When you’re a huge contemporary reader like I am, not many books have the possibility of surprising you so much. Ultimately, they all come down to the same things, whether it’s a character-development thing, a cute romance, or anything, really. They all got the same recipe, and it’s a matter of what the author does with this and the little twists he adds in it that makes it stand out. I’m still surprised as I am writing these words, to say that 180 seconds was one of these books that stood out and surprised me a lot, in an amazing way.
AN VERY RELATABLE MAIN CHARACTER
Allison has been into a gazillion different foster homes before Simon decided to adopt her as she was in high school. Now in her third year of college, she is used to avoiding people as much as she can and would rather stay in her room than try and socialize with other people. Right from the start, you know that Allison is one of these characters having big anxiety issues and is basically a closed door – she won’t open to anyone, no matter how politely you knock. Being a very anxious person myself – not to Allison’s point, but still – I thought that this was very well portrayed, it felt realistic without being over the top, and it was so good to be able to RELATE so much to a character.
A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT & A DEEP CONNECTION
“We are engaged in a form of intimacy that scares the absolute hell out of me. It’s as if there is a weight on my chest that I want to shove off, and I’ve never been this terrified before.
Or this whole and hopeful and connected.
My body starts to tremble. I want more of what I’m feeling, and I also want none of it.”
But this book isn’t about Allison’s anxiety and her struggles through college – she’s a pretty good student, by the way. This book is about the experiment that tears down her walls and makes her open up to the world, to love, to family, to trust. 180 seconds: that’s the name of the experiment, and it’s quite simple. One day on the street, she’s stopped by a girl she doesn’t know and has to stare into the eyes of a stranger for 180 seconds. Three minutes in which something, a connection, happens. With a complete stranger – handsome, obviously -, but still. A strong connection they both can’t deny.
Now, I get you, and I see you coming with all of your comments: this kind of feels like insta-love, doesn’t it? Well, that’s where I was surprised, and that’s where you’d be wrong to misjudge this right away. This is not insta-love, as they don’t fall in love in the matter of three minutes. This is a connection, this is something you can get when you see a person for the first time, talk, do something. A connection, a feeling – the way this thing was described was overall realistically handled and powerful, if you ask me, perfectly grasping the feelings of connection.
STUNNING CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
“I know you’re fragile. I get that.” His touch lingers against me. “You’re also tougher than you think. You’re fighting right now, and fighters aren’t weak. But you don’t have to fight alone.”
If there’s something else that the author knew how to describe, it’s the feelings overall as they develop, as Allison slowly gets out of her shell, slowly explores the world around her and discovers this stranger she met for three minutes, Esben. There is stunning character development in this book as we see the main character grow and change thanks to the people around her, but most of it all, to herself. This did not feel like a “love-saves” kind of trope, where the guy somehow manages to make her anxiety disappear. It felt like she motivated herself out of her funk every single day, getting stronger…Then falling down and getting up again on her own, with people to rely on along the way. Allison and Esben’s relationship developed rightly and at a good rhythm, especially for first relationships and first times, with love and respect for each other, cuteness and a whole damn lot of complications at times for sure. They were definitely a relationship I rooted for, and one that did not take away any of the characters’ development or took away Allison’s spotlight in the story.
Family and friendships were also a very strong suit in this story, taking as much place as the love interest, which I appreciated a lot. What we have between Steffi and Allison is real, honest, unflinching best friendship with support, pep talks and long distance calls. On the other side, Allison’s father Simon was one of the greatest father figures ever: I loved seeing his bond with Allison grow as the story got along, I loved seeing it evolve and it just made my heart burst with happiness and love for him. .
180 seconds surprised me by its honesty in everything it talked about, from “light” themes such as first love and family bonds, opening up and overcoming your fears, to more heavy ones like grief, loss and I won’t say more except that it had me crying like a baby. I also LOVED how the social media experience was included in this with Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, troll comments, Instagram and so many other things as well, making it feel even more realistic. It’s a book I would recommend for sure.
Final rating: it’s a hurricane!
A million thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the early copy of this book. This did not, in any way, influence my thoughts on this book.
Do you want to read 180 seconds? Share your thoughts in comments!
Jessica Park, 180 seconds, Published by SkyScrape, April 25th 2017.
Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…
After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.
One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.
When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.