{Review} Mandatory Release by Jess Riley

{Review} Mandatory Release by Jess RileyMandatory Release by Jess Riley
Published by Self-Published on July 16, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 310
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Thirty-year-old Graham Finch spends his days trying to rehabilitate inmates and his nights trying to rehabilitate his heart--until a new coworker, his high school crush Drew Daniels, walks through the prison gates one hot summer morning. Drew is on the run from a painful past that's nearly crushed her faith in love. Together, they might have just what it takes to mend their hearts. If only finding their way to one another were easier than working with convicted felons.

Loaded with twisted humor and pathos, Mandatory Release is a darkly comic look at friendship, forgiveness, and love. It's a story about broken people putting themselves back together and learning that no matter what you lock up--a person, a secret, or your heart--sooner or later, everything must be released.

Contains adult language, sex, jokes about sex, dark secrets, toxic friends, and a little dog named Avis, after the car rental company. A snarky mash-up of lad lit and chick lit for people who read Jonathan Tropper, watch Orange is the New Black, and pretend they don't sing along to TOOL and Gordon Lightfoot in the car, sometimes on the same day.

Kassiah: I liked this one.

After a life-wrenching breakup with her boyfriend of eight years, Drew Daniels moves back home and gets a job with her mother at a medium-security prison as a Special Ed teacher. Trying to figure out a way to mend her broken heart, she feels like she’s hit rock bottom.

She was also staying with her parents because her mother felt she shouldn’t be alone after what happened. Especially since those early days without Ben had been filtered through an ugly new lens–one that distorted every day into something numb to be endured. Drew wanted to eat well-balanced meals cooked by her mother and use silverware that hadn’t touched Ben’s lips on a daily basis. She wanted to feel protected, to have her mother take care of her–the way she did when Drew had the flu as a child and her mother brought her cool washcloths for her forehead and flat 7-Up with a bendy straw.

It doesn’t take too long for her to run into old high-school lab partner, Graham Finch. Confined to a wheelchair following a car accident, he’s a social worker at the prison. He had a huge crush on Drew back in high-school, but feels like he doesn’t stand a chance with her anymore.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you just knew the person you were sitting across from could be happy for the rest of her life, if only she spent it with you? Not like you are personally the key to her euphoria or something, you’re not that ego-centric, but she would be happy because you adore her. You complement one another. You’re on the same team. And you know there’s chemistry there because sometimes she looks at you a beat too long, but it’s a look of affection … of easy, effortless kindness. And you can feel all of this in your gut, in your heart, in your bones, in every muscle fiber and every molecule of your body.

While Drew and Graham rekindle their friendship, both of them date other people. Graham is a perpetual online dating kind of guy, and Drew catches the eye of in-office playboy Joe. He’s a lot younger than her, but she doesn’t seem to be able to resist him, much to Graham’s dismay.

How could she not know his personal goal in life is to give more rides on the baloney pony than a petting zoo sponsored by Oscar Mayer? She’s got to know it.

Mandatory Release was a good book–it had moments of humor and a little hotness and it was very authentic. I felt like both Drew’s and Graham’s feelings and reactions were authentic. Everything that Drew felt about being back home and the kind of life-fail that implies was spot-on. And with Graham, the way everything went back to him being in a wheelchair rang very true, as well. He doesn’t want to be defined by being in a wheelchair, but he knows it is what it is. Graham was such a great character with an amazing personality. I loved his internal thoughts and how real he was. He’s funny. And smart. And in spite of not always wanting to be, he’s a nice guy. There’s a moment with him and Joe that was one of my favorite parts:

There’s a dangerous beat while [Joe’s] face turns purple. “If you weren’t in that chair…”

“You’d be in the hospital by now,” I finish for him.

I really loved the reveal of what exactly happened to cause the demise of Drew and her longtime boyfriend’s relationship. It was totally unexpected, but I would have never, ever guessed it. I also really loved Graham’s friend, Kevin.

“Why does this have to be so damn complicated? I mean, you know, right? You know when you’ve found the one, right?”

“I only have one qualifying question. Do you spit or swallow? Answer that correctly, and you get me for life.”

What I didn’t love was some of the open-endedness. It’s not that I need every single detail of everyone’s lives, but I definitely would like to have found out more about some situations, like what happened with Drew’s friend, Brooke. I also felt like even though the two of them had known each other for practically their entire lives, there was a smidge of “insta-love” that wasn’t explained very well. Being crazy about someone, I get. But not in love with them, especially from the point of view of a guy. I also felt like there was this huge build up to something that only sort of happened. I guess that’s real life, right? This book is not a quick read and I felt like a few parts kind of dragged on, but looking back on it, I don’t know what really could have been cut out.

If you’re looking for a funny story with twists and turns and hope, then check out Mandatory Release. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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