I hadn’t really heard much about this book before I read it, so I definitely didn’t have any preconceived notions about what it would be like. I didn’t even read the reviews by others on here to see how they felt about the book, so there was no bias. And, when I started the book, the first fifty or so pages seemed okay-ish. It was certainly better than two stars at page 50 than it was at the end.
For a work of realistic fiction, it was very unreal. The characters didn’t act or talk like teenagers. Even awkward teenagers don’t act like this. Some of the scenes almost came off as clinical and robotic in nature. Actually, a lot of them don’t seem like they would fit in any story for children, teens, or adults. They’re just very boring and weird.
For a romance, it had a lack of romance. Wes and Dom love each other, but there’s no rhyme or reason to why. I know that you could argue that that’s true for all romances and for love in general, but this book is especially bad at telling the story of why this guy is even her boyfriend or her first love.
It has a very sex-negative vibe. Amy is almost always degraded for being open to different types of sexual activities. The relationship between Dom and Wes portrays sex as being something that is always painful and awkward for girls, where guys will have orgasms and girls will always have to fake it. I know a lot of women do have that sort of experience, but we don’t really need to teach young women that it has to be like this. Sex is something where if you expect it to be painful and bloody and awkward, then you are more likely to have a painful experience. I’m not saying that the book needs to be smutty or anything like that, but give girls some hope that they aren’t going to be injured in sex acts. It’s also really disturbing that any time that Dom is looking forward to or thinking about sex that something bad happens to her or to Wes. That is another sex-negative vibe to have.
As for other things that really bugged me: Playing up the trope of a redheaded female character as sex-obsessed was really annoying. That may seem like a little thing, but since it’s an actual recognized trope for works of fiction (and, worse, a stereotype of redheads in the real world), it really isn’t all that little. There was also a bit of fat-shaming. You have a character (Dom) starting her first year of college, so there’s the mentioning of the freshman fifteen, which might be okay. What isn’t okay is that her mother starts telling her that she should order certain foods so that she can me more like her old self. When the character asks if it’s about her weight going up, she finds out that it is. When she turns to her father for support he says (and does) the following:
He emerges from behind his menu. “I agree with your mom. Guys can be a little overweight,” he says, pinching his gut with his hand, “but girls can’t.”
This is for her gaining enough weight so that her clothes just snug on her. In other words, she might have gone up one size and her parents are giving her a hard time. She’s also just been injured when she was exercising. When it continues and she goes to leave the table her father does the following:
“Dom, you’re blowing this way out of proportion,” Dad reprimands. “We’re staying put, and let’s have a nice dinner, for Christ’s sake.”
She’s basically been told that she isn’t allowed to be offended by their comments. That’s just wrong. If parents act like this, it is totally fine to get upset with them. This behavior is reprehensible. That she’s eventually treated like she overreacted after their comments have (naturally) hurt her feelings is so disgusting. And she ends up feeling both ashamed of her body and of her feelings being hurt. That’s not okay. And the way it is portrayed is not okay either.
And there’s the somewhat minor character Calvin. He might become a friend or a future boyfriend for her. Who knows? But the way that he acted when they first met was a little on the creepy side. This is another thing that probably would be best left out of books meant for the young adult age group. This might teach young people to allow this sort of behavior in their interpersonal relationships, which is a bit twisted and potentially dangerous.
It isn’t all bad, but the good parts of the book just aren’t enough to overcome the bad parts. The plot is really flat. The development of characters is flat. There are some insightful paragraphs, but they are truly few and far between. And there’s a quirkiness to certain parts that I enjoyed, but by the end of the book, they had disappeared. The humor, the fun, and everything good about the book was gone before the book ended. That’s not good, so this book is getting two stars because it was not executed very well.