Book 4 of the “All Saints High” series by L.J. Shen, “Damaged Goods” follow Bailey Followhill and Lev Cole, the two youngest children of the “Sinners of Saint” brood. (Think of “All Saints High” as the legacy collection). Deemed perfect by everyone in the lofty world of Todos Santos, a rich enclave in Southern California, Bailey and Lev found out that the world is not a bed of roses; that there are more thorns than they imagined or expected.
Traumatized by the death of his mother at age 14, Lev had leaned on Bailey for emotional support. Still a child herself at 15, Bailey had become Lev’s rock. But they are teenagers who are full of hormones and very aware of their sexuality. The attraction has been there for a long time, but they did not act on it because they did not want to ruin their friendship.
So, to keep their friendship, Bailey broke Lev’s heart when she left for college when Lev was in his senior year of high school. At Julliard, Bailey’s perfectionist tendencies became a hindrance instead of an asset. Instead of finding herself as a future prima ballerina, she found herself slipping down, thanks to her growing dependence to prescription pain pills. And when the unthinkable happened, Bailey found herself back in SoCal where she had to face not only her family but her extended ones, too. Worst of all, she must face Lev, the love of her life, though he does not know it.
For those who have followed the Todos Santos crew, “Damaged Goods” feels like the finale. All the characters we love made cameo appearances and readers were also updated where they were in their lives. Still, the book never faltered in its focus, which was Bailey and Lev. Barely adults, they were thrown into no-win scenarios; that no matter what they do or where they choose to go, they will lose each other.
L.J. Shen as an author is great at creating conflict then guides readers to a solution. In “Damaged Goods,” Shen went one step further. Having built up Bailey and Lev as the “perfect offsprings” of the otherwise imperfect Todos Santos bunch, Shen had to take them down their pedestals first. And that by itself is a feat in storytelling especially since there are more than 10 books before it. Still, even when Bailey and Lev’s failures were exposed, we continued to love them, warts and all.
A coming-of-age story as much as a romance, “Damage Goods” is the perfect finale for the Todos Santos stories, i.e., if it really is the final one. L.J. Shen might surprise us, like she usually does!
P.S. I was sent an ARC for this story but I decided to wait to write a review so that I can listen to the audiobook. Savannah Peachwood did not disappoint. Her interpretation of Bailey was right on the mark. She found a great balance in Showing her anguish and insecurities while feeling loved by the people around her.
Aiden Snow was amazing as Lev. Like Peachwood, Snow did a balancing act in portraying a boy on the cusp of manhood. Putting a voice to an alpha male who is in the throes of teenage hormones is already a feat. Adding finding a way to turn friendship into love while also trying to find yourself just made it harder. Aiden Snow accomplished it in flying colors.
Underneath the goody-two-shoes persona is damaged goods…but can the bad boy across the street save her?
Damaged Goods is an all-new angsty, enemies to lovers, sports romance from USA Today bestselling author L.J. Shen