Book Title: Flat-Out Love
Author: Jessica Park
Narration: Julia Whelan
Series: Flat-Out Love #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance, YA/NA
Source: Audible Audiobook
♪♫MY PICK FOR BOOK THEME SONG♫♪
♫You Learn by Alanis Morrissette --I think Alanis has the right feel for Julie…something about her, anyway. This story is all about what you learn…in a way, or many ways, actually. ♫
The Feels: 3.8/5
Backdrop (World Building): 5/5
Book Cover: 5/5
Narration: 5/5 (One of my fav narrators!)
Ending: 4.5/5 Cliffhanger: Not at all
Will I continue this series? Maybe…
I figured out why or what they wouldn't tell her early on…I was unsure as to the how, though. It seemed like a lot of work, just to keep someone in the dark about what was really going on, and for an entire school year, crazy. A little too crazy to be believable…and yet, the ending really did get to me, and ultimately made this worth the read.
The quirky characters were all very likable, I also enjoyed the facebook updates throughout…they were engaging. I need to update like that. The more I got to know Matt as a character, the more I couldn't help loving him. Celeste was rather marvelous herself. Finn seems too good too be true. Dana is amazing, exactly the kind of friend everyone needs in their life. And Julie…I mean, I liked her…she's quirky, tenacious, and a little too gullible. But…there is something about her that wouldn't let me like her as much as the other characters.
⇝Sex Factor⇜ This is a squeaky clean kind of romance.
Disclaimer: I found out after I finished reading this book, that this particular Author is known to have behaved badly in regards to reviews on their books. While this makes me upset, I still gave my honest opinion about this book. Ultimately, I'm not going to trash a book just because I disagree with a Author's behavior.
I admit, the only reason I read Flat Out Love was because it was this month pick of my book club BookCirle. I would have never picked it up since I find the German title sounds childish and the cover not very attractive. But in the end I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
The book is about “Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of the Watkins family’s Boston house. When Julie's off-campus housing falls through, her mother's old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side... and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.” (Goodreads)
I enjoyed the beginning of the book very much. I had discovered that I really like stories about Freshman College when main characters enter the “adult-world” and find their way around campus. So the beginning of Flat-Out Love played exactly into this. Unfortunately, the story soon focused on the family dynamics. While I still enjoyed that - because the family is just a huge mess - I was disappointed that the college experience was completely ignored.
Like I said the story focuses on the characters. We have the main character Julie, who I found kind of bland. Beside her tainted relationship to her father there was nothing interesting about her. She is pretty, but not too much, smart, but not too much, kind, but not too much. Everything about her is just very, very perfectly ordinary.
The Watkins parents drove me nuts. They were nice and all, but they completely failed as parents. Matt, the one brother who is an MIT student, was kind of interesting but I found his character not very thought through. On the one hand he was supposed to be this nerd who is socially awkward, but on the other hand he was always socially perfect and self-confident when it fit the author’s mood. Somehow those two sides of him didn’t fit together.
Then there is Finn, the older brother and love interest of Julie. He seems like a dream guy. Good looking, smart and fun to be around. So to me the hardest part were all the facebook posts and email exchanges. I don’t like reading those. I can’t build a connection to characters through that.
The most interesting character in this book is Celeste who carries around a cardboard cut-out of her brother Finn. From the beginning the reader can tell that something has happened in this family and trying to figure out what it was, is what carries the story. There were many moments in this books where I thought, that everyone was just ignoring and tolerating behaviors and obvious malfunctions just to keep the secret hidden. That was something I really did not like.
At the end I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought. It is a light, quick read. I think most readers will guess the secret sooner or later but it is still an enjoyable book.
Left Drowning is the third book by Jessica Park that I've read. For some reason, with all three I was left with a feeling of wanting more. Not more in the sense that the stories were incomplete. Not in the sense that I didn't want the stories to end. But more in the sense that I feel Park has the potential to write what I would perceive as a great story, but each time it just falls a bit short.
