I think we have a contender for Worst Book Of The Year.
I can’t even be bothered to summarise the plot properly. Blah blah blah. Shy, white, heterosexual girl who thinks she’s not very attractive, except she really is. Blah blah blah. Tragic past. Blah blah blah. Meets hot, edgy dude from the wrong side of town. Blah. Romance and some kind of misunderstanding. Blah. HEA. The end. Thank Christ.
What the hell was that I just read?
So I’m going to start with the love interest, Rider. I always think a love interest is the litmus test for the tone and style of a book and in this case I was right because god, was he boring. I think he was supposed to be painted as bit edgy and dark (he’s a graffiti artist, abused and neglected as a kid in foster care and used to deal drugs). Ordinarily, this would be quite an interesting back story, but I just found him super dull.
And to cap it off, he has a girlfriend: the mean girl who hates the MC on sight. Having a girlfriend doesn’t stop Rider pawing at Mallory every single chance he gets, though. No siree. His hands are everywhere, stroking her cheek and her hair, he’s kissing her forehead, sitting her between his legs. The kind of behaviour that if it was someone non-hot doing it, you’d get a restraining order out. Somehow he manages to string said girlfriend out for half the book, and neither girl calls him out on this shit.
And the MC, Mallory. She’s really boring too! So in that respect she and Rider are kind of MFEO. She’s super shy and has trouble articulating her thoughts, which would be fine if her internal monologue was witty or interesting. But no. The thoughts in her head are as dull as the stilted guff coming out her mouth. I just read a 480 page book and know no more about the MC than I did on page one.
I think the worst thing about Mallory, for me, was how weak and pathetic she was. She’s spent her whole life relying on other people to save her: first Rider, when they were in foster care together and then her adoptive parents. I couldn’t pinpoint a time in her life when she’d actually got up off her arse and saved or stuck up for herself. Gotta say, this isn’t a great image to be giving to girls. I want girls to read about MCs who are brave and resourceful despite their bad pasts, who are intelligent and kind despite the shitty conditions they live in. Not about some little idiot who lets everyone else take her knocks for her.
There was a point where I thought Mallory was going to grow a backbone and a personality - she has a row with her parents and storms off (BTW, the reason for the row is that they’re concerned about Mallory spending so much time with Rider. Because what kind of unreasonable fucking parent would be concerned about their daughter knocking about with a former drug dealer. I mean, I ask you.). Spoiler alert, though: she does *not* grow a personality.
I don’t think it’s ever been so obvious how important dialogue is in a book. I guess when dialogue is fresh and unstilted you don’t really notice it, it’s just there, telling you stuff without you realising it. The dialogue between Mallory and Rider was as interesting as listening to two old people talk about their dinner. ‘Are these new peas, dear?’ ‘No, dear. They’re the same peas we always get.’
The best thing I can think to say about this book is that it wasn’t offensive. Except the bit where everyone is white and straight. No, wait, I tell a lie, there were some Latinx characters. Poor ones, who were drug dealers, and rich ones who had escaped their poor past. Awesome. Then one of them dies. Literally five minutes after he announces to all his friends that he’s turning over a new leaf and not dealing drugs any more, he gets gunned down in the street. And guess who he gets gunned down by? Latinx drug dealers.
And is Puerto Rican a language in its own right? I’m genuinely not sure, but the author seems to think so. Oh well, I’m sure she’s right because the whole tone of the book sounds like she did loads of research within the Puerto Rican community.
It’s such a shame because this book could have been about the problems with an underfunded, overstretched care system, drugs, child abuse, social exclusion, gun culture, mental health. Instead, it mentions all these things but doesn’t actually explore then other than in terms of how they affect Mallory and Rider’s relationship. I’ll tell you who I felt sorry for - Ainsley. Poor girl is an awesome best friend for 60% of the book then she suffers from MyBFFGotABoyfriend-itis and is booted out, only to be wheeled back in for a few minutes when she gets struck down with a blindness-inducing condition that handily serves to remind Mallory how we shouldn’t take anything for granted.
And then at 89% we get the following:
As I sat at the kitchen table with Rosa, I knew it was true. I’d changed.
Sorry, but if an MC feels the need to point out to her audience that she’s changed, it usually means that she hasn’t, not really, and that not very much character development has taken place.
And that ending. Fuck me.
I’m struggling to think who I’d recommend this book to. Struggling and failing.
Nope. Can’t think of anyone I dislike that much.