Review: The Best Week That Never Happened by Dallas Woodburn

  • Title: The Best Week That Never Happened
  • Author: Dallas Woodburn
  • Publisher: Month9Books
  • Length: 302 Pages
  • Genre: Magical Realism Romance
  • Pub Date: April 21, 2020

Star Rating: 4/5


“Even when your life is already humming along great, big change can come along and make things not worse, but better.”

— Dallas Woodburn


Synopsis

After her parents’ bitter divorce, family vacations to the Big Island in Hawaii ceased. But across the miles, eighteen-year-old Tegan Rossi remains connected to local Kai Kapule, her best friend from childhood. Now, Tegan finds herself alone and confused about how she got to the Big Island. With no wallet, no cell phone, purse, or plane ticket, Tegan struggles to piece together what happened. She must have come to surprise-visit Kai. Right? As the teens grow even closer, Tegan pushes aside her worries and gets swept away in the vacation of her dreams. But each morning, Tegan startles awake from nightmares that become more difficult to ignore. Something is eerily amiss. Why is there a strange gap in her memory? Why can’t she reach her parents or friends from home? And what’s with the mysterious hourglass tattoo over her heart? Kai promises to help Tegan figure out what is going on. But the answers they find only lead to more questions. As the week unfolds, Tegan will experience the magic of first love, the hope of second chances, and the bittersweet joy and grief of being human.

Review

Woodburn has written a great debut novel, and I truly enjoyed this book! I can tell a lot of research went into the novel because of the Hawaiian based myths, legends, and locations–like Akaka Falls, the o’opu alam’o, and the mo’o–that are a running theme throughout the book. Furthermore, she creates an entirely new take (at least to me) on what happens in limbo, or when you’re between life and death, which comes through in the form of magical realism. Woodburn’s take on limbo is that when you die, you get to live the best week of your life whether it’s happened or not. The Best Week That Never Happened is all about pushing fear to the side and second chances.

While it is a friends to lovers romance, she seamlessly integrates past character interactions with present day interactions to develop the characters’ story. However, one draw back is I felt like the love portion was a little too instantaneous. This book is all about fear and holding back. It felt too…easy? Kismet? Divine? It’s like the Teagan, the female lead, just decided “Hey! I guess I love and have loved Kai forever since I’m magically here on the island with him.” There was a little tension but not a lot. It’s like once Teagan and Kai found out about the accident, everything was rushed and it wasn’t fleshed out like the proceeding chapters. I can understand the rush, but I think if the later half of the book would have slowed down a bit and really developed the characters and stories, I could have been much more invested. With that being said, the tension, the expectation, the WTF is going to happen Woodburn creates in the reader was actually quite fun.

Photo of Akaka Falls, which is referenced several times and described in TBWTNH

I did appreciate how Woodburn presented the POVs of Teagan and Kai and how the switch between past and present was purposeful. We are with Teagan the entire time but we do get Kai’s POV in the form of letters to Teagan. But, I wish the letters would have held a little more purpose. They just reiterated and retold everything we just read but in Kai’s voice. You could even skip over the letters because they didn’t bring anything new to the story.

One last tidbit. The ending wrapped up nicely, but it was very predictable. I almost didn’t read the last 7% of the book because I knew how it was going to end. I feel like the book could have had more of an impact if it had ended differently, which is one of the reason I finished it. I needed to see if Woodburn was gonna sucker punch us. All in all, it was a very quick, enjoyable, and, in an ironic way, lighthearted read. I’m glad I took a chance on this “read now” galley. Be on the look out for Dallas Woodburn’s The Best Week That Never Happened because it hits shelves on 4/21/20.

The O’opu Alam’o fish that Kai tells Teagan about. They are Native Fresh Water fish that use a suction on their belly to climb Akaka Falls

The Best Week That Never Happened resonated with me on so many levels. It really does make you consider what happens when you die, the fear that we let control us, the consequences of letting fear control us, and the good that can come from letting go of fear. It’s all about getting second chances and seeing where life can take us. Are you stuck in a rut but have an amazing opportunity? Would that opportunity require you to move and start over? Is heading into the unknown what holds you back from taking chances, embracing change?

A Mo’o from Hawaiian legend. Teagan is told this story before her and Kai hike to Akaka Falls.

Rather than succumbing to the fear of change, take your fear by the horns and shove it away. If I would have let the fear of the unknown control me, I wouldn’t be where I am today: living in an amazing city and working on my phd at the second largest university in the U.S.

“Maybe that’s what sleeping prepares us for. That liminal moment between wakefulness and dreaming, when you have to relinquish control and let yourself drift over to the other side.”

–Dallas Woodburn

Additionally, I curated a Reading Playlist that I believe would accompany this book great! Check it out below.

Pre-Order your copy of The Best Week That Never Happened Here!

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