Rating: 1 star
Ugh. This book.
This book is a lie. At least, the synopsis of this book is a lie. A big, fat lie. The description of this book tricks readers into believing that this book is going to be about a group of friends committing death-defying and outrageous dares that help Jaycee (main character) heal over the loss of her brother. At least, that’s what I got from it. But is that what this book is about?
This book is just a bunch of teenage drama disguised as the grieving process. I mean seriously, the whole thing is this back and forth soap opera that revolves around one (or more) of the following issues at any given time: Will Jaycee and Natalie be friends again? Will Jaycee stop shutting everyone out? Will Natalie and Zach break up again? When Natalie and Zach do break up again, will they get back together? Will Mik ever open up to the others? Will Mik and Jaycee finally admit their feelings to each other and kiss? Will Zach ever stop drinking? Will Bishop ever stop mopping about his ex-girlfriend? That’s a whole lot of teen angst that was just not really interesting. There’s even an unimpressive amount of hormones in this book that just make this whole thing feel really immature. The boys’ obsessions with Jaycee’s body felt like I was reading about 12 year old prepubescent boys. The following quote actually exists in this book: “Boobs. Her boobs were smiling up at him from the top of a v-neck shirt.” Boobs. That’s considered a whole sentence in this damn book.
There are no “deadly dares”. This group of just-graduated teenagers literally travel (no more than 3.5 hours) away from their home to five different urban decay areas that Jaycee’s dead brother Jake, left his “mark on”. They sometimes climb up on the roof, or onto an old roller coaster’s rails. I mean, that’s seriously it. They aren’t doing anything that’s actually scary, unless you’re afraid of heights. And mind you, these “dares” are only about 20% of the book. I could definitely be exaggerating, but it didn’t feel like more than that. To me, there was a whole lot of reading about their drama and not nearly as much reading about them exploring abandoned malls and amusement parks.
Let’s talk about the format. There are supposed to be five voices in this book. I guess you can say that there technically are, but it felt like one voice plus a third person narrator. Why? Because that’s how it is written. The only POV in this book that was first person was Jaycee’s. Zach and Natalie both had third person POVs, which irked me to no end. I’m not sure I can give you a legitimate reason why, other than that I don’t think switching from first to third person every other chapter works. What was even more bothersome for me was that Mik’s POV was a freaking comic book strip. Where did that even come from? And Bishop is given maybe six or seven pages throughout this entire book because his chapters consist solely of one page that shows his artwork. We do not get any insight into Mik’s or Bishop’s thoughts beyond this. I am not a hater of multiple POV books. I think that, if executed properly, these books can shine brighter than single POV novels. They have so much opportunity. Yet, over and over again, I see authors botch it completely. It is my understanding that McCarthy chose to use these odd POVs on purpose, because the book advertises “A novel told in three artistic formats” on the cover. Which is fine. I guess. If this is what the author wanted, who am I to judge? (Answer: A reader. A consumer. A reviewer. I’m allowed to judge. Don’t judge me for judging)
I went into this book with the best intentions. The synopsis made me really interested, and I’m bummed that I didn’t like it. I truly am. My heart kind of breaks every time I hate a book, because I know that authors put so much work into their novels, and I absolutely hate to be the person saying I didn’t enjoy it. It hurts me. I don’t give out bad reviews often, because I usually can find something about a book that made me feel like it was worth reading. But every now and then, I just can’t make myself like a book. This was, unfortunately, one of those instances. I felt no connection to any of the characters, and I was bored of my mind with the everlasting drama that is eighteen year olds. I think if the book was advertised a little better so that the readers knew what to expect, it wouldn’t be such a let down. But, thanks to the synopsis, I was looking for some deadly action, and this book sadly did not deliver.