Park's style is easy to read and it pulls me in usually from the start. As with her others that I've read, I didn't have to push myself to finish this book. I wanted to see where it would go, even though I guessed the backstory for both Blythe and Chris at the very beginning.
From the start of the book I knew that one of the primary themes was about fate. Does it exist or doesn't it? Because of this, I was able to look past the unbelievable circumstances: (1) Blythe meeting her first friend in 4 years, and then only hours later meeting her second which turns out to be the brother of said new friend. (2) Blythe feeling an immediate connection to Chris where she can tell him things she has never told anyone else (on the day she meets him). (3) The shared past between Chris and Blythe that neither remember until the end of the story. (4) There are more, but I don't want to give spoilers.
For many readers, the things mentioned above would be enough to drop the book. But like I said, I knew it was about fate and I accepted it for what it was. I tend to believe in fate, so maybe those readers who hated it don't believe in fate.
Blythe (and her brother) and Chris (and his siblings) all had some pretty big issues to overcome. I liked that while Chris helped Blythe overcome her issues, she didn't need to use him as a crutch - he was a catalyst and not her savior.
Despite all that, this book fell short for me in some big areas.
When the story beings, we are led to believe that Blythe has spent the last 4 years in self-induced isolation and drinks a lot. Her new friend even recognizes her as someone who can do a good keg-stand. Yet, out of the blue, she decides to get sober, meet new people, actually start trying in class, and start running. If only it were that easy. 4 years of drinking and isolation is a long time - I find it hard to believe that it can be overcome in just 24 hours. Besides that, what was her trigger? Yes she drunk dialed her brother and it didn't go well, but again we're led to believe that she had been doing that consistently for the past 4 years. What was her sudden motivation for change?
At the 50% mark of this book, it suddenly turned into an eRom. We are given two entire chapters where Blythe and Chris don't leave the bedroom. I don't have any issues with graphic sex in books. I've enjoyed many books with hot, steamy, sex scenes. While a few chapters before Blythe masturbates, the dedication of two chapters to the bedroom kind of hit me by surprise. This was a dramatic story and the amount of sex that was suddenly thrown in just didn't fit for me. And Blythe was a virgin. But based on the way she talked/performed in the bedroom it was kind of hard to believe. I could be wrong though. It's not like I've bedded any female virgins (unless you count me having been one once) so maybe they do all talk about how they want it harder and deeper on their first time (that's being performed on a dresser even though the bed is just a few feet away).
The 'moment' that Blythe and Chris fall in love is at the end of this week-long sexcapade. During one of these very graphic sex scenes. I wish that hadn't been the case. For me, love should happen outside the bedroom, and inside is where you should express it. If you think you fall in love while in the bedroom, well, some day that could become very complicated.
My last major issue with the book was Blythe's unbelievable emotional maturity. Remember, she just spent 4 years drinking herself into isolation. Yet, with this abrupt change in her life she also somehow developed this amazing level of emotional maturity. From her relationship with Chris to that of her brother. All of her reasoning was sound and very good advice - I just don't know how she suddenly had it when it wasn't there before.
Opps, sorry. One last thing. But I'll have to hide it as a spoiler.
I really didn't like how Blythe reacted when she found out Chris wasn't getting married. I did like that he called it off himself, rather than her busting it up, but not her reaction. Yes, I get that she was totally drunk. BUT, he was the love of her life. The man she claimed she would never get over. He was going to marry someone else and that was crushing her. What happens when he tells her there was no wedding? She responds with the expected, 'What?' After that -- she's only focused on the detail that he never had sex with the other woman. And then it's, 'Oh, yeah, I have a dog!' And they are all planning to spend the summer together. Huh? Where's the extreme feeling of relief? Where's the overwhelming tears of joy? Where's the anger at having put her through hell for the past year? Nope, none of that. I will say that it was slightly redeemed by the fact that they didn't jump straight into bed with each other. She made him wait a month. Then we got another chapter or two where they spent the next month in the bedroom.
Overall, I'd say that I would read more of Park's books. I guess I'm still looking for that moment when she can bring it all together and really knock my socks off.