Published by Skyscape on April 25th 2017
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Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…
After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.
One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.
When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.
Jessica Park isn’t a new author to at all, but having loved ‘Flat-Out Love’ and the way it dealt with personality quirks, death and tragedy, I dove into ‘189 Seconds’ wondering if I was going to get the same kind of student-angst and the identity crisis that still assail young adults that we got in her ‘Flat Out’ series.
In some way, ‘180 Seconds’ is similar, as it puts the emotional effects of being shoved from foster home to foster home and the cycle of hope/rejection in the spotlight, where a popular social media ‘influencer’ so to speak and one social experiment have the power to change how an introverted, aloof and antisocial girl might see the world.
To make a world a happier place because he can (the number of followers can’t hurt either) is not a worldview that I’ve ever held, so to read about Esben’s optimistic worldview is jarring to say the least. That social, outgoing nature of his, as Jessica Park writes, is both intimidating and infectious, though it is not all roses and sunshine that drive him only to see humanity in all its good.
But oh, to have that kind of dewey-eyed, collegiate enthusiasm that Esben Baylor has because my practical, cynical self protests that 180 seconds can change the world, at least, some people’s entire outlook on things. It was almost a given that I was fairly incredulous when the social experiment conducted with Allison ended up with a mad kiss (throwing of a table and chair included, in a passionate fit) after 3 full minutes worth of raging, smouldering looks tossed between 2 people.
There’s also a dreamy, movie-quality to how things play out as it skirts the edge of melodrama. Even as the story rushes to its inevitable climax and Allison runs from a crushing blow, Park circles back to the power of Esben’s and Allison’s initial 180 seconds, and the amount of love that has resulted from it. Can it really change a life? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, Park’s continual reaffirmation of the good in people is what makes ‘180 Seconds’ a feel-good read, because in this NA world, optimism and love (in spite of tragedy) still win.