180 Seconds

by Jessica Park

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Park before, and wow, does she have a distinctive style! In this contemporary New Adult romance, we are immersed suddenly into College junior Allison’s life at a small-town liberal arts college. Or, more accurately, we’re immersed into her inner emotional life as a wary, battle-scarred graduate of the USA foster care system who finds it terribly, terribly difficult to trust other people and hides from all social interactions in her dorm room despite being adopted by a loving father as a teenager and having one bestie (also foster care survivor) who supports her from afar.

I think that with the heavily angsty inner dialogue, allusions to traumatic assault, and unbelievable understanding and patience shown by her love interest, Esben, her adoptive father Simon, and fellow dorm friend Cam, this is most likely a polarizing book/style. You’re either going to gleefully jump into the hotwater bath of Allison’s emotions or you’re going to find it wearisome and unbelievable.

I’m all about the angst so I liked it. The headlong style of Allison’s inner voice just drew me in, and I wanted her to trust, and to enjoy her life, open up to friendship, and all that positive stuff so it was easy to follow along as she did so. In an amazingly sweet but slightly trite meet-cute, Allison gets pulled off the street to participate in a youtube stunt by a social media influencer who happens to go to her college: sit in a chair for 180 seconds with eye contact, saying nothing.

What happens at the end of that 180 seconds (and truthfully, Allison’s inner thoughts during that 180 seconds were the hardest to endure in terms of making me suspend disbelief) changes her life forever.

There’s some predictable tragedy at the end I saw coming, and Allison of course freaks out, but there is HEA to this with a tinge of bittersweet. Beautiful romance with sexual assault allusions and some descriptions of heavy petting but with most fade-to-black.