Review: Four Doors Down by Emma Doherty

Note: This ARC was provided by Enticing Journey Book Promotions in exchange for an honest review.

Four Doors Down is a debut novel from Emma Doherty and is a young adult (YA) friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance. Rebecca McKenzie and Ryan Jackson grew up together, having lived their lives joined at the hip from the time they were babies. Their families have always lived just four doors down from each other and Becca and Ryan were best friends…until things changed in middle school. Ryan’s entry into varsity sports led to his eventual popularity, not just with his fellow jocks but with girls as well. Becca slowly felt like the outsider instead of the one person who knew Ryan the most, until he basically made it clear that she no longer fit in with the rest of his crowd and pushed her out of his life. Over the years, she’s found her own circle of friends led by her best friend Sam and she remained close to Jake, the one friend she still shared with Ryan. Aside from the occasional teasing and taunting and basically and obnoxiously being in her way, Becca and Ryan have become nothing more than fellow high school seniors who barely tolerate each other’s presence. But suddenly, Ryan seems to be more attentive and more persistent in getting and keeping her attention. What has changed and why is it happening now?

I’m a sucker for stories like this because there’s a lot of history that’s already there between the main characters and part of the fun is the finding out why everything went wrong and how it’ll all be resolved as the story trudges on. Flashbacks usually come in the form of separate chapters or italicized portions in the text. Here, however, the flashbacks or those moments of reminiscing are part and parcel of the text, and they tended to be rather lengthy, making me wish that the formatting had been worked out differently so that the flashbacks stand out instead of merely blend in with whatever was happening in the present. In terms of what the flashbacks consisted of, I would have wanted there to be more of the good memories that Ryan and Becca shared rather than most of them be the negative ones that involved when Becca felt bad about something Ryan said or did or how Ryan had wronged her. With the story being told exclusively by Becca, save for the epilogue which was told from Ryan’s viewpoint—and that was a whole rehashing of everything that had just happened—this would have so benefited from simply having their entire story split between the opposing points of view of the two main characters. 

Becca was the poster child for cluelessness and irritatingly so. She exclusively pinned the blame of whatever irritation she was feeling on Ryan, even when the guy was trying to be genuinely nice to her, which made me wonder why the poor guy kept trying so hard. Becca was solely focused on one thing: her boyfriend Charlie, who was a selfish jerk and treated Becca like crap and yet she found it way easier to forgive him his transgressions than Ryan his…which you could actually see as Becca feeling more hurt by what Ryan did, no matter how minor, because he’s always meant more, though I’m sure she would never admit such a thing. To be honest, I saw this story as going in a completely different direction because Jake was mentioned rather prominently in the blurb, and I thought there was going to be this whole love triangle thing. This isn’t a bad thing, though, because it allowed the story to really be solely focused on what was happening between Ryan and Becca and how Becca was dealing was trying to reconcile the Ryan she once knew, the Ryan who she believed tormented her for years, and the Ryan who seemed to now want to be her friend and impossibly—right?—much more than she was expecting.

Now, for all my criticism, allow me to stress that, at the very core of this book was a sweet story of second chances. It was about wanting and needing that second shot at being the best friend that they both deserved to be and to have, as well as that new opportunity to be what they should have been all along. Becca and Ryan are teenagers on the cusp of becoming adults, so there are moments of immaturity and insecurity that lead to them acting like, well, teenagers, though I think it would be more accurate to say that they behaved like children a lot of the time. There is a, after all, a thin line between love and hate and these two were toeing that very line time and again. There’s a lot of cluing in that those around Becca help her out with and that leads to a great deal of hindsight musing and delayed epiphanies on her part. Again, I really wish that the story had given us Ryan’s POV alongside Becca’s. Maybe then it would have been far easier to understand what Ryan saw in Becca and why he persisted in sticking it out with trying to build the bridge that they both burned. Maybe for the sequel I’ll be keeping an eye on? Four Doors Down was a pretty promising debut for the author and gets three stars. ♥

Date Read: 09 July 2016

Learn more about Emma Doherty.

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