I’ve got three books I need to review before this one, but none of the others had the impact on me that this book did (even though they were all objectively better, I think).
First: three-fourths of this book is terrible. I don’t mean bad, I mean it was a grapefruit-sized pustula seeping boric acid. I hate-read this book. I wanted misery to befall the characters so that I could feel something other than hate. This book was so bad, I contemplated not even writing a review – just publishing my notes as the sole evidence that my mind was being driven insane. These notes ran to nearly 3,000 words. In fact, here are some examples:
-I don’t like the alternating first person perspective. It takes me out of the story. How was this book supposedly written? Did each of the characters write their chapters in journal form, and they edited them together to be one cohesive narrative? I get it as a plot device, but it makes no sense, logically.
-did he just say he was relieved that she had low self esteem because he knew he would be able to get in her pants?!
-how the hell does an 18 year-old student with no job afford dinner at the Château Marmot? I mean, I’ve never been there, but it’s a famous 5-star hotel. I bet that shit’s expensive. And, to that point, how does an 18 year-old aspiring actor who barely seems to work afford moving to New York City to chase her dreams? This happens all the times in movies, but she doesn’t seem like the type to live in a 300 sq foot hovel some where while working three jobs. Eh. I guess money isn’t an issue in this universe.
-Okay. Hoover used “all the things” as a statement in this book. Internet speak? Really? Is that what I’m reading, now? Was this book put through a meme generator to make it more relevant to the kids? Ugh.
-Stop it. Stop it right now, Colleen Hoover. “Booksting” is not a thing. It will never be a thing. If I was dating a girl and she threw that stupid word at me, I’d end that shit right then. And, to that point, neither is “instalove”. It’s a concept called “love at first sight.” I don’t know why I hate this shit so much, but I do. It’s so damned contrived.
-So, they’ve spent a total of, what, 10 hours together? That’s it? She’s moving to New York, and they agree to meet up in a year (because this would totally work in real life). So they give each other homework. His homework for her is that she needs to go on five dates (with five different men) and kiss at least 2 of them. I get it. He’s trying to get her to open up and put herself out there (both in life and romance) but……come on. What 18 year old kid would tell his “girlfriend” (again, they’ve known each other a few hours and won’t talk or see each other for another year) this with any expectation that she’ll retain her interest in him? I don’t buy it. And, more to the point, there’s something fairly skeevy about him telling her to go out with other men and then tell him about it afterwards. I mean, everybody’s got a thing, I guess. But this seems a little gross.
Those are my notes early on. I’m clearly not enjoying myself, and am fairly annoyed. But it’s all relatively tame.
-“when do you go back to New York?”
“First thing tomorrow morning. I can stay at my mother’s tonight, if I need to.”
“You aren’t sleeping anywhere but in this bed.”
Hey, asshole. Why not ask the woman you’ve met three times if she’ll stay, instead of telling her what she’ll do?
-What? What? Fuck you. No. They’re about to have sex, and she says she’s a virgin. He responds with, “I don’t want to be your first. I want to be your last.” No. Shut up. You don’t say that to someone you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with. If you do want to spend the rest of your life with, then end the contrived bullshit of meeting for one day every year for five years. Either move to NY and make it work, or ask her to stay in California. Don’t tell her fuck a bunch of dudes so she can tell you about it. Jesus.
-“Baby, you’ve already made this the best sex I’ve ever had, and I’m not even inside you yet.” Fucking ew. He actually said that to her. I want to set this book on fire.
So, it gets worse from there. I actually closed the book a few times and yelled at it for being stupid.
I maybe take this stuff too personally.
Anyway, the second thing is…..Colleen Hoover kind of rescues this book. By that, I mean this is a 2 star book instead of a 0. I don’t want to get too much into how she does, because spoilers, but I think it suffices to say that it doesn’t unapologetically jettison life by speeding over the cliff like Thelma and Louise. It attempts to slam on the breaks like the tank in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, except the ground gives out underneath. That may not be a traditional “rescue”, (I mean, we still die terribly in the end by tumbling to our deaths) but I think I’m so eager for some redemptive value that I’m latching on to whatever explanation she came up with for why these characters are so unforgivably stupid.
The basic plot of this book is why I read the whole thing. I thought it was interesting, and wanted to see how it would play out. A young couple meet and fall for each other, but the girl (Fallon) is moving to New York the next day to pursue her dreams of becoming an actor on Broadway. She suffered a terrible accident two years prior that left her with large, visible scars over most of her body, and a promising career on TV was cut short. The accident not only disrupted her career but, as you can imagine, stunted her development in other areas. She’s become withdrawn, and her sense of self-worth was eroded. So she is moving to NY to try and regain what she’s lost. It’s a fresh start. Then Ben shows up and awakens something in her that she wasn’t expecting to find in the city she was leaving behind: happiness. So, they agree to maintain a connection on the basic conceit that she returns to LA every year on November 9 (the day they met) and they’ll spend the day together.
Contrived? Yes. But I was interested. If I was writing this book, it would be a paean to longing and missed opportunities; full of sorrow and the cold loneliness of drifting away from love not chanced. I would have the characters growing and exploring new avenues towards adulthood, while constantly being held to a promise made when they were young and spontaneous. At the end, they’d find themselves markedly different from who they were in the beginning; living separate lives and wondering what might’ve been if they’d just taken the chance on one another at the start. Instead, they agree to go their separate ways, and only take with them the memories of what never was. I would’ve made this a sad indictment of not grabbing on to something special when it’s in front of you. Instead of two people growing together and realizing that who you become isn’t a necessary and inevitable byproduct of maturation, but is instead based on countless small choices made over years; this could’ve been about two people trying to uncover some hypothetical “true self”, only to find that no such thing exists, and that their adventures ruined something potentially great.
But that’s not the direction Hoover takes. I don’t judge her for that. Maybe she doesn’t like bittersweet romance like I do.
What she does, though, is set up two immature characters: one mysterious (because of course he is. Why are the men always mysterious and holding secrets?), one who’s only experience with love is from romance novels. Instead of living two lives tethered by the promise of one shared day, they seem to live only for November 9. But this doesn’t make any sense to me. Fallon is fundamentally against the concept of love of at first sight (I refuse to use the above neologism invented by Hoover), and Ben’s motivations are never adequately described (until the end). Because the characters never leave the shallows, this contrivance never develops the pathos needed to make this story compelling, and just ends up being a tangled mess.
The meet-cute was terrible and unrealistic. The flirting was awkward and childish. The love interest for the protagonist was demanding, and controlling, and so earnest that I felt like my own interactions with people throughout my life were tepid and unmemorable. The very romance itself – the entire premise of the book – was contrived and never fully realized. You can’t have the characters deliberately abstaining from committing to one another so they can find themselves and become adults while simultaneously refusing to let them develop into the people they aspire to become; unless, of course, that is the point you are trying to make with your characters. But Hoover doesn’t seem to be making any point. This is just a vapid romance between children.
And, I think, a great missed opportunity.
But, I do give Hoover credit for salvaging the book. I absolutely hated the character of Ben, and wasn’t particularly a fan of Fallon. Though I’m forced to add an asterisk to my hatred for these characters, it takes 3/4 of the book to get me there. I don’t think that’s a particularly effective way of telling a story.
Plus, I absolutely hate when characters keep secrets from one another.
I’m once again left with the belief that the romance genre isn’t for me, though this is only my second attempt after The Bollywood Bride. I know it’s not an adequate or representative sample, but there you have it.