Initial reaction: I think the long and short I want to say with this book is that this is pretty much every formulaic New Adult title you would expect it to be in one smorgasboard. And honestly that's sad because I don't know if there was one ounce of creativity to be had in this story, more like derivations of about a dozen other titles with unremarkable leads and frustrating, trivial expansions.
More expansion on this to come in the longer review.
I could relate the irony in that at the time I'm writing this review, it's Valentine's Day (and International Book Giving Day! Who'd have thought? That's actually a nice coupling indeed). I appreciate love stories of all types and ones that really gut me and make me cheer in terms of what the couple goes through in order to find each other, to accept their flaws and make realizations about each other that deepen and further their relationship. That's rewarding in itself to read about.
But K.A. Robinson's story "Torn", the first in her Torn series, does not strike me as a love story. It's a blatant formula that has been beaten to death, and I for one am tired of it. Is there really no lick of creativity or realism in this genre? (The realistic answer to that is no, I've read a few stories in NA that have at least been a little more creative than the rest of the lot, but 98% of what I picked up has just been derivative from point one.) Because this certainly wasn't creative or realistic. It was just cheap thrill drama that made no sense.
There were many ways I wanted to write this review, but I think I'm settling on just telling it like it is. I do plan on reading the sequel since I already have the book (and this one concludes on a cruel cliffhanger), but...here are my thoughts on this.
"Torn" pretty much takes every trope you can find in a New Adult work, stirs it in a blender, puts it out for your consumption. I think people who like the familiar tropes in New Adult may not mind as much, but I honestly get tired of reading the same darned thing all the time. How is Chloe supposed to be different than any other NA heroine? She's so oblivious and stupid trying to follow her in the way she strings two guys (regardless of flaws they may have) along like it's not even a due consequence. Nevermind that the guys themselves (Logan and Drake) are threadbare stereotypes in themselves. They never became real people to me. It was all one big offensive stereotype that trivialized some really heavy issues (including rape).
Logan's touted as the typical best friend to Chloe that's loved her from afar and is just making his mood. It vexes him all the while when Chloe keeps referring to him "like a brother" and while I could understand that certain things are meant to be seen by the reader in this scenario that the heroine doesn't see - Chloe's stupidity and blind eye irritated more often than not. Drake is the "stereotypical" bad boy who keeps watching Chloe (at first) with all the intensity of a silent stalker. Honestly that creeped me out, rather than having Chloe's reaction be "OMG, he's staring at me! It's so hot!"
And this wasn't even a real love triangle - more like a forgone conclusion before the relationship even really got off the ground. I could've started singing the tune "Badada-da, I'm an insta-love machine, and I won't work for nobody but yooou..." to describe Drake and Chloe hooking up. The fact that she even gets a tattoo with him, and her reactions with slut shaming anyone who might have the slightest interest in Drake (including her roommate), makes it clear that she wants to be with him. Nevermind poor Logan, who gets used so badly in this book that I wanted to feel sorry for him. But again - I had a hard time doing so because there really wasn't much development to Logan's character. He was just a blatant plot device rather than a character with his own needs, wants, and flesh.)
And get this, Chloe sleeps with Logan and he's like - "This is the best night of my life", but then Chloe turns around, seemed to react like "But, but, but...Drake! Musician sexy bad boy Drake who I can't stop thinking about, even though Logan is so good to me. But everybody wants me to be with him, so I can't do it because I want to be with DRAKE." And ends up sleeping with Drake at least three times after that, even in awkward sexy time moments that felt jarring in terms of transition and sudden inclusion. Her indecisiveness drove me up the wall, she's worse than the heroine from S.C. Stephens "Thoughtless" (which this narrative is eerily similar to also in places).
And I couldn't with the bland reveal/info-dump of Chloe and Drake's "tragic pasts" in this work - it was given threadbare development, if at all. I honestly couldn't feel anything for it. Not at all. It was so emotionally manipulative and lacking that I just wanted to be done with the work.
But there were two other things that really drove me up the wall even worse than the formulaic and just plain bad writing. The first was the blatant "rape as conflict device" that was in this work. It was such an undermining of the matter that I was appalled by it. Chloe would not have had some of the reactions she did if she were a real person with such a jarring event. It sickened and saddened me for the portrayal, to be frank about it.
The other thing had to do with a blatant reference to another NA work which this work is eerily similar to: "Beautiful Disaster" by Jamie McGuire. If your character crushes on a fiction character "Mr. Maddox" as a book obssession in an NA work, it's...awkward to say the least. I didn't see it as clever or cheeky for reference, I saw it as a bit of obvious audience pandering, and that bothered me.
Overall - not recommended. It was just too familiar with nothing to distinguish it beyond the familiar "same script, different cast" measure found in many New Adult works to date.
Overall score: 0.5/5 stars.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria.