Hailey’s life is all about making a plan and sticking to it. It’s how she’s managed to get by since her mother left and her father fell off the wagon, and so far it’s working out just fine. Only she didn’t plan on her boyfriend staying back home while she went off to college, and she didn’t plan on not being able to get into all the classes she wanted. She didn’t plan on having to be partnered with a tattooed slacker in her music composition class, and she certainly didn’t plan on falling in love. Seems all her careful planning has led to the unexpected.
Judging Covers: I admit it. I only picked up this book because of the guy on the cover. For once, a character is portrayed by a guy with gauges and real tattoos, not just some Photoshopped tribal shit…although I suspect that skull bit might be Photoshopped, convincing as it may look. In any case, the couple on the cover come across as more genuine than the usual models, and that’s exactly why I decided to give the story a shot.
The Verdict: I was initially a bit put off by the characters’ prejudices. Hailey struck me as a control freak, not a complete snob, but her initial reaction to Chase was enough to have me second guessing my reading choice. His reaction to her was no more redeeming, though I suppose at that point, he was just feeling defensive. Obviously, I stuck it out, though, and within a couple more chapters, I was definitely intrigued. I could understand Hailey’s need to control everything — after all, that’s pretty much the only reason she turned out as well as she did. I could even understand why she stayed with boring Braxton for so long. And a part of me felt really awful for Braxton as well. I mean, they were going through what pretty much every couple does when college puts some distance between them, but with his family situation and the fact that he seemed oblivious to Hailey growing up and away from him, it was just sad.
Now Chase, on the other hand… I really, really liked him, mostly because of the way he would occasionally tease Hailey. It was a fun side that kept him from being some broody rocker guy. However, I did expect him to be a bit edgier than he really was. I mean, the synopsis said he didn’t play by the rules, but aside from being in a band and having some ink, he was pretty straight-laced. He wasn’t a big partier, didn’t skip clases, didn’t really do anything I would call breaking the rules. So yeah, while it was refreshing to read about a tatted up guy that wasn’t a walking stereotype, it wasn’t what I expected.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the way things went down with Braxton. Granted, I kind of wanted to slap Hailey for handling things the way she did, but where it probably would have been easy to throw some ridiculous conflict at them, the whole thing happened more like it happens in real life. People make mistakes, hold on when they should let go, hurt people by trying not to hurt them. It was a nice touch of realism that doesn’t play out in fiction that often.
All in all, it was a really sweet love story, if a bit predictable. But that’s why we read romances, right? We want to see opposites attract and happily ever after play out without too many real-life issues getting in the way. And Unfamiliar delivered that, complete with some miscommunication, a little angst, and a lot of realizing that what people think they want isn’t necessarily what will make them happy. I do wish that the story had gone on a bit longer, but only because it would have been nice to see these two really together for a while instead of just working toward it. I guess that just speaks to how much I enjoyed the story.