by Jessica Martinez
Published by Simon Pulse
On October 15, 2013
Source: e-ARC requested from the publisher on Edelweiss.
Description of the book from author's website: No one has ever believed that Mo and Annie are just friends. How can a guy and a girl really be best friends? Then the summer before senior year, Mo’s father loses his job, and by extension his work visa. Instantly, life for Annie and Mo crumbles. Although Mo has lived in America for most of his life, he’ll be forced to move to Jordan. The prospect of leaving his home is devastating, and returning to a world where he no longer belongs terrifies him. Desperate to save him, Annie proposes they tell a colossal lie—that they are in love. Mo agrees because marrying Annie is the only way he can stay. Annie just wants to keep her best friend, but what happens when it becomes a choice between saving Mo and her own chance at real love?My take: I really enjoyed Virtuosity by this author, and I was excited to try The Vow. I was immediately drawn in by the friendship between Annie and Mo, each of whom has gone through some difficult times. Annie's family was torn apart by a horrible tragedy, and Annie was the collateral damage as her parents turned both distant and overprotective. Mo, the only Muslim in a small Kentucky town, had a tough time integrating himself into this homogenous community. The friendship between the two was touching and felt genuine to me, and I loved the well-done dual POV. There were some lovely, well-drawn moments that were used to sketch the history of friendship between the two.
The middle of the book -- the part where, as the blurb indicated, Annie and Mo decide to get married so that Mo doesn't have to leave the country -- was where the story fell apart a little for me. The two are advised by a law student that a sham marriage is a felony. The law student is attractive and blond in the mold of Elle Woods, which almost made it seem like the book was going to edge into romantic comedy territory. And indeed, that is the place where most of these fake marriage stories (Green Card, The Proposal) usually end up in American popular culture.
Fortunately, the story didn't veer into comedy, but I felt that the middle of the book spent too much time focusing on others' reaction to the marriage, most of which revolved around a widespread belief that Annie and Mo couldn't possibly be platonic friends. Annie has just found a boyfriend, who is understandably upset to learn that she's now married, but their relationship was so new that I thought his reaction should have been "dodged a bullet!" rather than "how could you?" Annie's parents are also upset, but their outrage seemed based on Mo's religion than the fact that their high school daughter just got married without telling them.
I also felt that Annie and Mo's motivations seemed a little shaky. At times, I felt that Annie offered to marry Mo as a way to get her parents' attention. Annie's stated rationale for engineering the marriage is that she doesn't want to lose her friend. Seriously? Is there anyone out there who hasn't been tearfully separated from a best friend at some point in their life? The sham marriage would have felt more justifiable to me if Mo had faced actual danger or persecution back home, but the book suggests that he simply prefers stay in the US and go to an Ivy League college.
In the end, I couldn't really figure out the point of the story. Was it about small town prejudice, immigration and the American dream? About exploring the lengths someone would go for friendship? About the morality of lying and when that's okay? About Annie having to decide between loyalty to a friend and a chance at real love? For me, it ended up being a little bit about all of those things without delving deeply enough into any of the issues to satisfy me 100%.
That said, I loved the writing and I did appreciate the ending -- the fact that the book (highlight for spoiler) stuck to its guns and didn't have Annie and Mo fall in love for real, (end spoiler) forcing Annie and Mo to really own up to the consequences of what they did. Though The Vow wasn't a perfect read for me, there was a lot in the book that I liked and I look forward to reading more by Jessica Martinez!