Bingo square: Brain Candy
Charlie’s sister, Linnie, is getting married. This means all her siblings will be together again, something Charlie longs for. But as the Grant children assemble everything that could go wrong on Linnie’s big day does go wrong. From the wedding planner who may be a criminal to a suit mix up, power outage and a cake catastrophe. In the middle of this Charlie’s parents are selling their house, leaving Charlie feeling adrift, and her mother’s famous comic strip that features their entire family is coming to an end – complete with a live interview with Good Morning America. Oh and a sibling feud, an absent best friend, a romance with her brother’s best friend, and a borrowed dog. Will the wedding go smoothly? Will the Grant family mend their fences?
Will I care?
I keep reading Morgan Matson because i’m trying to recapture the feeling I had after finishing her first (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour), which was one of those I picked up at random I think and just thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. Instead each book I read holds less and less of that magic, though still readable enough. Save the Date really annoyed me though and I ended up hate reading a lot of it. Partly it’s the setting. I just don’t care about weddings. Everything can go wrong but at the end of the day if the two people who love each other end up married then it’s a success. There’s no drama for me. Then you have the characters themselves – and there are a lot of them. People keep showing up to this damn wedding and we’re meant to keep track of who is who when some of them aren’t mentioned again for a hundred pages. Oh and some have the same name. Others are the same characters with different names! (Comic strip identities.) And there’s just so much privilege. I couldn’t stomach it. Charlie’s father is a university professor. Her mother writes the incredibly popular and successful comic based on her family (do those still exist?). They live in an enormous house. Then there’s a throwaway mention of Danny winning $250,000 in a coke competition as a teen. And sure, turn your brain off and enjoy this romp through how the other half lives. But I couldn’t. Not when Charlie was complaining her way through it all.
I didn’t like Charlie. Which is rough when it’s 400 pages all in her head. But there’s so very little that’s likeable about her. I think previous main characters had something to soften their pricklier edges – loss of a family member, parental divorce. Here she just wants everything to stay the same and gets annoyed when anything threatens that – selling the house, going to college, her brother’s new girlfriend (who is a 28 year old woman and a doctor and Charlie refers to her as a girl throughout). She just seems spoiled. And I don’t know why she has such an attachment to her siblings given the age differences. She can’t have grown up that much in their presence, except for Mike, so what is she holding onto exactly?
And why does she want all her siblings around? Everyone is awful. Danny didn’t tell anyone he had a girlfriend let alone that he was bringing her to the wedding, then he either ignores her or is annoyed with her the whole time even though she’s in an environment she doesn’t know and feels unwelcome. JJ isn’t given anything to do except try to be funny. Linnie and Rodney are getting married, that’s their entire arc. Mike had a falling out with his parents over his mother using his life as material for her comic strip and has been absent for 18 months (and frankly I’m on his side).
A lot of the time it feels like the author forgets just how big the age difference is between Charlie and her oldest siblings. It’s 12 and 11 years. By the time she was old enough to even be aware of them, wouldn’t they have been gone? Charlie talks about sitting in the closet she shared with Linnie and chatting as they both got ready to go out – as if they were both teenagers at the same time. But they weren’t. They play an (interminable) game of capture the flag and she says Danny brought the game home to them from sleep away camp when he was eight. But you weren’t even born!
Other gripes include a love interest named Bill (sorry to the Bills of this world but yeesh), the constant descriptions of everyone, down to their height, and the fact that every male in this book wears a button-down. Stop telling me what they’re wearing, I’ll just assume it’s a button-down. I don’t really know what a button-down is but I’ve got it.
And sure by the end there’s some growth, but it’s not enough to sustain the ridiculous amount of things that go wrong or make up for a protagonist that’s hard to care about.