Title: Bookishly Ever After
Author: Isabel Bandeira
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary
Synopsis: In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?
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My sincerest thanks to Netgalley for approving my request to review this eARC. I was approved for this in exchange for an honest review. This review is my honest opinion, nothing else.
A book about a character who loves books potentially as much as all of us? Isn’t that a book lover’s greatest dream? It is mine. It’s funny because not many books with this premise exist, even though you’d expect authors to jump on the opportunity to write something they know readers will devour. But then again, there might be a reason for that. If the book doesn’t turn out great, nasty pieces of shit like me will claim that the author wrote it just because they knew it would attract the attention of many audiences.
Because that’s what I came out feeling after reading this book. There was no emotion, no depth. It was a lifeless hunk of pages (um, epages in my case) full of mindless angst. The relationships were awful. The characters were borderline offensive, and the writing was juvenile, at best. And negative reviews are usually fun to write, but this one isn’t. Why? Because I wanted to like this book so, so much.
NOTHING happens in this book. If I were allowed to give spoilers in this review, I could tell you what happens in a sentence. The little that was there was predictable and incredibly clichéd.
Bandeira divides this book simply, much like Fangirl from Rainbow Rowell. There’s Bandeira’s main story, involving Phoebe and her friends and two love interests. And then there are the sections that involve the stories Phoebe is reading. I would like to ask the author this question: what was the point of the latter sections? They did nothing to advance the plot, they did nothing to provide character development. And I realized this very early on in this book, which is why I skipped almost all of them.
Since romance and boys play a significant role in this book, I’m going to touch on them. Phoebe is the single most ridiculous person when it comes to her love interests. One second, she’s interested in Kris (the typical hot-jerk stereotype in high school fiction) and as soon as her friend indicates that Dev (a hot Indian-American clarinet player) is interested in her, she’s suddenly into him too? There was no build-up to her interest in him. It just happened, like some sort of twisted love hypnosis.
I’m going to use a much-needed analogy here. You’re a huge Harry Potter fan. Massive. And your favorite character/idol is Hermione Granger. She inspires you, you think she’s a strong role model. Great. You start doing everything Hermione does in her fictional world. She reads huge history books? You start doing that too. Every time you’re faced with a choice, you ask yourself, “what would Hermione do?” Not even important choices – maybe you’re confused about what to wear, and you decide to wear what Hermione would wear. You talk like her, you walk like her, you dress like her. There is something wrong with you, that you have begun to put yourself on the backseat and let a fictional character take control of your life.
Phoebe likes books. And she loves this character. Who takes over her life. She learns archery because of her, her dresses are designs from the story. She talks to everyone in her life like the character would. When she can’t figure out to say, she whips out her books and says actual lines from them. We are readers. We love books, yes. But we ARE MORE THAN BOOKS, ISABEL BANDEIRA. To indicate that readers are ruled by books and characters is borderline OFFENSIVE to me. I was OFFENDED. Not to mention that Phoebe was a horrible role model. Her life is ruled by two things: books (bad romance-fantasies from what I can see) and boys. She does not have a life of her own. Geez.
Also, she says things like “holy love triangles” in casual conversation.
The side characters were generic and forgettable. The only character who was likable was Dev, and Bandeira managed to offend me yet again in this aspect. How? Well, Dev is Indian, which means he’s South Asian. I’m South Asian. I’m Pakistani, and Indian culture is very similar to mine. So imagine my disgust when the only thing Indian about Dev is the most stereotypical thing you could think of: BOLLYWOOD. Was that the only thing the author knew about India? Bollywood? See, this is exactly why I say that you shouldn’t put diverse characters in books just for lolz. If you can’t do their races and their cultures justice, leave them out because it is OFFENSIVE.
I don’t like critiquing writing style. I don’t. But Bandeira’s writing was juvenile and uninspiring. There was no emotion. There was no depth. It wasn’t flowery, but it was trying to be. Forgettable, depthless, and a disappointment.