Thursday, August 11, 2016

You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross & Mark Perini Blog Tour

Everything she wants. Everything he needs.

The supportive friend, the reliable daughter, the doting big-sister: Finley is used to being the glue that holds everyone together. But while her sweet demeanor makes her the perfect confidant, her wholesome look isn't landing her the high paying modeling jobs, which are what Finley needs if she is going to reopen her mother's dance studio.

Enter Eddie. He's intense and driven, not to mention the life of every party, and he completely charms Finley. The last thing she wants is another commitment to stand in the way of her dreams, but when she's with Eddie, their chemistry takes over and she can let go of her responsibilities and just be. After all, what's so wrong about putting herself first once and a while?

Except Eddie is hiding a secret. A big secret. And when it surfaces, he and Finley are going to have to choose between their love for each other and everything else...

Bestselling author Julie Cross teams up with international model Mark Perini to create You Before Anyone Else, a poignant and authentic contemporary YA novel and companion to Halfway Perfect.

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“What are you so afraid of?” Summer asks.

I take a sip of the beer Dima brought me a few minutes ago. “Oh, I don’t know, addiction, overdose, puking on some innocent victim’s shoes, random drug testing by the agency…”

Summer laughs. “Drug testing on models? Yeah, that’ll be the day.”

Okay, so maybe I just don’t want to do it. Even if I should be in my so-called experimental phase.

I wouldn’t exactly label myself a rule follower, but I guess I’m just cautious. I haven’t always been this way. Not that I’ve done drugs, but before high school, I was all about ballet. Let’s just say I had a rep for being the sassy troublemaker. My mom being my ballet teacher may have had something to do with my behavior. My fingers immediately move to the cross dangling from my neck—I’ve only removed it a couple times over the last four years. Somehow, it’s always warmer than my hands.

I debate texting my dad to ask him if he’s done coke or molly. He’d probably tell me. But I wouldn’t want to freak him out. Seems like a conversation better reserved for a weekend visit instead of late on a Friday night when I could be too far gone to help, for all he knows.

I glance around the room and finally spot someone I know: my friend Alex and his girlfriend Eve. Alex and I did a big Calvin Klein shoot last year, and Eve was the photographer’s assistant. Actually, Eve used to be a model too, another preteen/teen phenom like Elana, who headlined that CK shoot along with Alex. My part had been fairly small, and still, that was my biggest job ever.

“Have you met Alex?”

Summer shrugs, grabs two more shots of vodka, and hands me one. “Like I would remember.”

I down the shot quickly and prepare to talk to Alex and Eve. Maybe they’ve done drugs and can advise me. But my buzzing phone distracts me. I pull it out of my purse and glance at the new text.

JASON: Yeah, it’s so weird to be home again. But I missed it.

My stomach flip-flops. He replied to my text. Hours later, but still…this could mean—

“Oh lord, you’re pathetic.” Summer is leaned toward me, reading over my shoulder. “That’s probably enough for you to live off of for another six months or so, right?”

I glare at her and shove the phone back into my purse.

“No comeback? Wonder why…” She pretends to be in deep thought. “He said he missed it. Not you. Cut the fucking cord already. It’s not healthy.”

If only it were that easy. When you’re in a relationship with someone for four years, you get so comfortable with that person. It’s daunting to start all over again.

I make my way across the room to see Alex and Eve, who are leaning against the back of the couch, more absorbed in each other than anything else.

“I heard Elana’s back from France?” Alex asks me, keeping his voice low.

“Yep, her and her mom. I think her mom is driving her crazy, but that’s to be expected. French Mama is driving me crazy too.”

They both laugh at the mention of French Mama, but I can’t take credit for that title. Summer made it up.

“I can’t believe her parents let her come back to New York,” Eve says.

Alex smiles at her. “You’re just upset that they’re here and not in France where we can hit them up for lodging.”

My gaze travels back and forth between the two of them. “You guys are going to France? Are you going for Fashion Week?”

Eve shakes her head. “Nope. I did the Prada shoot, and I’m done for good. Got tuition for next year covered.”

Even though Eve had supposedly quit modeling a few years ago, she pulled a one-last-job stunt last spring to cover her tuition at Columbia. She’s a photography student with a lot of experience under her belt.

“We’re doing the cheap travel, backpacking in Europe but without actual backpacks thing,” Alex explains.

Across the room, another beer pong player is being requested. This could possibly be the most adventurous thing I’m willing to do here. I turn to Alex and Eve again. “Well, good luck in Europe. I’m gonna go play beer pong.”

“Hey.” I grab Dima’s shirt sleeve. “You need another player?”

He looks me over, deliberating. “Sure. Be the new guy’s partner.”

“The new guy?” I glance around. What does that even mean? New to the party, like he just walked in? I’ve been here fifteen minutes.

“He’s new to the agency,” Dima says. “First casting, and he books some big job.”

“So we hate him then, right?” I joke. I turn around to head toward the game table and run right into a guy about my age with wild, dark curly hair and designer jeans.

