Review | Last Will and Testament by Dahlia Adler (Radleigh University, #1)

(NOTE: I received this book for free from the author in return for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.)

Reviewer: Christina
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Age Group: NA
Genres: Contemporary, romance
Pages: est. 414 (ebook)
Format/Source: Kindle edition, eARC received from the author (Thanks, Dahlia!)
Find the Book: Goodreads | Amazon | iBooks | Smashwords

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.

But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.

Until he does.

Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.

Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

Last Will and Testament was my first-ever NA read. That’s right. MY FIRST. New Adult is a category that’s heavily stigmatized and looked down on as being ‘YA with sex’, and many traditional publishers haven’t really gone far into it because it’s considered a tad risky. However, it’s been incredibly successful in the self-publishing world, especially the main NA fare available right now, contemporary romance.

So I was incredibly nervous going into this one, since contemporary romance in any form is far out of my comfort zone as it is, and NA seemed a little… iffy to me.

(I should just never trust my gut with new genres. My brain says NO YOU WILL HATE THIS GENRE and then I end up loving it and internally bashing myself over the head.)

However, I was somewhat reassured by the fact that this particular NA book was by Dahlia Adler (whose debut was a YA Hollywood romance called Behind the Scenes, and it was fabulous beyond belief). So I figured I’d just trust that I was in good authorial hands and request a review copy.

I WAS INDEED IN GOOD HANDS.

First I discovered that my brain is really judgmental and pig-headed sometimes NA is anything but “YA with sex”. It’s a whole new category with its own merit that tackles tons of entirely different themes. It’s about learning how to adult and how to be independent and how to really take control of one’s own life—less “coming of age” and more “what do I do now that I’ve come of age?” It’s really valuable, and I’m glad that Last Will and Testament introduced me to the category.

However, beyond all this newness, LWaT was in and of itself a great book.

I adored Lizzie (also yay for biracial leads!). Her voice carries the story spectacularly well, and it’s snarky like nobody’s business. It’s obvious from the very beginning that Adler is extremely comfortable in Lizzie’s head, and she wastes no time getting the rest of us comfortable there, too. Two chapters in, I was already feeling like Lizzie was a friend I’d known for years, and this always worked in her favor, even when she messed up or made singularly horrible decisions. She wasn’t perfect—sometimes, she wasn’t even particularly good—but when she screwed up, it was understandable, and it made her human. By that point, her honest voice and tenacity in the face of overwhelming grief had made me so attached to her that NO ONE could have convinced me that she wasn’t a precious human being who deserved my protection AT ALL COSTS.

This brings me to CONNOR LAWSON. Being a bit of a history nerd myself, I can totally empathize with him (also BYZANTINE HISTORY *flails forever*), and he was just the most endearing blend of awkwardness and intelligence and kindness. He was always funny in the most likable way, and even as a reader, I could feel this aura of “easy to be around” just floating around him. But he had a serious side that was handled with such grace and skill. His internal conflicts, as viewed from the outside by Lizzie, were so well done, and whatever mistakes he made, I could always see his heart of gold shining through.

A short aside: *whispers* Flat-front pants, you guys.

Naturally, the shippy shenanigans run rampant in this book, and it’s awesome. You can tell that Lizzie and Connor fit together so naturally—they’ve got pretty much the same sense of humor, they both respect each other’s strengths, and they both pull each other through difficult patches. They have a bond built on genuine emotions and it’s powerful and it’s really all I can do not to spill all my FEELINGS in caps and GIFs to you guys. And their… scenes together. I’ll say no more. *fans self vigorously*

The supporting characters were really great as well. Lizzie’s friends are so realistic and supportive and hilarious, and of course I’m all for positive female friendship. I loved Lizzie’s younger brothers, too; they’re emotional and real and honestly kind of adorable. Everyone’s rounded out, and even the mean characters (*cough* SOPHIE SPRINGER) add to the novel’s strength.

Last Will and Testament isn’t the most plotty book out there, but contemporaries hardly ever are. Nonetheless, there is a definite storyline, and it flows believably and organically throughout the novel. I definitely appreciated the Radleigh University world built around Adler’s characters and the way everything came together—but the characters are the meat and marrow of this book, and they are BEYOND worthwhile.

All in all, LWaT was a fun, emotional, thoroughly heartfelt read that gave me a pretty explosive introduction to the category of NA. Don’t let my somewhat short review fool you; I absolutely loved it. You can be sure I’ll be looking out for future Radleigh University books, and I’ll be eagerly anticipating anything Dahlia Adler does next! The two books of hers that I’ve read have made her one of my favorite contemporary authors, and everyone should get on this bandwagon NOW.

Favorite Non-Spoilery Quotes

I make what I hope is a noise of agreement but probably sounds more like the mating call of the African buffalo, and flee from the room.

~~~

“You are smart, and you are strong, and you are brave. And you take great care of your brothers, and you rise to challenges like no one I’ve ever seen. So you can beat yourself up about choices you made when you were in high school, or you can see what I see, which is a woman who’s strong enough to do anything she puts her mind to.”

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