A Guest Review by jeayci
Review Summary: I’m in a minority that disliked this book, but disjointed narrative, strong dialect, Big Misunderstanding, and lots of unlikable characters made this story difficult for me to read.
Blurb: After a hard life filled with experiences he’d rather not remember but can’t forget, Brett Taylor decides he doesn’t need anyone or anything. He gets a job at a bar in a nothing little town where he can fish and race dirt bikes and hide from the world. So naturally as he’s walking across the parking lot at his new job, reminding himself how self-reliant he is, he meets someone he can’t shove aside.
Brett can’t help but admire Cory Butana, the kid who lives above the bar where his father is the principal bartender. Unwanted by either parent, the sweet, personable Cory grew up neglected and hungry for affection. Now he’s determined to make something of his life, even if he has to work himself ragged to do it.
Cory shouldn’t have to suffer like Brett did, and Brett wants to lend a hand. But when their relationship evolves into something Brett isn’t ready to need, he reacts… and the consequences may destroy their fledgling future. With scars like theirs, forgiveness is never easy.
Review: This was a particularly challenging review to write, because I hated this book when I thought I ought to have loved it. So many people with tastes similar to mine rated it highly, I felt like I must be missing something. And the premise was so promising, I ultimately bumped my rating up a half-star for it because I can see why people it works for love it. Friends-to-lovers, people from horrible backgrounds overcoming them and making something of themselves, being more together than alone… yeah, I should have loved this, but instead I wanted to DNF this book early on and only finished it because I had to write this review.
I think perhaps my single biggest issue with it was the vignette style in which it was told. Those can work, and I have no general objection to that as a narrative style, but in this case it had the effect (for me) of feeling choppy and keeping me from ever really connecting with the characters. This was a very character-driven story, which ordinarily I love. But not connecting with the characters in a character-driven story makes for a looooong, boring read.
Brett’s strong accent made me think, as it did many others, of Zero at the Bone. But in that one, once I connected with the characters the accent became almost invisible to me; it was just part of who D was. Because I never connected with Brett, the accent was a struggle to read from the first page to the last. I was relieved to get out of his POV, as the book was more readable at those times.
Speaking of POV, I found it jarring that twice we were suddenly, randomly, in the POV of a secondary character. Just for a scene or two, and then it went back to being told from Brett’s and Cory’s POVs. Why? What was the point of that? I’m sure the intention wasn’t to pull me even further out of the story and stare at the page blankly wondering “Whaaa?” but that was the effect it had.
I was also disconcerted by how the general population of characters in this story seemed to be mean and/or stupid and/or insane, with very few exceptions. It had the unfortunate effect of reminding me of A Confederacy of Dunces, which is one of my most-hated books of all-time. That definitely didn’t endear the story to me.
By the time Cory and Brett had a Big Misunderstanding-type falling out, I was ready to throw my ereader across the room. Despite having known each other for years as best friends, Cory apparently didn’t know Brett at all. And then some horrible things happened, which was somehow the catalyst for everything to suddenly turn around and be A-Okay. Even with Cory’s dad, who was at best an absent father.
Sure, there was a little more drama (or melodrama) around some of the after-effects of the horrible events. The angst levels in this book make even “Angst and Pain, Amy Lane” books seem like puppies and unicorns cavorting in fields of four-leaf clovers. I love some angst, and I love Amy Lane, but I did a lot of eye-rolling as I read this book. It got worse when Brett proved himself to be one of those idiots who buys into the whole Madonna/Whore thing, thinking that you don’t “defile” someone you love. Need I mention how utterly ridiculous and un-hero-like I find that mindset? I didn’t think so. But then, with just a very little conversation, they got even that sorted out. And they lived Happily Ever After. And I breathed a deep sigh of relief to be finished with this book.
I do wonder if A Confederacy of Dunces makes a good barometer for appreciation of this book. If you loved that, I think there’s a good chance you’ll love Beggars and Choosers too.