“This guy,” Dima says to me and then turns to the new guy. “Got you a partner. Finley. She lives in the agency apartment downstairs.”

They exchange a look that says I’ve been mentioned before. I’m not liking that too much, but usually, I don’t come to these parties. Instead, I bang on the door at two in the morning to tell them to stop thumping around like elephants. Maybe I got a bad rep.

While we wait for Dima to find a partner, I snatch two beers from a nearby cooler and offer one up to New Guy. “So, Dima said you’re new, but he didn’t say where you’re from.”

“Uh…the Midwest.”

“The Midwest.” Okay. Someone doesn’t want to get personal. “Like Wisconsin or like Chicago?”

“Chicago…well, not in Chicago, but around it, you know?” he says.

“Right.” I pop open my can and take a drink. “What’s your name? I’m sorry, I don’t think Dima said…”

“Eddie.” He lifts his gaze again. “Eddie Wells. And you’re Finley Belton, the girl who lives downstairs.”

Summer breezes past me but stops when she spots me holding the beer pong ball. “Beer pong? Oh, you wild animal…grrrr.” She holds up her tiger paws and growls at me.

I give her the finger and then turn back to Eddie. “I’m one of the girls who live downstairs.”

“One is too bitchy, one is too underage, and one is nice,” he recites, most likely quoting Dima.

This is exactly what I’m trying to escape tonight. “Dima called me the baby bear?” I’m secretly hoping he catches my reference to Goldilocks.

“No,” Eddie says. “He called you Finley Belton, but I added the nice part, because you brought me a beer. And it is just right, not to mention you’re talking to me instead of staring and whispering to other people about me.”

Points for his fairy tale knowledge, and I’m sure the whispering is the result of whatever big job he’s landed. Too many models at this party.

Eve tries to be Dima’s partner, but he refuses and tells Alex to play with him. Eve opens her mouth to protest, but Dima holds up a hand. “Don’t even. I know your type. You’ll engineer some fancy trick shots. No Ivy League players showing me up. I got a rep to protect.”

“Fine,” Eve snaps. “I’ll just stand here and look pretty. And I’m definitely rooting for Fin and…” She gestures toward the new guy.

“Eddie,” I fill in for her. “Eddie from Chicago.”

“Eddie from Chicago,” Eve repeats. “Good luck.”

Summer returns and stands beside Eve, both leaning against the back of the love seat.

“Fin makes a great partner,” Summer says to Eddie. “She knits. Lots of finger dexterity.”

I shoot her a glare and will my face not to heat up. So not cool.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I normally give a young adult age-range, but You Before Anyone Else is hanging out in a gray area between young adult and new adult – not young enough to be YA, but not mature enough to be NA.

You Before Anyone Else is narrated by Eddie and Finley. Now, I'm going to make a total fool of myself, but when I started the book, I thought Eddie's narration was a girl. Truly, I did. So when I started reading Finley's narrative, my mind spun, wondering if I'd signed up for an FF book (not that I don't read FF, I just didn't expect this one to be). It wasn't. It was me. Somehow, I read the first chapter as female. I don't know why, and it took me until like chapter 3 or 4 to get it sorted out.

Okay, embarrassing admission out of the way, on to the review.

Eddie is edgy, running from something, and is propositioned the first day in the city, right off the sidewalk – he has exactly what the modeling agency was looking for and was offered a job right off the bat – his first job. He just moved to the city, has no place to live yet, so he offers up another model's address as his own, which he only had after an invite to a party.

Finley has that girl-next-door look, which isn't popular at the moment, and is having a hard time getting chosen. Needing to be more adventurous, Finley goes to her upstairs neighbor, fellow model's party. She's the 'nice' one, and she's out to prove that isn't true.

Eddie and Finley meet, and I can't say sparks fly, or that I felt any connection between them, as I was just learning who they were as characters. Quickly they hook up, and I lost interest, because I'm a reader who needs to be wooed, seduced, who wants the characters to earn it. So the fade-to-black between-the-sheets action in the very beginning of the book wasn't my thing whatsoever.

Yes, Eddie and Finley do connect, still it felt more like friends to me, yet I felt disconnected. I'm going to sound like a prude – but the early sex, especially with what the main premise involves, seemed premature and out of character for a terrified Eddie. It was irresponsible on Finley's part, which did lend to her wanting an edge and be adventurous. But, if you read the book, you'll see what I mean about how it seemed out of place for Eddie to want sex. At all, especially without commitment, with a total stranger, on a whim, while drinking. No amount of condoms and promises of taking birth control should have gotten Eddie to hookup with Finley after meeting her an hour before. That didn't fit, and it's not like it was even an alcohol-fueled, lust-at-first-sight situation responsible for bad decision making. It was more like, "Okay – let's do this." I didn't see how that made her edgier – Finley still looked like the girl-next-door, even if she did a random hookup. How would 'that' get her a modeling job?

