Author: Jandy Nelson
Genre: Young Adult | Contemporary > Romance
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.
Would I recommend? Nope. Probably one of the worst contemporaries I have ever read.
Final Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
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I think this book is more of a 1.5 than a 1 star, but in psychology, we have this phenomenon called the difference threshold, which is the measure of how different two stimuli must be for the subject to notice that they are not the same. This book was pretty bad that I literally do not care what rating I give it.
Let me start off by saying that I read Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, and the reason why I disliked this book so much was because I had expected so much more. I’ll Give You the Sun was heartbreakingly beautiful. It was everything I had ever wanted in a contemporary and more. The writing was lyrical and made me feel things I didn’t even know I could feel. So, of course, I had to pick this book up. I’m glad that I read this after I read I’ll Give You the Sun because otherwise I would not have picked the latter up. I’m also glad that I got to read this and see the huge difference between her debut and her second book; it’s jawdroppingly amazing how much a person’s writer can evolve in a few years, which gives me hope for my own writing.
Usually, my negative reviews begin with a disclaimer: “this book just wasn’t for me, but I’m sure it’s for someone out there.” I’m breaking this tradition, because I cannot fathom how someone can enjoy this book. The main character was despicable; I literally hated her. The secondary characters were flat pieces of cardboard just there to make the protagonist even more unlikable than she actually is. The plot was basically non-existent. The dialogue was stiff and childish. There was excessive drama, and the writing was flat and uninspiring. So what did the book have?
The format was interesting. Our main character, Lennie, leaves around pieces of her writing all over where she lives: on leftover wrappers, napkins, walls (vandalism!) and coffee cups. The writing on these was very poetic, and these small pieces of her writing was what kept me reading to the end.
Like I said before, the plot was non-existent. Even if I wanted to spoil you on things, I would not be able to because there’s nothing to spoil. Everybody knows who Lennie is going to end up with at the end; it’s no secret- it’s glaringly obvious from the very beginning. I expected this book to be a touching story of a young girl’s coming to terms with her sister’s death, moving on with the help of a nice young lad who helped her feel again. Pair that with my previous knowledge of Jandy Nelson’s writing and I was stoked.
But nope, this book was a long, dragging, badly-constructed love triangle with element of Lennie’s sister’s death thrown in when it was convenient. Lennie changed her mind about the two points in the triangle so often that it was frustrating to read, and I found myself thinking, “Why am I still reading her indecisions when I know who she’s going to end up with?!” It wasn’t suspenseful or gripping; it was aggravating and made me want to tear my hair out.
And of course, like any other bad contemporary out there, we had to have a “bitch” figure in high school. It was inevitable! Major eye roll.
Okay, I’m sorry but these characters were perhaps the worst characters I have ever read. I don’t have a problem with unlikable characters. In fact, I happen to enjoy books with unlikable characters a lot more than I enjoy books where everybody is perfect and lovable. But the author needs to also know that the character is unlikable; if I’m constantly being told that this unlikable, horrible person is a good person underneath- no, that’s just going to piss me off.
Lennie was a terrible human being. She was absolutely horrendous to everybody around her- her grandparents, the two unassuming boys she had wrapped around her finger (what do they see me? I’m so plain omfg) and her best friend that was non-existent in her life and only served as a convenient distraction for her. She played around with people so much that I had no sympathy for her by the middle of the book. “Ah! you stupid bitch,” I found myself shouting at the pages. I mean, Jandy Nelson, I’ll give you that- I got very passionate about my dislike for the novel. Well done!
The secondary characters were just so much nope. They had zero personalities. I know nothing about Toby, despite having read a little under 300 pages about him. I don’t know what his stakes are, I do not know what motivates him. Instead of just existing to throw random pieces of “twists” into the reader’s face, he served absolutely no purpose. Joe was perhaps the only likable character in the book, but he was too unrealistic to matter.
Oh, Jandy Nelson. Oooooh, Jandy, Jandy, Jandy. To be honest, after having read this, I have come to appreciate your present writing so much more. So I’m not going to say much except that the writing here was uninspiring, but Nelson really stepped up her game when she wrote I’ll Give You the Sun. So even though this book was a tremendous, tremendous disappointment, I’m still going to read everything else Nelson puts forth because I know she is capable of producing heartbreakingly beautiful art.