I Like Every Book But This.
Remember back in 2014-15 when my book reviews used to be snarky and I ended up offending a bunch of authors? Yeah, good times. This book makes me want to go back to who I was back then.
This book has good reviews and in particular, I fell for the one by Francine Pascal, whose books I devoured as a teenager. Given the premise, I should have loved this book: Two best friends starting off their first semesters at college and starting a “long distance friendship”. The book is written as a series of texts and emails exchanged between the two and even talks about issues that a lot of teenagers face. Did I mention both best friends are feminists? In theory, this should have been a good book.
But here’s the thing: almost all of it is problematic. On every level. I could take each of the aforementioned teenage problems and dissect it to present to you its offensive bits. But should I give this review any more time than it deserves? Should you take longer to read my review than I took to read the actual book? No and no. I’ll just address a couple of them here to make my case and let you decide for yourself.
Frankly, it’s my personal belief that for fiction to be realistic, it can be raw and flawed and the characters can be unlikable etc. That aside, you know that feeling you get when you read about a character and feel they’re a token character? The character is present throughout the novel, but just isn’t… represented correctly? In this book, Ava Helmer suffers from anxiety and OCD, Gen has come to the realization that she’s bi. While reading I had two thoughts
Thought # 1: Are these characters here solely to bring these facts to the front? Because a) there’s no other character development so this basically becomes their identity b) if yes, couldn’t this have been dealt with more depth and sensitivity (and sensibility) instead of just skimming the surface.
Thought # 2: This representation is so damn offensive and the portrayal is complete rubbish. Ava uses her anxiety to act like an utter douchebag. People, anxiety is something that some of us real people live with and try hard to cope with (I know I do). It isn’t a convenient excuse to be rude and judgey. As for Gen’s sexuality – I get that she’s experimenting and doesn’t wanna be tied down etc., but that isn’t an excuse to hook up with basically anyone (including her transphobic teacher) and it is certainly not an excuse to cheat. Gen represents a trope that is SO not okay – one where bi and non-monogamous people take everything as a license to cheat. Nope, not done. It’s like a narrow-minded straight person wrote this character (and incidentally, I came to know a lot of this is autobiographical, so I’ve NO idea how that happened). And may I add, Ava’s ignorance of bisexuality was SO cringeworthy.
I don’t even know why this book has side characters; they were all useless – present only to show who hooked up with whom. Ava and Gen’s friendship was a little too much for comfort. Actually, let me rephrase that – Ava’s clinginess and Gen’s apathy was hard to read about.
Goodreads tells me a 2* rating means “It was okay” and I guess, to be generous or whatever, it was. With that said, I wouldn’t really want a teenager or young adult to read this book. Poor representation of the LGBT community; poor portrayal of those with mental illness.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Netgalley/St. Martin’s Press. The review is honest and unbiased.