This book…this book was a struggle for me to read. First of all, it starts off incredibly slowly and is rather boring. I figured out, about halfway through, that I needed to listen to music (specifically, fast-tempo pop–no ballads) in order to get through it. It was just that difficult. Secondly, the characters are so messed up that it isn’t even funny. Third, there are some stylistic things that I didn’t like. Jesse calls Ava “lady” all the time, and that gets really annoying.
But the biggest struggle? Well, the relationship between Ava and Jesse is very unhealthy. How unhealthy? I’m pretty sure that domestic violence experts would agree that it falls within the confines of an abusive relationship. Don’t believe me, let’s check out a “checklist” to see just how dangerous this relationship is.
Do you feel afraid of your partner much of the time? Yes. She is constantly trying to take time away from the relationship, and when Jesse obsessively calls and texts her, she becomes fearful. She becomes even more afraid of him when she’s doing this avoidance and he pounds on her door for hours on end.
Do you avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner? Yes. Anytime that she asks Jesse about a scar on his torso, he clams up. She eventually figures out not to ask about this. Now, some might argue that this is an example of personal boundaries, but considering that his “clamming up” involves him either completely shutting down around her or using sex as a weapon, she learns just not to ask him about it.
Does your partner humiliate or yell at you? Yes. Jesse humiliates Ava regularly. He comes into her office and picks her up, in front of her co-workers, and carries her out, over his shoulder, so that he can then yell at her in the street. (They’re still in view of her co-workers.)
Does your partner treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see? Yes. She doesn’t want Kate to witness his craziness, but, at the same time, she does want her to see it because Kate keeps telling her to go full-speed into the relationship.
Does your partner criticize you and put you down? Does your partner blame you for their own abusive behavior? Does your partner destroy your belongings? Yes. It is always Ava’s fault that Jesse is pissed off. It is always her fault that he stalks her or calls her or acts jealous. He never owns up to his bad behavior and always blames her. He also tells her that she can’t wear certain clothes because he is convinced that she is trying to get other men to pay attention to her. He even cuts a recently purchased dress up because of this. And, though it is never fully established in this novel, he appears to be behind her birth control pills going missing not once, not twice, but three times. Three times he gets rid of them. Reproductive coercion is abuse.
Does your partner see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person? Does your partner force you to have sex? Yes. She is his. He says this several times. Like I already mentioned, any time that she does anything he doesn’t like, he takes it out on her sexually. He calls it a “sense fuck” and it happens rather often. And when she’s going out to a club one night, he comes into her bedroom unannounced/uninvited as she gets ready, kisses her and then begins having sex with her. There is no consent and, after he’s done, she asks if it is him because it happens so quickly and unexpectedly.
Does your partner have a bad and unpredictable temper? Does your partner act excessively jealous and possessive? Does your partner control where you go or what you do? Oh. My. God. Yes. Ava gets drunk, Jesse gets angry. Ava wants to go to work, Jesse gets angry. Ava has other clients at work, Jesse cancels their appointments. Ava wants to go home, Jesse moves her into his house without asking her. If she tries to leave, suggests that she wants to go out, he tells her no and that she has to stay at his place. When she gets upset that he wants to control her, he tries to placate her by inviting Kate over to hang out with her while she is gone. BUT…they have to stay at his place to hang out. As for jealousy, yes. He’s excessively jealous. He doesn’t want her to talk to other men, including a gay co-worker. He physically assaults an ex-boyfriend of hers while they’re just talking.
Does your partner constantly check up on you? Yes. If she doesn’t answer the phone when he calls, he calls again and again and again…He sends multiple texts. He calls the secretary at her office (and berates her) when Ava is at work. He nearly beats her door down several times when she tries to go to her place with Kate. He has a bouncer at a club keep and eye on her, without her knowledge. He shows up at the house of one of Kate’s clients just as Ava’s about to be assaulted by a man. He shows up at another club right when she’s talking to her ex and, as I mentioned earlier, attacks the ex.
In reality, this kind of relationship would not be viewed as a romantic one. It would be viewed as a dangerous and abusive one, because that’s what it is. And the way it’s handled in this book is just awful. Her friends think he loves her so much. His friends think that, too. I get why she would think his abuse is love, because abuse victims end up feeling that way, but I don’t get why outsiders don’t seem to notice how messed up this whole situation is.
So, yeah, I didn’t like this book. I will probably check out the last two books in the series because I’m wondering if he ends up killing her by the end of it. A relationship that starts out this abusive would probably end that way. I also want to see how long it takes her to realize that he’s trying to force her to get pregnant.