I Want It That Way, by Ann Aguirre

>> Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TITLE: I Want It That Way
AUTHOR: Ann Aguirre

PAGES: 352

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: New Adult
SERIES: Starts a series

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she's determined to make them come true. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, dating's the last thing on her mind. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B….

Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can't risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, the last thing he wants is noisy students living in the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia's and Ty's paths cross, and soon they can't stay away from each other.

The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can't know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

When there was all that to-do about this new genre, New Adult, I got quite excited about the idea. The issues people face during and right after the transition from high school are quite different from those they face in their late 20s-early 30s (the usual age for romance). I was really interested in reading about people going through that time, whether in college or right afterwards. It's all about setting up a life as a grown-up, which often is an interesting, challenging time, and there really wasn't all that much out there looking at this.

Unfortunately, there still isn't much out there, even in the New Adult genre. That seems to have been turned into a vehicle for wish-fulfillment fantasies and daydreams about plain Jane dating the quarterback, which really does nothing for me. And I should make it clear, I don't have a problem with the subject matter itself. That can be done in a way I enjoy. What I have a problem with is books where, if the subject matter is not a fantasy of yours, there's nothing else there for you. And way too many NA books have that problem.

All that ranting is my introduction to saying that I Want It That Way is what I wanted when I got so excited about New Adult. It's got regular people living normal but interesting lives and dealing with conflicts that are not larger than life, but nonetheless are pretty big in their own lives. More like this, please!

Our narrator is Nadia Conrad, who's in her next-to-last year at university studying special education. Nadia and three of her friends have got tired of living in dorms and have clubbed together to rent a flat off-campus. Ty, only a couple of years older than Nadia, lives directly downstairs from her and they meet cute when Nadia is almost flattened by her sofa as they try to push it upstairs. There's an instant strong attraction, but Ty is single dad to a 4-year-old, Sam, and this complicates things (even more because Sam starts attending the same day care where Nadia works part time). But as they start hanging out and talking, Nadia on her balcony, Ty right downstairs in his patio (very Romeo and Juliet), resisting the attraction becomes hard.

There are no huge, dramatic developments here. It's just about Ty and Nadia coming together despite their best intentions, carving out some time in their very busy lives (they're both ridiculously hard workers... Nadia has classes, practicums and her part-time job, while Ty has a full-time job and is going to night-school to get an architecture degree, not to mention raising a 4-year-old. They could be in a Nora Roberts novel!). And Nadia's flatmates have their own issues going on, in which Nadia becomes involved, as they're all really good friends. I really liked that aspect of the book, actually. These are secondary characters who feel fully formed and real. Some of them will have their own stories in the series, but it sounds like not all of them, and those feel real too.

Something else I loved was the way Aguirre dealt with Diana, Ty's ex and the mother of his son. Basically, what happened was that she became pregnant accidentally when they were about 20. She wanted to have an abortion, but Ty badgered her into having the baby. She never wanted to have it and had a miserable pregnancy and birth, so she took off pretty much as soon as she'd given birth, and disappeared into thin air. Many romances would demonise her for even half of what she's done. A woman who would consider abortion? Evil! A mother who doesn't see her son? Unthinkable! That's absolutely not the case here. There's understanding and compassion from both Ty and Nadia towards a woman who was clearly caught in a shitty situation and did what she felt was necessary. I particularly liked the ambiguity of Ty's reactions. He feels awful about pushing Diana and pressuring her into something as important as having a child, but at the same time, he can't regret Sam's existence. Anyway, I loved how this was done, and I'd really love to read Diana's story.

This experience has obviously had had an impact on Ty, and it informs much of his reluctance to be with Nadia. But I must say, Ty's complete insistence that he and Nadia couldn't have any sort of proper relationship beyond friends with benefits felt a bit extreme, considering Sam and she already have a relationship and he adores her. His thinking seems to be that he's already ruined Diana's life so he doesn't want to do it to Nadia, too, but if you really think about it, what he did to ruin Diana's life was to dictate her choices, and he's doing exactly the same thing to Nadia!

Things do end happily though, and coming back to what I was saying about wish fulfillment fantasies, this is the perfect demonstration of what I mean. Nadia and Ty's relationship is very much not what would be a happy ending for me. What makes her happy (i.e. basically becoming mum to a 4-year-old when she's 22) is very definitely not a life that would make me happy. But you know what? She's a solid enough character that I have no problem believing that they're a life and a relationship that are going to make her happy, and that's really all I want in a romance.

Beyond the romance, there is maybe a bit too much emphasis on the mundane detail of life as a college student living off campus, things that add colour but don't really have any effects on the plot and conflicts (e.g. they go to a club and have fun dancing, Nadia's first attempt at a lesson plan is pretty bad, but she comes up with a much better idea next time). I actually really liked having some of that detail there, but I think Aguirre didn't quite get the balance right. I will be reading the other books in the series and hope she gets it right there!

MY GRADE: A strong B.


Darlynne,  10 February 2015 at 15:51  

I love all things Ann Aguirre, but have hesitated over this series. I was never excited about the YA genre, as you were initially, but I certainly shared your disappointment in the typical results. Ugh. When a space opens up in my TBR, I will definitely give this one a try. Thanks!

Li 10 February 2015 at 19:55  

Oooh, sounds good. I remember liking her SFR series, but stalled halfway - can't remember why now.

Also this is £1, so I just one-clicked...

Rosario 11 February 2015 at 06:34  

Hi both! Sounds like I need to read more of Aguirre's other books, too! I read Grimspace when it came out and liked it, but for some reason never tried another one. Will remedy that!

Darlynne,  11 February 2015 at 21:03  

The Grimspace series gets even better, imo, with each successive book. I have only the final left and am saving it for the right time.

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