My Rating: 3 stars Read: 3/6/2017
Lists: Best Romance Novel List
- My Romance Challenge
“We were perfect together. Until we met.”
I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.
In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.
It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…
And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.
Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.
We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?
Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?
F*ck it. I need to meet her.
I just don’t expect to hate what I find.
He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.
Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something.
He could be gone forever.
Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.
This book came to my attention because it’s on the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2016 list in the Romance category. In addition, the Goodreads stats of over 13,000 ratings and an average rating of 4.24 is pretty impressive. So I thought I’d give it a shot.
Let’s see what the popular kids like to read….
First, this is definitely a YA romance book. Not because of a lack of sex. There’s actually quite a lot of sex in the book, and intensely detailed sex at that. But the book takes place in high school and revolves around the themes of bullying and wanting to be “a popular kid” in a Lifetime movie kind of way. I must admit that it’s been long enough since I’ve been in high school that the theme didn’t really grab me. The book felt like “Mean Girls” done as a romance novel.
It was difficult to like the female protagonist, Ryen, who was a mean girl. The author writes in lots of backstory about how Ryen was bullied when she was young and so decided to become a mean girl herself in order to be popular. However, the ‘poor me’ fell a little flat, and the choices she made were fairly repellent all the same. Also, it’s extremely simplistic to say you either have to be a cruel bully yourself or be unpopular. No, that’s not really true. Plenty of people skate a middle line in high school, get along quite well with a small group of friends, or are popular without being mean. So I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Ryen.
However, it’s the plot of the novel that Ryen, a mean girl, is disliked by the hero, Misha, precisely because she is mean. So I have to give the book some slack in that regard and I grit my teeth a bit through Ryen 1.0. By the end of the book, Ryen finally ditches the cool kids (or rather, she is ditched by them) and she sticks up for the bullied kid. Character growth, man. Gotta love it.
Beyond that issue, however, the book was entertaining. I can see why it would be very popular with a YA audience. Just like a Lifetime movie, all the tropes are here — the horrible jock who goes through girls like Kleenex, the gay bff, the nasty slutty girl, the bullied kid. The things I particularly liked about the book were not those things, however. I liked the idea of the vandalism–that someone at the school is spray-painting lyrics and what passes for teenaged wisdom around the school. And the romance plotline also held my interest. There was a bit of a hurt/comfort thing going on with Misha, who had a personal tragedy. I liked him much better than Ryen as a character.
I also kept reading because I wanted to see Ryen redeem herself and see the other mean kids get their comeuppance, which the author delivered. Uh, revenge is sweet. Guess I’m just a mean girl at heart.
Note: What the heck was up with Misha’s mother? Her motivations are never explained and seemed to clash with her profession and role as a protector of one of the mean kids, so it felt off to me, like it was done for a rug-pull moment without much logic. I wish that had been expanded upon in a more realistic way.