick had a perfect relationship. It would have helped if this fact had been established from the beginning and we were given a chance to see that. As it is, my initial impression of Derrick was that he was a total jerk and that Lyla was desperately ignoring reality. I do feel like Lyla thought about sex way too often (most of her thoughts are about sex and how to seduce Derrick, or fantasing about Beckett). Her feelings, though, are understandable. I believe most anyone who has been in love only to have that relationship break apart can understand the nagging feeling that your relationship is slipping away and the inability to realize that you aren't happy anymore. It can be hard to face the current reality when your relationship has only brought good into your life.

It would have also helped if it was better established that Beckett was a player. It wasn't until maybe three-quarters into the novel when it was explicitly laid out for us that I realized he had a reputation. Up until then, I thought that he was a smart guy that happened to be hot and attracted girls. I didn't know that he went out girl after girl. Of course, he does do some things you shouldn't be doing with a girl that has a boyfriend. . . . That's one complication to the novel. The character relationships weren't clear for the most part, and they didn't start clearing up until towards the end of the novel. Even then, I still don't understand much of the characters' motivations behind their behavior. Especially Julianna.

I initially picked up this novel because I liked the themes of trust and friendship. However, the friendship element doesn't look like it'll be pursued much until the second novel, and Lyla doesn't really sort through her trust issues until the end of the novel (though kudos to her for attempting). I'll probably read the second novel if I get the chance, however, because I'm curious to see how Barnholdt continues the series. That said, if you're looking for a novel with similar themes and less of the mature content, Before I Fall has a more multi-dimensional heroine whose growth is explored in greater depth. For a similar beach read with the mature content, Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman has great themes (though it does have its own flaws). I have linked my reviews of these two novels below. Pardon the brevity of my Before I Fall review. I wrote it early into my blogging career.

A review copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 3.5 stars

  • N/A

  • Language (cussing)
  • Alcohol, Clubbing
  • Kissing
  • Making Out
  • A lot of talk / thoughts about sex and hookups
  • Some aggression and threat of violence

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