Mariana Zapata’s books continue to give me an experience of diminishing returns. If I had just stopped at Kulti, I would still love it, but now having read three of her books, and seen that all three of them feel like basically the same book with the covers and names swapped out, I have been enjoying them less and less (and retroactively enjoy Kulti less, too, which is sad).
This book is about Jasmine Santos, a pairs skater without a partner, whose mortal enemy, Ivan Lukov, offers to be her partner for a year. Lukov is a famous skater, he’s won a ton of medals, and he’s extremely handsome. And Jasmine hates him. This, again like Kulti and The Wall of Winnipeg, is an extremely slow burn, and pretty long (over 500 pages). Also like those two books, the heroine is a put-upon woman with a difficult man as her opposite. Well, at least in Jasmine’s eyes. To give this book some credit, it’s really Jasmine that’s the difficult one here. She’s incredibly stubborn, judgmental, untrusting, and a lot of the times mean. She is also fond of using sexist language, and I did not like it. I actually really disliked her until about 1/3 of the way into the book, which is about 200 pages. She softens a little and admits to some of her faults as she and Ivan begin to trust one another.
But ultimately, I just don’t think Zapata is a talented enough writer for me to read any more of her books, simply because they all sound exactly the same. I am tired of reading the same narrative style for every one of her characters, no matter how different they are in personality. Her technique doesn’t convey those differences. Being in Jasmine’s head, aside from the extra profanity and internalized sexism, is exactly like being in Sal’s head or the one from Winnipeg, who I’m too lazy to look up right now. It’s always the same with the first person POV, the rhetorical questions (i.e. “Do I hate repetitive literary techniques? Yes I do. Did I still read the book anyway? You bet your ass I did,” etc etc.), the tendency for her to tell us things rather than show. I’m just super tired of it. Even switching away from the audiobooks to ebook instead, her voice was still not very unique to me.
You’ll notice I’m still giving this three stars, and that’s because Ivan did really turn out to be sweet, and the way he supports Jasmine and bonds with her succeeded in melting my heart despite all the other stuff that was annoying me.
If I read another Zapata, it’s going to be a long time from now.