Where to begin? I guess I’ll simply come out and say it: this is, without any doubt in my mind, one of the worst books I have ever read. We’re talking to the point that even one star is too gracious, which is why I have decided to leave this review as “unrated.” In other words, I give this book literally zero stars and wish I could simply ctrl+z the memory of it from my brain, because I spent all last night after finishing it finding that everything seemed to dredge up more nightmarish recollections. To think this all began with a recommendation from my favorite author, Rainbow Rowell, and a title that intrigued me, as my fiancee happens to be a Pisces herself. I never thought she would lead me so horribly astray, yet here we are, with me not able to stop actively hating this book since I completed it last evening. Ask my fiancee and she’ll tell you I’ve spent the time since either ranting about things contained in the book or simply moaning some variant of “it was so bad.” Hopefully this review will help purge me of some of that. However, I must first warn you that what follows carries with it both a spoiler and content warning. I will be discussing the plot of The Pisces in full, and that plot contains multiple mentions of self-harm, suicide, and animal abuse. If you do not wish to read any further, for the sake of not being spoiled, or due to that noted content, this is your final warning.
Onto the review proper, The Pisces begins with our main character Lucy initiating a breakup with her boyfriend, who surprisingly goes right along with it, only to immediately regret her decision due to a sudden, newfound clarity. His mind is made up, though, and he even moves on with another woman; however, in the process of literally stalking him, Lucy discovers this and commits some mild aggravated assault by, you know, breaking his nose. But Lucy, as you’ll find out, has too warped an image of herself to see herself for what she really is. Now, or ever. She starts self-righteous and self-absorbed and that’s pretty much how she stays for the entirety of the book, looking down upon everybody else and only caring about herself and how everything affects her. This begins when her ex offers to skip pressing charges if she attends a therapy group instead. Lucy is incensed by the mere idea of it and has to be talked down by her sister, and she openly mocks the group in her narration when she finally goes, talking the entire time about how she doesn’t belong there. This last bit will be a running theme; even when she has those brief moments of self-reflection much later on that have her wondering if maybe she’s actually as bad as some of them, it feels like she’s tip-toeing around the possibility more than committing to it.
Anyway, she of course ignores the advice of the group leader to not date anybody, and she does so pretty much immediately. Thus begins our forays into sex, starting with sexual misadventures. One of these involves her preparing for anal by hand-picking pieces of shit from her own anus. This, I assume, is supposed to pass for levity. Instead, it started the books rapid descent into “what the actual fuck!?” territory. Lucy is clearly on a downward spiral, her priorities way out of order. She’ll spend $400 on lingerie for sex with a guy she’s only met once before (and which winds up being in a hotel bathroom… that she goes along with anyway), yet balks at paying for the vet bill of her sister’s dog that she’s watching (translation: alternating between spooning and ignoring until he shits on the floor, which she’s flippant about). We get a new entrant to the group, this one married, yet hooking up with anyone and everyone, even confiding in Lucy that she was barely able to stop herself short of adding her son’s 17-year-old friend to her list of lays. Lucy’s only “friend” in the group becomes increasingly suicidal, telling Lucy at one point she self-harms by beating herself until she’s black-and-blue (somehow worse than cutting). Oh, and when she reaches out to Lucy in a dire moment of need, telling her she’s actively planning killing herself, Lucy swings by… yet leaves her there alone, not willing to swing by the house to grab the dog for a sleepover at her house. Why, you ask? She doesn’t want to miss her merman booty-call.
You heard me right. And he does have a booty. Plus a penis. Because apparently these mermen are human until after the dick and butt. Broder probably meant for that to add to the “sexiness,” but that’s some Twilight sparkling vampires level bull. There’s absolutely no way, after discovering his anatomy, that I could ever take him seriously ever again. She might as well have just copy-pasted this drawing from Turning Red in the book. It would’ve had more sex appeal than whatever the hell she was going for.
Then there’s the sex scenes between these two, somehow worse than the UTI-causing bathroom-stall sex from before. She kept one-upping herself with batshit stupidity, every other line eliciting an audible “what the fuck!?” from me. I’ve scrubbed most of them from my memory, thank the lord, but I remember some nonsense about how she felt like she was screwing his pussy with her dick, as one example. For another more extreme example, we have a scene from later on where Lucy has progressed to taking him out of the water and into the house in a cart. While she’s on her period, merman is blood-crazy and homegirl uses her vagina like a damned sharpie, drawing all over his face with blood. She does this on her sister’s couch, by the way. Doesn’t even clean up the blood afterwards. Oh, and in these trips to the house, the dog needs to be tranquilized by meds she pays out the ass for from various vets, like a damned druggie. So, for those keeping track at home, she’ll pay to knock the dog out for merman sex, but not to take him to the vet about his worsening diabetes.
On that note, let me move onto the worst sin of this book: killing the dog. Yes, you read correctly, the dog dies. Lucy gallivants around without a care in the world, thinking “if he shits on the floor, I’ll just clean it up,” and he does, pretty frequently. Then she drugs him with tranquilizers so frequently that he dies. Oh, and her sister doesn’t even question the cause of death (or blood on the couch; her husband does, though), or blame Lucy, simply saying the vets didn’t know how sick he’d gotten. I wanted at least some earned righteous rage from the sister, but there’s none. And her sister seeks comfort from her for the death she directly caused… and she doesn’t even come clean about any of it! This all gives her enough of a moment of clarity to not kill herself, though, so there’s that, I guess? Did I not mention the merman wanted her to come “live” with him under the sea, AKA drown, and that she was just about to do that? I think it was more the fact that she wouldn’t be the only corpse under the sea that stopped her short of joining him down there, but let’s not split hairs.
Whatever the actual reason, this was possibly the only time reading a book that I ever was legitimately incensed that a character did not kill themselves. I was that done with Lucy by book’s end that I thought her giving into the insanity of this merman poppycock and dying that way was the only ending she’d earned. This woman couldn’t even give her friend more than like a minute to talk about herself when visiting her in a psych ward after a failed suicide attempt, launching right into her own problems, and even ignoring her friend’s advice. Why does she deserve some sort of second chance in this story? What did she do to earn it? There’s simply nothing redeemable about her as a character. She’s ruined the name Lucy for me, and this book has ruined any interest I had in reading Broder’s other book, Milk Fed, which I checked out from the library at the same time (also based upon a Rainbow Rowell recommendation). I long for the day when this book is but a distant memory; however, I fear that day is a long ways away. Give me strength in the days to come.