Category/Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Jen Frederick
Publication Date: 4/28/13
Source: Received from author for review
Rating: 4.5 stars
For four years, Grace Sullivan wrote to a Marine she never met, and fell in love. But when his deployment ended, so did the letters. Ever since that day, Grace has been coasting, academically and emotionally. The one thing she’s decided? No way is Noah Jackson — or any man — ever going to break her heart again.
Noah has always known exactly what he wants out of life. Success. Stability. Control. That’s why he joined the Marines and that’s why he’s fighting his way — literally — through college. Now that he’s got the rest of his life on track, he has one last conquest: Grace Sullivan. But since he was the one who stopped writing, he knows that winning her back will be his biggest battle yet.
This is a mature New Adult book. I see that it is classified as YA - not sure how to change that - but I wanted to be clear that it has explicit love scenes in the story.
Undeclared has such a great premise: Grace, a high school girl, is assigned to correspond with a soldier. She is matched with Noah, barely out of school himself, and overseas. Thus begins a friendship that lasted four years, and ended when Noah turned Grace down when she admitted she had feelings for him and wanted to meet. A heartbroken Grace can't forget Noah. After two years, Noah is stronger, ready to find Grace, and win her heart back.
So between the potential of a truly special love story, and the fact that a few of my favorite bloggers (Hi, Courtney!) loved Undeclared, my choice was obvious. And boy, did it pay off.
Undeclared begins with Grace and Noah's first letters to each other, then moves ahead to six years later, in the present. I was a bit worried that jumping that far ahead would take away from Noah and Grace's bond, but that didn't happen. Chapters throughout the story opened with their letters, giving glimpses of who they were at that time and showing how their feelings for one another change and grow over the years. Grace's letters were always so supportive and Noah's broke my heart. This took me back to writing my cousin when he was stationed in the Middle East. Seriously, let's all go out and hug a service man or woman today, okay?
I think what you feel on my letters is dust. I'm bummed that it is on my letters to you. They say it's sand, but it's finer than that. It's like the particles that make up the sand, and it is everywhere. When you get home on leave and wash for the first time, you have to stand under the water for at least twenty minutes, all the while watching the black dust collect and pool at your feet, creating coffee-colored water that swirls down the drain.
I don't think you can ever fully erase the dust from your belongings. It sticks with you no matter how long you let the water wash over you or how many times you wipe it away. Like the tension I have in being weaponless and exposed back home, the dust is one of the many things I'll carry with me when I'm out. ~46%
What I loved most about Undeclared was Noah and Grace. Grace, who practically grew up loving Noah, has never spread her wings. She's always played it safe. After having her heart broken, Grace is even more hesitant. Though she's always loved Noah, once he comes back into her life, she doesn't just accept that. He must prove himself to her. As someone who has only put her heart on the line once in her life, I totally get Grace. I love that for as much as she wants to be with Noah, Grace makes him work to earn back her faith.
And Noah? Sigh.... Just for the fact that anyone who risks their lives are pure badass, Noah immediately had my respect. But then you find out about his childhood and the fact he's never felt good enough, and I melted. Add to that the fact Noah has spent so many years loving Grace, and the past two working to make himself into a stronger man, and I was in Swoon City.
The bond Grace and Noah share, the dedication, and faithfulness to that connection despite the unspoken feelings and distance, won me over. It wasn't based on physical attraction, but on a deeper, soulful level. And even though it is tested many times over by hesitation and insecurity after they reconnect, this is the type of love that will always find a way. The romantic in me could not get enough!
I feel like I've said too much about Undeclared, but also not enough. Jen Frederick told a great story, and I didn't want to let these characters go after the last page. The books that make up the Woodlands series will each center around Noah's roommates. First up will be Unspoken, about Noah's best friend Bo (Peep!), whom I didn't even mention (FAIL!), but trust me when I say that Bo is a fantastic character and you will want to read his book. The Woodlands series got off to a great start, and based on what I think is coming ahead, will continue to be a must-read series.
The Marines may have made me a man, but Grace made me human. No matter what I told her in my letters, she accepted it and wrote me back something funny or sweet. She made me realize I could have more if I wanted it. And I wanted more bad. ~ebook, 17%
I looked back at Grace. She appeared adorably awkward, folding and unfolding her arms as if she didn't know what she could touch. Everything, I said silently. I would show her instead. ~ebook, 81%
The Woodlands Series
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