Ugh.*Cookie cutter plot. Cookie cutter characters. Cookie cutter romance.*Contrived.
That is the first word that comes to mind when I try to sum up this book.
Shall we start with the plot? It's cardboard. Flimsy cardboard.
A story that we've read time and time again. Two teens with a troubled past who meet (again) in school. The girl is shy, emotionally fragile, and in need of constant protection. The boy is brooding, artsy, and mysterious with just a pinch of bad boy tossed in. These two troubled souls slowly fall in love (not without a large amount of angst and sexual tension, of course), and eventually, they grow and heal together. Stop me if you've heard this story before. Sure, the plot is unoriginal, and I might have not minded all that much if it had been at least been well-written. Unoriginal plots become more when the characters are unique and unforgettable or when there is a new twist to an age-old tale. This book had neither.
Now moving on to the characters. One dimensional and boring.
This book focuses on Mallory and Rider, and their slow discovery on what it means to actually live
. The Velveteen Rabbit is referenced heavily as an analogy throughout the book:“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time.”
But never once did any of the characters feel Real. Stories like this are supposed to be defined by the growth of the characters: a realization of their own inner strength, the process of forgiving themselves, etc. The development of Mallory and Rider just weren't realistic. The timeline was way too quick, and as the Skin Horse said, becoming Real takes a long time. It just wasn't believable. There was a large focus on the relationship between Mallory and Rider with an ungodly (and unnecessary) amount of angst. If there was more of a focus on their healing journey instead of their sexual dealings, I think their story would have come to life more.
Mallory and Rider's romance also didn't work for me. Even though they had a past together, most of their relationship seemed to focus on the lust and sexual attraction they felt for each other, instead of actual feelings. There was also the part of "I love you, but I'm not good enough for you, so we are both going to be miserable without each other." Groan.
Also, Armentrout dropped 'whisper-yelled' in this book, more than once. NO. NO NO NO.
Dear authors who use this terrible "word,"
To whisper is to speak with soft, hushed sounds. To yell is to cry out or speak with a strong, loud, clear sound; shout. (Definitions taken right from the dictionary.) People don't shout quietly or yell softly. If you are whisper-yelling, you are speaking both softly and loudly which means...YOU ARE SPEAKING AT A NORMAL VOLUME.
Please don't let this become a descriptive word in books. You can fight this. You're an author, so use your words! Use your large vocabulary and find other ways to describe speaking in a normal tone of voice. Cause this whole 'whisper-yelling' shit is just dumb.
A reader sick of seeing this 'word'
The one thing that I liked about the book was how it shone a light on the ugly side of the foster care system. The system is corrupt and children are suffering all the time, and this book really portrayed the corruption that lies. Children being abused, children being killed in the streets, it covered a whole gamut of incidents, and moments were intense. This book should have a trigger warning for those that have faced traumatic events, as this can trigger some unpleasant memories or emotions.
I do not think I will be recommending this book to others. For those looking to read something with a similar storyline (and a better romance), then I would recommend reads such as Easy
or The Sea of Tranquility
. This is supposed to be a stand-alone novel, but I wouldn't be surprised if a sequel pops up in future. I can definitely see a series trying to be made out of this, but oh, how I hope not.