First book of the year! And I really should have chosen better…
Fern is a plain girl who has a crush on Ambrose, the school’s wrestling champion. He never pays attention to her. After 9/11, he goes to Iraq with his friends; they all die and he’s left horribly scarred. When he gets back, Fern and her best friend, Bailey, help him overcome his trauma and become “a better person”.
The person who recommended it to me definitely does not have the same taste as I do for books. I already knew that, but since this one was listed as “contemporary” rather than “romance” or “chick lit”, and since she assured me I would love it, I thought I’d give it a shot. In the end, it’s a Harlequin romance with lots of pretension thrown up on it. I guess it’s also a nice reminder that, just because I’m only reading books by women, it does not at all mean I’m free of misogyny.
Overall enjoyment: Nope.Plot:
Meh. I really don’t mind overused tropes, I am a fan of fanfiction, after all. But they have to be well done to keep my interest, and this one didn’t.Characters:
Classic manic-pixie-dream-girl as a protagonist (Fern). And I do mean classic, every single post you’ve seen on Tumblr about this applies to her. Her love interest, Ambrose (who, in the end, is the one who gets the character development), is a jock who never paid attention to her in highschool but then came back from the war horribly scarred and had to rethink his idea of beauty (which really doesn’t matter, because during this time she lost her braces, started using contacts, tamed her hair and grew breasts). A potentially interesting character as her best friend, Bailey, a boy with a rare degenerative disease.World/setting:
I guess if I were American I might have appreciated this better. This small town thing, where everybody knows and judges everybody and believe that is their right, feels stifling to me.Writing style:
Nothing special, but not particularly bad, either. She does tend to be over dramatic sometimes, but her voice was actually one of the few things I enjoyed. Simple and straightforward, if a bit corny in some points.Representation:
One of the main characters was disabled, so she gets points for that. However, straight cis-sexuality is the only one existing in her world. There are a couple of people described as dark-skinned, but that’s as far as their characterization goes and they are called “exotic” more than once. Passes Bechdel by a hair’s breadth (Fern remembers her mother talking to her friend) but fails the Mako Mori test.Political correctness:
UGH. The whole book is permeated with Christian religious morals, and I mean that in the worst sense possible: slut-shaming, victim blaming, against abortion. There is a secondary character, Rita, who ends up marrying an abuser. During prom, while they’re still not married, Fern actually says she fears he’ll beat Rita for dancing with Bailey, and that’s it. Nothing is done, nobody takes any kind of action at all. The narrator doesn’t even comment on it, as if it were just a matter of course. And then, later, when Rita tells Fern she’s pregnant and she had a life long dream of traveling to Europe, Fern actually tells her to get married and give up on that dream, even though she knows the guy is an abuser. For fuck’s sake, the girl was begging to be told to have an abortion.
Like I said, I should have chosen better. Hopefully the future books will be better than this…