Okay, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I had read some of the more negative reviews of it, and didn’t expect it to be any good, but I gave it a shot and found it to be rather enjoyable. Of course, it isn’t perfect, but I was still rather impressed by it.
The tone of the story was rather dark. It was easy for the reader to feel the level of heartbreak that was described within the story. Wilder did a good job portraying just how heartbroken Nell was after Kyle’s death. She managed to get across just how dark and painful and desperate these characters were, but also how they were still, after all of their sadness, able to hope that things could get better.
There were things that I wasn’t very enthusiastic about or impressed by in this story. (I can be difficult to please, I know.) Anyway, there’s this pet peeve that I have that I didn’t really realize that I had until I read this novel. The pet peeve? Authors who write chapters that are longer than fifty pages. Maybe it’s because I’m American and have watched so much television that it has caused my brain to not be able to handle that kind of strain or maybe it’s the untreated ADD. I don’t know what causes it, but my poor little messed up American brain just cannot handle fifty page chapters. I get why she had them go on that long, since the story is separated by time period, but it just felt like too much. Chapters and breaks in general don’t just exist to separate different scenes, they also exist to give the reader a break and to help keep them “fresh” so that they will enjoy the story more. Without breaks, the reader can grow tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed by the story. With such a dark story, it was not only tiring not to have more frequent breaks, it also left me feeling a bit raw from all of the emotion.
Now, another issue that I had was Colton’s gang background and urban/street dialect. It felt forced. It didn’t seem natural at all. I think I know why she used those things to further the story, but I felt like Wilder didn’t understand that sort of background or dialect enough to use it properly. It made the scenes where it was brought up seem very amateurish and possibly offensive to people who might be more familiar with gangs or growing up in an urban setting. It seemed to play to some stereotypes that many suburban whites have about cities.
Then there was the issue of Colton’s father’s career. He is a politician. He lives most of the time in Washington because of his career. He would not have kicked his learning disabled son out of his house and given up on him, no matter how much he might have truly disliked his son. Why? Well, if he did that, then he would expect his career to be over by the end of the day. He would be expecting a journalist to drop by his house the second that journalist heard anything about Mr. Calloway having an estranged son. Actually, he or she would talk to Colton first, then either try to get his father’s side of the story or just go to press with whatever Colton said. His behavior is how the political game can be easily lost.
There is also the issue of the way that Nell’s struggles with alcohol abuse and self-injury were written. As a person who is very familiar with cutting, the simple easy way that Nell seemed to stop cutting is not at all realistic. There are very few people who just stop harming themselves one day and don’t start back. Self-injury is a more complex problem than that, and I get really annoyed when writers who have no experience with it write it in such an unrealistic way.
The book was very good for what it was: an independently published novel written and edited by non-professionals. The dialogue was remarkable for this kind of book, which is part of why, despite my annoyance at some of the issues, I rated it as a four. The ability to portray such angst is another reason. I believe that Jasinda Wilder may have studied at the Joss Whedon Academy for Killing All of Your Hopes and Dreams based on how many times I cried over how the two main characters were relentlessly tortured. The Joss Whedon part is a compliment. The relentless torture is a warning to anyone who goes into this thinking that it is a happy story. It’s not. It’s hopeful, but not happy. I enjoyed this book quite a bit and actually looked forward to the second book in the series after I finished.