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Elena Monroe continues to have the ability to surprise me after every turn. Her books leave me questioning my own morals and what things like love and loyalty mean to me. The Best Years is another example of her ability to do this. As the first book of her Amherst Sinners series, I knew I would be settling in for a long haul. What I didn’t expect though, was to meet Layla, the main female character, and relate so much to her. I would imagine many readers delve into this series and immediately fall for the bad boy Ollie, which believe I did too, but Layla is an interesting character.
I can remember being in high school and feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin. Never feeling like you really fit in anywhere and going to parties where you watch everything from the sidelines. This is Layla. She had to grow up quickly, learn how to raise herself and do things to keep herself in line. Like focus on school and her part-time job. But college has arrived and she’s ready to move from FL to New England to try and make a new path for herself.
While I whole-heartedly believe she found exactly what she needed, I do not believe it was what she was expecting. Layla and her best friend B immediately hit it off with a very close-knit group of upper classman that have basements full of secrets. Ollie is a recovering cocaine addict and has never let himself really care about anyone in his life. This stems from being adopted and harboring feelings that he believes he doesn’t belong or really matter to anyone. Rather than let himself get thrown away by anyone, he keeps everyone at a distance. But Layla and her quiet ways eat away at Ollie’s hard exterior and they have to fight constantly to make their relationship work.
This is an element of their story that I love so much. Nothing has been easy for them. They are having to claw and fight their way to happiness, but those issues continue to pull their demons from underground all the way to the surface where they will be forced to either deal with their issues, or tear each other apart in the process. This is not an easy or a happy love story. It’s raw; it’s real; it’s beautiful in it’s agony.
You get to learn a lot about the entire group of friends throughout this book and it does leave you on a cliff hanger, propelling you right into the next book in the series: The Best Moments.