Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Abroad: Book Two
SERIES: Abroad #2
AUTHOR: Liz Jacobs
PUBLISHER: Brain Mill Press
LENGTH: 425 pages
RELEASE DATE: January 2, 2018
Nick Melnikov has finally done it — he’s come out.
To himself. To his sister. And to Dex, who listens, hears him, and understands. To Dex, who kisses him and shows him all that they could be, if Nick could only find the courage. It’s one thing to let yourself be open thousands of miles away from your family, but exchange student Nick is uncomfortably aware that his time with Dex is running out. Who will he be when he goes home again?
Dex Cartwell is as happy with Nick as he’s ever been, but he can’t ignore the shadow of Nick’s inevitable departure from London, back to his life in Michigan. Is it worth it for Dex to expose his heart to another doomed relationship with a predetermined expiration date? What does Dex really want for the beginning of the next chapter in his life, post-graduation?
Dex wants to turn to his best friend in the struggle to find a way forward, but Izzy Jones has her own problems. She’s got one friend in love with her, and when she turns to another for help things get twice as complicated. Izzy never wanted complicated, but life just keeps getting in the way — and sweeping her off her feet.
Then Nick’s mom and sister come for a visit, and he is forced to decide between living his truth and protecting himself from fear and change. It’s going to take a lot of courage and a few leaps in the dark if Nick, Dex, and Izzy are to find a way to live and love on their own terms.
Taking up just after the close of Abroad: Book One, this second book in the Abroad Duology continues the stories of Nick, Dex, Izzy, and the rest of their friends. Since the books are so closely tied together I would advise that you read the first book before this one. A lot, if not all, storylines in this story are tied to the events and choices made in book one, and you will be seriously missing out if you haven’t got caught up by the time you start this story. You’ll also get spoiled on several events that take place in the first book if you continue reading this review so take that into consideration.
Like I said, this story starts out directly after the ending of book one. Nick and Dex are–finally–together, Izzy and Nat are still in one hell of a mess, and everyone is gearing up for the last half of their last year at uni. While Nick and Dex are flying high on the fact that they finally got together, it is painfully clear that they have a ticking clock above their heads counting down till Nick has to fly back to America at the end of term. And Izzy, not only struggling to finish her school work–most importantly a highly personal screenplay–is having to deal with the ramifications of having just realized that she is bisexual and that one of her best friends, Nat, has not taken it well. Personal lives are all up in the air, and who knows where or when or how they will all come down. They are all wonderful anxious messes to be honest.
Abroad: Book One ended up being one of my favorite books last year, so I was really looking forward to this sequel. Liz Jacobs does not disappoint either. I was a bit surprised how well she handled her second book; no sign of sophomore slump here. The writing was just as well handled and detailed, the characters grew and were fleshed out even more, and the ever increasing tension between living in the moment and preparing for the inevitable end made this a hard story to put down.
This book, and the duology as a whole, focuses on two main story lines. The first being the growing romance between Nick and Dex, and the second being on Izzy. While I think the Nick/Dex takes up a majority of the page time (something like 60/40), I think that both are equally important, and enjoyable, in this story.
I just wanna take a second and say I loved how the Izzy story thread played out over these two books. It did not ultimately go where I expected, and I loved that. It was a thought out and well written look at what it is like to be bisexual, and it doesn’t flinch away from showing every side of Izzy’s sexuality. I find that sometimes in lgbt books that bisexuality is only really focused on when it lines up in a f/f or m/m story arc, and while those are perfectly valid stories to tell, it is not really a complete picture of the way bisexual people live and love.
The overall way this book grafted together all the various plot threads has to be my favorite part of this duology. Most of the time when the book splits up like this I get annoyed because there is clearly one thread much more interesting than the others and I spend all my time while reading the other threads wanting to just go back to the one I like best. With this story, there was none of that. I cared about it all, found myself interested and invested in all of the various parts of the whole. With the way I tend to read sometimes it is hard to really get stuck into a story, but once it happens, 0nce a story can hook me, I’m all in. I genuinely cared what happened to these characters.
Which leads me to the two issues I have with this story.
The first being that I’m not sure the story quite stuck the landing as well as it could have. It wasn’t a massive failure, or anything close to that, but I think because the author wanted to go for something a bit more realistic–which I think was a good idea because that was the tone the story had set previously–that to get to the HEA it required some finagling with time jumps…which are not my favorite way to tie up stories. Too much summary of important events and glossing over major relationship hurdles. And while I get why Jacobs took this approach, it lacked a bit of the emotional undertone that the rest of the story had to it.
The second issue is a minor one, but one I really wish could have been handled a bit better. There are sections of dialogue between Nick and his family that appear solely in Russian. And while I appreciated the authenticity it lends to the story, I can’t help but feel that there were some very important things said that anyone who doesn’t speak Russian will not understand. I really wish there had been some more context clues surrounding the Russian bits that could have at least clued non-native speakers in on the underlying intent of what had been said. I tend to read on my kindle, and let’s just say that it is a pain to google-translate that stuff–so I just had to skip over those parts. Which is a pity, because some of the stuff between Nick and his family is really important.
That being said, this was still a highly enjoyable book and a fitting end to these stories. Liz Jacobs is clearly a very talented author, and if these two books are a sample of her ability, I am desperately waiting to see what she comes up with next.