I haven't been in the mood to read that kind of thing for years now - but then last weekend I realized that this is a fake dating story, one of my favorite plot themes, and if I complain so much about not seeing much of it, I should read it when I do see it. I hope that it's not a spoiler to say that we get the classics: Beyond the completely predictable and not surprising plot, I can't say the book itself is particularly good or noteworthy.
The technical skill of the writing is honestly kind of terrible. I'm not sure if Maley ever spoke any of the lines out loud, but the book is full of sentences that are completely unlike how people actually talk, and she constantly uses "Sarah and I" where just about any other pronoun would be more natural. I really wanted to drag the ebook into Calibre and do a global change command on the possessive version, if nothing else.
There is a lot of infodumping about queer resources and homophobia that gave the book an extreme After School Special feel, but could have been woven in more delicately by a more experienced writer or thoughtful editor. And yet, I was irritated by clunky writing and awkward pop culture, and still found myself completely invested in the story and staying up far, far past my bedtime to read the entire thing, instead of the single chapter I had planned.
I don't think it was just the plot theme, as much as I adore it and will read just about anything using it. I think Maley captured something in the characters that made me really care about them, even if I didn't give a fig about anyone else. If I weren't in the mood to indulge in a completely predictable fake dating story, would I have liked this book so much? But I admire writers who go all out when writing something so well worn please note my adoration of Audrey Coulthurst's Of Fire and Stars and L.
Most of them are, frankly. What I found really good about this book, were the emotional moments and the way the reader could infer Sarah's emotional progression through the eyes of the protagonist, Katie, even though Katie wasn't able to make the conceptual leaps necessary to see how Sarah really felt about her due to her own confusion and preconceived notions about who her best friend was. The other thing that stood out was Katie's parents.
Their reaction to the fact that their daughter had realized she was gay, even though it was actually premature, was spot on with many stories I have read and heard personally from LGBTQ teens and young adults. I personally know several people whose parents had already guessed that their child fell somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum prior to their coming out.
It was very well written, despite the fact that the parents botched the handling of it. Actually, that awkward scene about "a dog, a cat, or both" was one of the most humorous, yet gut wrenching, scenes in the book and stood out as one of the most "true" moments in the story to me.
I am a parent, after all One has to pay close attention to how young people write parent characters to gain insight into how our generation of parents is perceived in the world. LOL In addition, it was through the brief conversations about Sarah with Katie's mom that I really gained insight into just how bad Katie's blind-spot was when it came to how other people view Sarah.
The real words people would have used for her are too impolite to put here If she were a boy, player would be appropriate, I suppose.
But Katie never saw her that way. She saw a girl looking for something real and failing to find it, not just a girl looking for something "now". It very much implied that Katie's mother was right and she was viewing Sarah "through the eyes of love" and not as she actually lived her life.
It was clear early on that Katie was probably a lesbian who just hadn't figured it out yet early on. The description of her indifferent relationship with her ex and the occasional comments about girls left hints. The real kicker was when she finally told Austin why she broke up with him: It was clear that she had never felt a real spark with a guy, yet with Sarah she got all weak in the knees from just a kiss and she even felt a little something when playing spin the bottle and kissing Jessa.
But it was really clear before then The real question was what was going on in Sarah's mind and heart. She certainly acted like a jealous girlfriend many times, with a bit too much sincerity to be feigned unless she was a far better actor than we were led to believe.
It was hard to believe she was that good of an actress since Katie had already commented on the fact that Sarah was actually a pretty bad debater and didn't realize it herself. That indicated to me that she wouldn't be able to pull off that level of gut-instinct jealousy without it being real.
At one point, I had a hypothesis that Sarah wasn't actually lying when she said that she had realized her feelings for Katie a few years ago and that, instead of this being a ruse to try to attract the interest of Sam, she instead was actually trying to live out her fantasy of Katie being in love with her without risking rejection, because she couldn't believe that Katie would EVER actually fall in love with her. In that scenario, her "boy crazy" behavior was all just Sarah trying to avoid her true feelings.
That turned out to be wrong, at least in that Sarah wasn't cognizant of her feelings until after their first kiss. Instead it was Katie who realized that she probably had been in love with Sarah, without ever realizing it, for years.
Looking at her old pictures of the two of them and her parent's certainty that she had been in love with Sarah for years all boiled over into a realization that she just never understood her own feelings. That was the closest to a surprise that the story offered me, and it was a pleasant one.
The one missing star in my rating probably is because of the rampant alcohol use and Sarah's fling with Sam, which was gut-wrenching and probably necessary to the story, but almost too painful in many ways. I would have preferred if she had stopped short of actually having sex with him, but that wasn't in Sarah's character. She had such a low opinion of herself that she had to punish herself, I'd say. Not to mention her statement that "it was worth it", about her affair with Sam.
I would have rather had her NOT actually say that and instead come to the realization that she came to at the end sooner. The biggest plus that I see in this story, however, was it's critique of the media depiction of lesbian relationships in Sarah's search for a story with a happy ending and the comments about lesbian characters dying. This is a particularly topical criticism with recent events and I thought it was rather insightful and positive about the need to have positive story representation for all people.
If I had recalled and rejected whatever my initial thought was, I could happily mark this a five. Not counting the epilogue, the book ends roughly at that point as well. Including the epilogue it ends 2 weeks later.
So — this book involves Sarah Cooper and Katie Hammontree, high school seniors in a small town in Georgia. They are the kind of people you might spot who seem to always be connected at the hip. Have been since at least kindergarten. Though it can be misinterpreted by outsiders and, for that matter, those inside.
Katie, while walking home from school, runs into this big jock guy who is bullying a fellow male student. Katie puts a stop to it. Jake, the kid who had been in the process of being bully-ed, has a severely bruised lip. Fast forward to about 30 seconds before the start of this unnamed club — Katie, Sarah and Jake are standing outside a door.
They stare at each other. Then Sarah gets this calculating look in her eyes okay, I might be making up that part, she did come up with a plan though. Sarah pulls Katie in and they meet the club. And so, the book unfolds from there.
I figured that whatever it was that was holding me back from giving a five star rating would pop up and I could tackle it. I liked Katie and Sarah.
The plot was solid. There was enough of an end-story to fill me in. Maybe they could end up at college together? And yes, that did pop up in my mind — the fact that one, Katie, planned on going to a local college, and the other would be going to some further away place.
Lexxi Nov 18, Good story