Undeclared by Jen Frederick
For four years, Grace Sullivan wrote to a Marine she never met, and fell in love. But when his deployment ended, so did the letters. Ever since that day, Grace has been coasting, academically and emotionally. The one thing she’s decided? No way is Noah Jackson — or any man — ever going to break her heart again.
Noah has always known exactly what he wants out of life. Success. Stability. Control. That’s why he joined the Marines and that’s why he’s fighting his way — literally — through college. Now that he’s got the rest of his life on track, he has one last conquest: Grace Sullivan. But since he was the one who stopped writing, he knows that winning her back will be his biggest battle yet.
I was confused by the time-line on this and had to do a bit of research. I understood the notion of having to ‘declare’, but the timescale seemed skewed. As it turns out, American undergraduate degrees take four years, and students do not start with a single or double main subject as we do in British universities. American students study a wide range of topics and subjects for two years before declaring their ‘major’. Simply put by Prajwal Ciryam, a former Fulbright scholar, Americans champion a breadth of knowledge, the British a depth…You can see it in the way the undergraduates identify themselves. In America, a student ‘majors in biology’ implying she does other things as well, while in Britain, she ‘is a biologist,’ (The Independent, August 2013)
I still think the timescale is skewed, either that or Grace started writing to Noah when she was in Freshman Year (or 9th Grade) in order for 4 years writing and 2 years not writing to take her to the second year of university. And yes it matters, perhaps Jen could let me know?
Jen Frederick had me torn in three. The long-time feminist in me wanted to rant about possessive and over-protective men, then the socially just me said everyone deserves a second chance and we shouldn’t judge, finally the romantic in me shouted just shut up and kiss already!!
Reconciling these three has been hilariously difficult. I read some reviewers comments about Noah’s behviour, and I had to think long and hard about my own attitude towards it. Yes, there are some ‘feminist flaws’ in this tale, but it’s a love story. There are ‘feminist flaws’ in most romances, it is the nature of the genre. Readers who don’t like how Noah behaved should read something else. If we can only read politically correct books, then the entire romantic fiction business will collapse in a heartbeat. (Or is heartbeat too romantic a word? Should I say in one beat of the blood pumping cardiac muscle?) Men won’t be able to read their spy, special forces, action adventure thrillers, and girls and boys can’t have Disney. We can’t live without Disney, so sod that!
The point is that none of these books are real life, and they’re not meant to be. They reflect an idealised or romantic view of real life, so I don’t understand why reviewers whinged about Grace and Noah’s behaviour. Can’t they use their imagination? Einstein said that it was more important than knowledge, and that it could take you anywhere and everywhere. I don’t always want to read or be educated about the real-world issues when what I need is escape from them, and I know an huge number of readers feel the same..
Noah – there must be some leeway given to this character. He is a young marine who has been deployed in one of the most dangerous areas of the world and who comes back damaged and dysfunctional. Let me also say that on the whole, military men are not necessarily possessive as such, but they can be protective when it comes to the females of the species. While it raises our feminist hackles, we need to understand the world they have been trained and programmed into. They experience the awful depths that humanity can sink to. They see the world at its cruellest, its deadliest, its bloodiest, and its most violent. Noah saw the place Grace came from, her spacious, gated home and beautful surrounding, and felt inadequate and unworthy of her. He had to sort himself out before he could feel able to present himself to her. Maybe he goes about it the wrong way, but nevertheless, Noah does get the help he needs, works, trains, and studies hard, and gets himself to university.
Grace – what Grace hasn’t had is that overused word ‘closure’. Four years of letter writing, and getting closer to Noah, each sharing confidences and dreams, and then nothing. No real explanation, just a brush off. She’s not coasting, she lost, and has had a massive dent to her ego and her confidence. Let’s also put this into perspective. She’s hasn’t been ‘coasting’ for many years; she is not Miss Haversham in the 21st century. It’s more like a grieving process. The fact this was a relationship by letter is irrelevant, they’ve both invested four years of their time, sentiments, and emotions. So how long does it take to get over any kind of meaningful relationship?
They each know what they had and lost, they each know what they want. I found some of the scenes around other men hilarious; Noah might as well have pee’d on her leg and marked his territory. Excellent writing that momentarily had my feminist hackles standing upright, but at the same time it’s just bloody funny! Grace is not a pushover; she knows what is happening and in her own way calls Noah on his behaviour. He has a tense, uneasy quality that shows itself most around other men and his MMA bouts, but Grace is the one that softens his hard edges and he knows it.
The dilemma over the Vegas meet is a tricky one. I know others have called the character out over her actions, but to be fair to Grace, the opportunity was impossible to turn down.
Writing from a dual point of view is interesting and engaging, though I would have liked some more depth to both Grace and Noah’s thinking.
The characters around them are funny, annoying, and all points in-between. They are generally well-drawn, but Bo could have had more character development. Then again, he’s in the next book, so perhaps the author was holding back a little.
I really enjoyed reading Undeclared; it is sweet, funny, and heart-warmingly romantic, but with a slightly edgy quality. Any criticism is because I liked it so much and wanted it to be ‘more’. I look forward to reading the next one, but in the meantime, I’ll check some of the author’s other books, and you should too.
Go read and enjoy.
Jen Frederick is the USA Today bestselling author of Unspoken, part of the Woodlands series, and Sacked, part of the Gridiron series. She is also the author of the Charlotte Chronicles and has had several books on the Kindle Top 100 list. She lives in the Midwest with a husband who keeps track of life’s details while she’s writing, a daughter who understands when Mom disappears into her office for hours at a time, and a rambunctious dog who does neither
She also writes under the name Erin Watt