Book Review: ‘Things I Can’t Forget’ (Hundred Oaks #3) by Miranda Keneally

Things I Can't Forget

Things I Can’t Forget (Image Credit: Miranda Keneally)

Things I Can’t Forget is the third book in Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series. Despite being part of a series, all of the Hundred Oaks books can stand alone – you don’t need to have read a previous book to appreciate or understand a later book. There are some crossover characters since all the books take place in the same town, but the main characters and plots are different for every book. I read and loved the first book in the series, Catching Jordan, then I read and liked book #2, Stealing Parker, but was slightly disappointed by it. Things I Can’t Forget fell somewhere in between.

Our main character is Kate, who is extremely religious and adamant about her beliefs. We meet up with her at a strange time, though – she just had a falling out with her best friend, Emily, because Emily did something that she felt betrayed their faith. Kate starts to question herself just a little, wondering how she can feel so wrong about what Emily did, but also wrong about not supporting her best friend. How can you please God when every option seems wrong?

Kate’s world is rocked further when she begins a summer job as a counselor at a church camp. She falls for one of her fellow counselors, Matt, and struggles to reconcile the kind of person she has been taught to seek in an ideal partner and the person who she has such strong feelings for, but who doesn’t quite fit that mold.  She also discovers how quickly self-control can fall away in the midst of an intense relationship, and that scares her.

While a large portion of this book is dedicated to the development and complications surrounding Kate and Matt’s relationship, it’s really about faith and religion. I don’t think I have to tell you that religion is an incredibly sensitive topic in any forum. While I felt the topic was handled with great care and sensitivity, there are probably some people who would interpret it differently and be offended by some of the commentary in the book.

I think most people, though, will appreciate how Kenneally put a great deal of effort into showing both sides of the coin and treating both with respect. Kate’s struggles were so realistic and probably applicable for many teenagers. Her happiness depended on her finding a way to balance her own beliefs with the varying beliefs of the other people in her life. And, while she did have some moments of weakness, she never really compromised her beliefs. Her perspective changed, and she stopped being so quick to judge others, but she only did the things she felt were appropriate. She ended up being a fantastic example of how a teenager can be open-minded and tolerant while still sticking to their own standards of what’s right, even if it’s not what’s popular.

There were definitely some schmaltzy moments with Kate and Matt where I couldn’t hold back a little eye roll, but with the book coming from Kate’s perspective, it absolutely made sense that she would get a little cheesy about her first serious relationship. Matt was probably unrealistically awesome for a teenage guy – he put up with more from Kate than most guys would – but I guess that only reinforces the idea that a person doesn’t have to be perfect to be right or good, which was a major theme applied to several characters throughout the book.

I’m always a sucker for a good camp story, so I enjoyed that much of this book took place at the church camp. It was a pretty unique environment for this type of story and the dynamics between the other counselors added both some color and some perspective for Kate.  I also liked how the camp schedule – with a week of work at the campsite followed by a weekend off – lent itself to constant variety in the setting and enabled me to see how the characters handled themselves in different environments and around different people.

The common factor in all the Hundred Oaks books is that, despite the romantic side of the story, the main character always has some larger dilemma or conflict that they need to resolve. In Catching Jordan the larger dilemma didn’t really seem that large and it felt much more like a light, romantic book. In Stealing Parker, the larger dilemma really was a big deal, to the point where there was almost too much going on for the romance to make sense. Things I Can’t Forget really struck a balance between the two, and managed to do it thoughtfully despite its quick pace and fairly slim page count. Assuming you’re up for the religious questions, Things I Can’t Forget is a great, quick read that provides both romance and substance.

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Mallory Walker
I spend too much time reading and watching TV. Puppies, Diet Coke and the ’90s make me happy. I mean really, who doesn’t love the days of Marky Mark?
Check out more from Mallory Walker on TDQ…

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