This isn’t going to be so much a review, as a rant about characters making stupid decisions.
But here’s a quick review first:
Things I liked:
- The friendship group was realistic, and the depictions of the teenagers was great. They all acted their age. I could call back to my own high school days (longer ago than I care to admit), and I could see me and my friends making the same dumb jokes, and having the same dramas.
- The way Andie’s relationship with her father grew and changed. It was heart-warming and, as Clarke said, she didn’t know how lucky she was to have it.
- Clarke as a love interest, because he was a total nerd, and sweet, and not a bad-boy at all. I’m growing tired of bad boys, and I hope publishers are too. I liked that Clarke was in touch with his feelings, and spoke them without hesitation.
- I think Tom might’ve been my favourite character. His indignation over literally anything was very entertaining.
- The dogs-walking was different and kind of cute. And the texting chains were fun. A bit weird in audiobook format, though. Not sure I loved the random excerpts of the fantasy novel, no matter how they related to the actual story.
Things I didn’t like:
- The way her relationship with her father changed after literally one argument. That didn’t seem realistic. It was cleaned up too quickly. One moment, Andie and her dad could not see eye-to-eye on anything at all, and the next, they were scheduling two dinner dates a week. I don’t think relationships are that easy – which was evidenced with every other relationship in the book, so maybe I should cut Matson some slack on this one. Especially since it’s a teen book and nobody ever actually cares about the parents in teen books. But it really bothered me.
- The romance wasn’t all that interesting. I liked Clarke, but I didn’t buy their relationship. They were both only going on attraction, didn’t know a thing about one another before they went on a date, but somehow I was supposed to be sad when their first date was a disaster? Ehh. And then, halfway through the book, their relationship got so boring, I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore, because of everything else happening around it. What is this book even supposed to be about?
- It was super long. I listened to the audiobook while I worked – it was 16 hours, but I had it on 2x speed – so I didn’t even know that it’s actually over 500 pages long. That’s insane. YA contemporaries are never that long. And for good reason! There were points where I zoned out because nothing interesting was happening at all. Everything fit together in terms of plot and character development, but so much of it was filler – just teenagers lounging around a pool, enjoying their summer. That just made me sad that it’s not summer in Australia, right now.
- Andie was an okay protagonist, but she was also super judgemental. She’s a politician’s daughter, white and wealthy, and uber privileged. So maybe it was intentional. She does grow toward the end, but she still made odd comments throughout. She was also pretty whiny. In one of the chapters nearing the end, I got so frustrated with her. She’d say, “Isn’t this what I wanted?” over and over, always pushing what she wanted away. And I just wanted to yell at her. Queen of self-sabotage, she is.
Which leads me to my main issue. At one point in the book, something big happens – a plot twist that I expected before I was even two hours in. I can’t decide if it’s just good foreshadowing or it was way too obvious. But I was still interested to see where it went.
Well, it went somewhere.
And boy, did it make me mad!
So we come to characters making stupid decisions.
The plot twist is revealed to Andie, in a very convenient way (and that’s another thing – so much of this book was convenient), and she reacts in literally the worst way possible. I actually gasped as I was listening, because it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. Her rationale made absolutely no sense. I really wondered if I was supposed to agree with her, or if I was just supposed to watch as she drove this bus off a cliff, and engulfed the entire story in flames.
Was Matson trying to convince me this was a good idea? Or was my reaction – shaking my head, sighing heavily, and rolling my eyes skyward – correct?
Listen, I’ve read many books in which characters make dumb decisions. Harry Potter could totally be called a dumbass for all the stupid shit he did. Mr. Darcy is a straight-up idiot, Edmund Pevensie is the King of Fools, and Ariel’s the Queen. All of these characters and the stories they’re in are some of my favourites, though.
So when is a character’s stupid decision acceptable?
And why did Andie’s make me so damn mad?
The one answer I can come up with is that it was out of character. Andie is Type A, organised, rational, a serial planner and logical thinker. She wants to study medicine. Her dad’s a politician, so she has to be careful in everything she does – parking two streets away from parties, only holding water bottles
filled with alcohol instead of red solo cups. So it just didn’t make sense for her to be in this situation – one that was, admittedly, bad, sure, but there was nobody there to pressure her into making a stupid decision. She didn’t have to come up with a spontaneous solution, or protect somebody from someone else. It was just her and one of her friends, and they could’ve sat there and talked rationally – as Andie is known to like doing! – and for as long as necessary (Andie had nowhere to be) to think of a way to actually make the best of this situation.
But, instead, her thoughts stumbled over each other, making her crazy, and completely different to how we had come to know her to be.
Was it just to get to the climax of the story faster? It feels like it. That’s such a copout, though. Changing a character, over 80% through the story, just to service the plot, and make things far worse than they needed to be. I get that novels have to have conflict. But there were other plot threads that could’ve provided that better. And, with this plot twist, even if Andie hadn’t made the decision she did, it still would’ve blown up a fair bit. It was a bad enough revelation that it could’ve still thrown a cog in the works.
That’s the worst thing. There was no need for Andie to make the decision she did. It only made things wayworse, and her character development was stripped of a few layers in the process. Not good. Really stupid.
So, my conclusion is – stupid decisions are only acceptable when the character making them is already known to make stupid decisions. In other words, the stupidity in question is in character. And when I say stupid, I also mean rash, unreasonable, illogical, crazy, irrational – decisions made in anger, or haste, or without proper consideration. None of these things describe Andie, yet she made the stupidest decision of all.
Well, overall, I gave it three stars. It was funny, and cheesy. I cried at some points, which is not new for me (my tear ducts are the most active part of me), but I was still surprised. Tom and Clarke were good characters, and the depictions of the different relationships were realistic enough. It was far too long, and somethings bored me, and others angered me. The writing was good, but she ‘let out a breath’ too many times, and people had their heads down, shoulders hunched too often. Not the best contemporary.
Oh, also, after sixteen hours of hearing it, the narrator’s voice has replaced my own inner voice, which is an unexpected side effect.