For the first half and beyond, I connected with the Eddie and Finley, finding Eddie charismatic and engaging enough to draw Finley out of her shell – she was definitely 'nice,' patient, and could roll with anything without having any conflict of her own. It was sweet and intimate. But, after hooking Finley, Eddie drops the angst of the story – that type of gut-twisting feeling I usually adore. I love it when an author shreds my emotions. But this was difficult for me, because of how long it took Eddie to admit the truth, after Finley was attached to him, so she couldn't make a decision before love was brought into it. It felt selfish to wait, even though I understand not wanting to dump it too early to a stranger.

60-70% in, after a casual, light, heartwarming yet funny contemporary romance with little to no conflict, the tide shifts, as if the authors didn't know what direction to take the story, or felt it needed to be longer by adding the missing conflict the beginning was missing. Angst, crisis, and heart-ache are introduced to the mix. It was too late in the book for me, making it feel out of place without being fully rooted earlier on.

It's not that I didn't like the depth of the added conflict, just that it felt like a new book without any basis earlier on. The first half did read very slowly because of the lack of conflict – the last part too quickly, to the point it felt rushed, like it needed to be fleshed out more. But, for me, the two halves didn't marry well together.

I think some of the issue for me, as this was written by two authors, was the fact that it wasn't seamless. The disconnect I felt may have been in part due to the fact that I could sense that it was written by two authors, if that makes any sense. Something was off, or maybe missing, but it didn't match up to me.

Overall, I do recommend this title, but some of the plot points just weren't to my tastes.

I had no trouble getting through and enjoying this book. Having said that, I will say that it isn't going to be to everyone's tastes. It definitely hung between New Adult and Young Adult, not quite fitting with either. I think this will appeal more to the 30 and under crowd with its more modern views of hooking up and testing the boundaries with life and relationships with less of an emotional connection first. This book was somewhat unique for me with the younger characters set in more adult like roles while still in adolescence and acting like it.

Eddie may be in his teens, but this is pretty much a "midlife-crisis" time for him. He's rethinking his whole life and weighing his options, but in more of a terrified kid kind of way, than that of a grown adult. He runs from his life thinking that distance might help, but in reality he has no idea what he's doing.

Finley is the sweet, girl next door, but she has a plan. Her life has already had a few bumps in the road, but this is HER time to pave a path. She's modeling in New York and saving up for her future. The only problem is that her image isn't edgy enough to satisfy the business.

Eddie and Finley meet at a party and a bit of flirting and alcohol quickly turn into the hook-up Finley is wanting. She thinks this risky move will give her some edge, but has no idea where it will lead. Eddie is just floating by when he lands in Finley's path. He shouldn't be doing any of this, but it seems like he's just disconnected and distracting himself from the real world, so he doesn't have to think about it all. Finley is so different from the girls he's spent his life around, so he just lets it happen and shuts the rest out. Whether it is a good idea or not.

There is a slow bit after they meet where they both connect, but aren't connected enough to spill everything to each other. They are still getting to know about the other one and aren't quite ready to move beyond the friend zone stage of the relationship.

Eventually, the secrets unfold and the story takes on a new level of depth that, to me, was more captivating than the beginning. Eddie and Finley have a lot of hard decisions to make, and the love they share may actually become their downfall.

The end seemed a bit like the beginning. It had less depth and felt more summarized to me in comparison to everything that had just happened before it.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and would definitely recommend it to my fellow YA/NA and romance fans.

Julie Cross is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, including the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy which includes Tempest, Vortex, Timestorm (St. Martin’s Press).

She’s also the author of Letters to Nowhere series, Whatever Life Throws at You, Third Degree, Halfway Perfect, and many more to come!

Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast, longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former Gymnastics Program Director with the YMCA.

She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres.

Outside of her reading and writing credibility’s, Julie Cross is a committed–but not talented–long distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar weather survivor, expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym shoe addict.

Connect with Julie

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Mark Perini is a New York City based author debuting his first YA novel, Halfway Perfect. Additionally, Mark is a featured author in the NA anthology, Fifty First Times.

Mark began his career as an international fashion model when he was 18 years old, while simultaneously obtaining a business degree from Seton Hall University. He has a passion for traveling the world, and he’s made a blood pact with friends to see all seven ancient wonders of the world before he’s thirty. Four down three to go.

Connect with Mark

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Julie Cross and Mark Perini, along with Tasty Book Tours,  are celebrating those who have taken the steps to Break the Mold on society’s expectations, like Finley, the heroine from You Before Anyone Else!  We are looking for anyone who would like to share their story and be entered to win a 2017 Erin Condren Life Planner!

Head over to Tasty Book Tours and leave a comment with your story. Feel free to share picture of your journey and use #breakingthemold at the end of your comment!

Entries must be in by 11:59pm, Aug 15th, 2016.  No purchase necessary to enter.  If under 12 years old, you must have approval by a guardian to enter.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross & Mark Perini to read and review for this tour.

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