Back to Us by Theresa Roman Release Date: July 28th, 2015 Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance Format: Ebook Where You Can Find It: Amazon | Goodreads
**I received an advanced copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.**
Synopsis: Abandoned by her parents at fourteen, Jessica knows what it means to struggle. She’s vowed that getting her degree is the only thing she has time for, until a summer internship brings Justin into her life.
But Justin has scars of his own. A tour of duty in Afghanistan has left him with wounds. A medical discharge from the Navy leaves Justin struggling to make sense of his new reality. Then he meets Jessica; but can the two of them leave their pain in the past and make a future together?
Fighting for want you want despite the hardships you have faced is definitely the over-arching theme in this novel. Both Jess and Justin have been hit hard by what life has decided to throw at them and yet they keep on going after what they want or doing what they are passionate about. You learn very early on just how strong and determined Jess had to be once her parents abandoned her and she was put in the system. She got into college where her focus now went to finishing and earning her degree in the hopes of becoming a teacher afterwards. That focus leads her to her internship at the community center where she crosses paths with Justin, the basketball coach, and in that moment her plan for the future shifts dramatically.
Though you do not realize the degree of hardships Justin has had to face until it is revealed in the novel which, was a complete shock to me and definitely brought an unexpected element to the story that I quickly embraced, he is also fighting to maintain the normalcy of his life after what has happened. Of course that normalcy is shattered once he and Jess meet and slowly start to get close to one another. His fears and insecurities of how he will be perceived by Jess when she finds out the extent of his injuries leads him to first fight against his feelings for her. That of course is a lost cause as the two become closer and closer, resulting in them accepting what has happened to each one another in their pasts as well as between them as the novel progresses. Never giving up the fight for one another after all the obstacles and issues that arise, Jess and Justin are finally able to be together, the “us” they were from the very beginning.
Stepping into Jess’s shoes and taking in the full extent of what happened to her when she was a teenager allows you to see just how strong she is. Her parents ABANDONED her when she was 14, they just left and went back to Croatia neglecting her and her brother Mike because they saw them as burdens. That and the fact that afterwards, Jess was put in the foster system where she lived in a group home until she moved into the dorms for college is unbelievable because despite that hardship Jess was still able to move forward into college where her focus was turned towards getting her degree. Her determination and fortitude is so admirable you couldn’t help but rally behind Jess hoping she would finally get what she wanted after all she has been through.
With the degree of struggles and obstacles that both Jess and Justin have faced it is not surprising to find that this novel is definitely full of emotions. Jess and Justin’s romance begins slowly and is adorable to read but their relationship is not immune to certain factors that lead to it hit a few bumps, some larger than others, along the way. *SPOILERS* Justin’s injuries and how he is a double amputee, having lost both his legs from below the knee due to an IED when he was in Afghanistan, definitely kicks things up a notch on the emotional scale. Not only did it completely surprise me but it also allowed me to look past Justin as someone who has a disability and see him how Jess saw him from the very beginning. By revealing the extent of his injuries a little later in the novel, you are able see him as this guy who is sincere and caring towards Jess and not as someone who lost his legs while overseas in Afghanistan. I really appreciated that reveal because it definitely allowed me to look past what has happened to Justin and focus more on his relationship with Jess.
Despite all this, there were a few things with this book that did not sit right with me. The pacing of the novel felt a little off to me especially when at times it seemed like things happened just a little too fast between Jess and Justin in regards to the unfolding of their relationship. Also, though I am glad of how Justin’s character turned out at the end of the novel, his issues and insecurities reared their ugly head a few too many times to the point that I found him to be a little annoying and just a tad too protective of Jess.