Title: 15 Years To Life
Author: Regina Bartley
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
When I first came across the synopsis for this book, I was hooked.
I had no idea how it would all play out given that I’d never read anything by the author before, but the originality of the plot, how unlike anything I’d been reading up until that point it was, demanded that I stop everything, get my hot little hands on it and read.
I’m extremely glad I did. It was worth every minute spent.
Based on the fact that this book deals with prison, I went into this expecting it to be a darker read. Rougher around the edges and raw. It was raw at times, but that dark element I expected never came. This is where the author taking a subject and putting a unique twist on it comes into play.
Brian wasn’t a hardened criminal. He wasn’t a violent guy that took pleasure in hurting others. He was an eleven year old kid that loved his sister so much he did the only thing he could in the moment in an effort to protect her. And while I know it’s wrong, I felt much like Blaine (his sister) did here. I couldn’t hate him for it. I couldn’t fear him or believe him to be anything other than a kid that when his back was up against the wall, did what he thought was right to set things right.
Right from the first couple of pages when you get a glimpse of Brian on his day of release (but still inside), your heart breaks for him. The anxiety over leaving the only way of life he’s known for twelve years and heading out into the unknown. How he breaks. Every damn thing he felt like a punch to my gut as I felt it all. I understood him and cared about him. I was invested.
What I didn’t expect, with as emotionally attached as I got right away was the level of humor that was present throughout this story. I spent a good portion of this, when my heart wasn’t breaking for everyone involved, laughing my butt off.
Brian going away at eleven made it so that when he came out, he may have looked like a man in his twenties, but he was still that inexperienced little dude in terms of life experience. It made for some really funny moments that honestly, I was super thankful for given the heaviness of the story as a whole. (His first sexual experience and his Spongebob obsession anyone? Lol)
I went into this book expecting it to be a romance, but what I walked away with was so much more. I took the romance with me sure, but it’s not what’s gonna stand the test of time for me where this book is concerned. I took his coming of age. I took away his growth. I took away his pain as he had to learn to live in a world that he was in no way prepared for when the cell doors finally released him.
I took away the familial bond the most. The relationship that he had with his sister Blaine, how heavily they relied on each other both before and after he was released, it was a powerful thing. It moved me. Sure, it might not be the healthiest relationship in the world and the both of them realize this on their own and together throughout (which is where even more growth comes into play), but the bond itself was beautiful. I truly believed that he loved his sister and vice versa.
And don’t even get me started on the tears I shed reading the letters they wrote one another. *sighs* did I mention how happy I was for the humor in this? Lol
It should be mentioned that there are two different angles to this story. There are the present chapters (which make up a good portion of the book) and then the ones from the past. Ones that the author took care in placing throughout and never once interrupted the flow of the present story for me. I was thankful to see this insight into Brian and Blaine’s life before the shit hit the fan instead of just being told about it in passing. It was a wonderful touch to an already emotionally gripping story.
I wasn’t as gripped by the romantic aspect of this, I have to admit. The up and down and back and forth with Madeline with how attached I was to Brian, well it was a little much for me. I had a harder time believing in them, but I will say that the chemistry between them was off the charts. If there wasn’t so much push and pull, I have to say I would have rallied behind it a whole lot more than I did. Though by the end, the way it all played out worked for me.
If you’re looking for a book that will get you in the feels (both humorous and emotionally gripping) or ones that don’t read quite like the rest (are unique and in a class all their own) then this is the one for you. If you’re a fan of books with growth, change, love and acceptance than this again is a book you’ll love.
I know I did.