My rating: 2 of 5 stars
After including Bailey Flanagan and Cody Coleman as point-of-view characters for around eight to ten books, Bailey and Cody are finally getting their own book series. This book opens with Bailey and Cody in different worlds. They have parted, not of Bailey’s choosing, and are in completely different places. Will they find their way back together? Will they move on? What will happen in their lives in the meantime?
Only the author knows the answers to these questions at this point in the series, and she’s withholding them at this point. The characters spend the entire book living separate lives and separated, just as they spent most of Take Four. So, if this series is supposed to be about them, it is off to an incredibly slow start.
Also, some of the things that I’ve found charming about the Baxter books are not a part of this series so far, and I felt like the book crawled. It took me a very long time to make it through, and if I weren’t so committed to the series at this point, I would have probably laid this book aside about halfway in.
The continuity errors between Take Four and Leaving were another thing that drove me crazy. As a small example, Ashley’s mom is said to have died 4 years earlier. Ashely and Landon’s son Devin is 5 years old, and Ashley’s mom died within days of Ashley and Landon’s wedding. I hate when the author starts getting the facts of their characters mixed up in their own heads, and I especially hate when that happens and it isn’t caught in editing. . . .And that’s just the beginning of the continuity errors. Many things between Bailey and Cody, and even Cody’s job are portrayed completely differently between Take Four and Leaving. I really hate those errors more than I can even explain.
Another thing I missed were the multiple perspectives. This book is split between five characters and and I missed having additional voices. For example, Brandon Paul was a lead supporting character in this book, and he has had point-of-view chapters in previous books, but he does not have a single point-of-view sentence in this book. I would have also liked point-of-view chapters from Cheyenne, Tara, Cole, Jim and any of the other main characters in this book. I did not enjoy spending such huge blocks of this book in Bailey and Cody’s head.
Having said all that, here are my takes on each of the main point-of-view characters. There will probably be spoilers in this section, so read at your own risk:
Bailey: Bailey is, as usual, a mess. She’s got shifting feeling for Cody and for Brandon, and even mentally explores Matt a little bit before finding out he’s not available. She doesn’t know what she wants! She also auditions, and ultimately wins a part on Hairspray in Broadway, fulfilling her dreams (at the ripe old age of 21), and necessitating a move to New York at the end of the book. She cleans out her room, promotes a movie with Brandon Paul, appears on The Tonight Show, and generally drifts through her life one text message and thought of Cody at a time. Her scenes with Brandon are the highlight of this book, and I enjoyed them, but would have loved to have seen some from Brandon’s point-of-view.
Cody: Still obsessed with Bailey even though he’s completely changed his life so that he never has to interact with her again. He begins the book as an assistant coach with a small high school football team, and by the end of the book he is head coach of the school. He’s found a new mentor in Tara and is making moves to begin a relationship with Cheyenne. Their friendship is deepening, but there’s still an obstacle in the way of them truly establishing a relationship, and that obstacle is his continued feelings for Bailey. He also is dealing with difficult flashbacks to his time in Iraq. Just like Bailey, he’s a mess. I have a hard time liking him because of his emotional cowardice and because of the way that he isolates himself, but I did really like his scenes with Cheyenne and his coaching scenes in this book. I hope to see more excellent scenes from him in the next book.
Ashley: Ashley’s back as a point of view character in this book. Because she’s in every book, I figure that she must be the author’s favorite Baxter. In this book, we see touching scenes of her as a mother, we see glimpses of the other Baxters and we see her concern over her husband’s decline in health. There are some trials for her to go through with her husband’s health, and they’re just being revealed in this book.
Jenny: From Jenny, we a mother’s perspective of seeing a child grow up and leave the next. The perspective is touching and beautiful, and wise for me as I’m still in the golden middle years of parenting.
Landon: He has a couple of perspective sections in the book. He has an almost-fatal asthma attack while fighting a fire. He is unconcerned with his health for his sake, but he doesn’t want to leave behind his beloved wife to suffer his loss. I hope to see an expansion of his perspective in the next book since he learns in this book that his lung situation will be fatal without a transplant. I always enjoy his perspective.
This was not as good as the average Baxter book, but I hope that it is a promising beginning for the rest of this series. (I might have given this one a 1 star rating if I weren’t emotionally invested in these characters.) Looking forward to reading the next one.