My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Published: March 27th, 2018
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Recommended Age: 13+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Romance, College, Friendship, Immature, Offensive
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind. Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.
There is a difference between being flawed and being unlikable.
My brother is flawed. He always forgets to turn off the light, close the window in the winter, and only cleans after himself at the last minute, right before he heads back to his apartment.
But my brother is still extremely likable.
Now. I don’t know how old the author is, but certainly old enough to forget what it’s like to be a teen. I also wonder how many YA novels she has read in her life, because that is a really weird writing style.
I figured out why. The thing is, this author writes to impress. It’s obvious she put ten times more effort in the writing than in the story and the characters themselves.
Especially since teenagers are not stupid. They can see right through you. They are able to differentiate between a genuine YA story from an author who truly understands young adults, and a fake-it-till-you-make it one.
But let’s go back to how unlikable Penny is. She judges relentlessly. She has an opinion on everything, from her own mother to the freaking lipstick she wears.
I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but when you say stuff like that (see below), be prepared to have people frown at you and question whether you comprehend certain important concepts, like feminism and stereotypes.
The girl inspected Penny’s lipstick again. “Wait. I’m obsessed with how matte that is. What is it?’’
‘‘Isn’t it fabulous?’’ Penny enthused, reaching for the tube in her bag. ‘‘Too Thot to Trot?’’ she read off the sticker on the bottom. Christ, she felt as if saying makeup names out loud set women’s rights back several decades.
Right. Because powerful women do not wear makeup. Because makeup is what is keeping women from achieving gender equality. It all boils down to that, I see, I see.
Sam’s armchair was set slightly higher than them on the sofa and he crossed his legs elegantly. His right knee brushed Penny’s left and she almost passed out. With the comically small espresso cup in his thin hands, Penny wondered for a second if he was gay.
You just met the guy, and you’re telling me you’re so attracted to him – which you haven’t really mentioned before – that a simple brushing of knees has you almost over the edge? Oh, come on. Also, the only reason you think ‘‘for a second’’ he might be gay is because you believe blindly stereotypes about gay people, while actively criticizing people for reducing you (an Asian girl) to a stereotype.
I simply cannot stand this book. Do as you wish – read it or don’t read it – but please do think critically about some of the offensive or questionable things the characters say.
Oh, I have a final example, since I already wrote the passage down on Word a couple of days ago:
He swivelled to see Mallory leaning toward him, elbows hooked on the bar. Her not-insignificant boobs were hoisted to where they almost hit her chin. She lowered her sunglasses with a silver-painted talon. Clearly, too much time had elapsed since Mallory was paid attention to.
As in, you can’t have cleavage unless you’re desperate for people to look at you? It couldn’t possibly be that you own your own sexiness and just enjoy flirting? Nothing wrong with that. Plus you wouldn’t tell a guy whose buttons are down that he’s vying for attention. You wouldn’t say that about a guy, period. Let’s all stop the double standards right now.
Those were Sam’s thoughts… the one character I was hoping to love. Sigh.
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