Genre: NA Contemporary 16+The first time I saw Carsen Wheatley, I flipped him off.
The second time, I kneed him in the balls.
The third? I kissed him.
Why? Because Carsen needed it.
Angry and full of hate, Carsen is a lost soul, searching. Since the death of his mother, he’s cold and isolated, needing someone to fill the gap she left wide open, someone to kiss the anger from his soul.
That’s where I come in.
I’m restless, on the search for a new adventure, something to make me feel…well, anything. I’m certain I’ll find a permanent fix soon, but in the meantime, I have this summer job and Carsen to keep me going.
But the summer is only temporary, and so is the fix.
We are imperfect.
We are mismatched.
We are the stars.
I feel like I should begin this review with some explanation….or full disclosure. This was a very difficult book to rate. And it isn’t because upon receipt of the ARC from the PR company, I received an email indicating that “If you find that you can't rate this novel 3.5 stars or higher, please let us know prior to your posting date” because I don’t partake in that practice of delaying or withholding reviews if the book doesn’t rate a certain number of stars. It’s a borderline unethical stipulation that disrupts the integrity of the review system. It also places too much importance on the rating when an analysis of a story can be far more helpful. And while at one point I considered letting the star rating blank because I think different audiences would rate this differently, ultimately I decided that the rating should reflect the reviewer’s overall feeling and mine was pretty meh.
I’m not entirely sure who the primary intended audience for this story is. The blurb lists it as an “upper YA/NA contemporary novella.” It’s being marketed in a romance market. I read plenty of adult contemporary romance including new adult romance, but this doesn’t feel new adult. This feels very young adult in a teen way. Specifically, young adult fiction with limited romance—low heat (i.e. no sex but yet not what I’d call “clean” romance).
As far as the character go, Elliot—the heroine (and don’t get me started on the names here) claims she’s smart, but she’s almost flunked a few classes because she’s bored. Blah, blah, blah. In only the first chapter, the teen angst mood comes on strong. And I get it; the teen years are often angsty and that’s appealing to teens. But once you get past that stage of life, it’s usually not appealing anymore. Or you realize the things you thought were boring are nothing compared to the responsibilities of adulthood.
“Everything is a routine that never deviates, an endless cycle of classes, study, party, laundry every other week, and then home. All. So. Boring. Nothing is giving me a zing anymore.”
And see here is where Elliot’s character will probably either appeal to readers because they are currently that age range and feel the same way or it won’t appeal because they are not that age and they’ll be remembering those days, shaking their head thinking ‘if that girls thinks her life is boring, wait till she replaces classes with a job, takes partying out of the equation, and *gasp* does laundry every other day!’
And while Elliot Mathers is actually 20 years old and half way through college, technically a “new adult,” make no mistake—this girl projects a young adult vibe (i.e she acts more like she’s fifteen).
Enter the hero, Carsen Wheatley, 20, who Elliot is so drawn to. He’s stormy and brooding, the world wants to judge him, but Elliot accepts him for who he is.
Anyways, there’s a little “suspense” surrounding Carsen, which gets derailed for quite a few pages in the beginning by the inclusion of some mind-numbing family sitcom like dialogue with Elliot’s family. But then the “romance” starts to get back on track as Carsen and Elliot officially meet. And as their building friendship and budding romance developed, I started to get engrossed in the story. It set up an interesting dynamic, and I started the think the appeal of the story was widening.
Then Elliot freaked out after a simple kiss.
Now keep in mind, Elliot is a twenty year old, non-virginal, college student yet she reacts like a pre-teen peer pressured into playing spin the bottle at this point. And the story continues like this. One minute it has potential (and it really did, especially with Carsen’s character and his roommates); but then it returns to this awkward teen stuff where they go from having meaningful conversations to only talking via text. In addition, there are character traits that are undeveloped, plot points that are lacking, and an almost abrupt ending following the climax which diminishes the already lacking romantic tone.
Bottom line—if enjoy young adult reads then this will probably work for you. But if you are a reader looking for what is generally core to the contemporary romance genre—two characters who all in and finding ‘the one;’ smutty scenes; and a happily ever after epilogue future; this book will not fit your reading criteria because what you get instead are…
- Coming of age themes: ‘This is how it is meant to be’ and ‘Self discovery’
- Immature depictions of love where it’s okay to use the person you think you’re falling in love with because you’re bored or they fill a void but hey you learned a life lesson so it was worth it!
- An ending that ironically lacks closure when the heroine’s own mother was just stressing that very thing in the chapter before.
I’ll close this review with two quotes that I think illustrate issues that are uncool in a book meant to be a romance because romance stories are supposed to be positive depictions of love. But taking someone for granted or dating someone for what they do for you is not real love. It might sometimes be real life and it might be young adult angst, but it’s also why this story (and specifically those messages) left me, a romance reader, feeling ‘meh.’
“It was a relationship of convenience. We were two people who didn’t have any business getting into something, yet we did.” –Carsen
“‘I’m still bored. It didn’t fix me like I wanted it to. I used Carsen as a distraction.’” –Elliot
PS One note on Elliot’s mother and her advice that rubbed me the wrong way. Mrs. Mathers is described as a no-gossip, open-minded person, yet she spreads a myth to her daughter when saying:
“You know what everyone says about that degree [in English Education] and obtaining a steady job after graduation.”
Not only did this feel like a continuity error on the part of Mrs. Mothers’ character, but it’s a bit derogatory. So let me share something a wise English professor once told one of my graduate classes—an English degree qualifies you to do anything a Communications degree requires; whereas a Communication degree does not necessarily qualify you to do the same things required of those with an English degree.
I’m a romance cover artist by day and a writer by…well, every free moment I get. I currently live in North Carolina with my US Marine husband where I spend my days bugging him about getting a cat so our puppy won’t be alone (he keeps saying no). I survive off coffee, pizza, and sarcasm. When I’m not writing, you can find me binge-watching various TV shows, especially Supernatural. I like cold weather, I buy more paperbacks than I’ll ever read, and I never match my socks—unless they’re fuzzy. I’m weird. It’s kind of my “thing.”