You ever have one of those books that you really really want to like but somehow lets you down so hard that after you finish it all you want to do is cry?
So this was that book.
Settle in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The alt rock band The Stone Butterfly is in need of a replacement backup singer. So when in-demand studio musician Brooklynn Hawk becomes available, the group wants her. But the band isn’t the only one who wants her; the lead singer, Levi Matthews, also wants her. Wants her bad. And he’s not about to take no for an answer. Despite her attraction, Brooklynn has her own reasons for saying no. She’s committed to taking care of her developmentally delayed younger sister and is afraid that saying yes to Levi means saying no to her career. After all, he’s a star and she’s just a studio musician and a temporary fix. But neither can deny the attraction. Unfortunately, Levi isn't the only one who won’t take no for an answer. There’s someone sending postcards who’s just a little too invested in the lives of Brooklynn and Levi.
So… I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like it so much. And there is good in here and I think the author may have just mis-stepped. But whoa-boy was it a whole lot of mis-steps. Like fall down the stairs into a pool of broken glass. Like I want to reclaim my time and maybe take a nice long shower while drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
So before I begin my rant.. here’s what I liked:
I liked everything to do with the music scene. It was well researched and felt real.
I loved the rest of the band. Sasha was probably my favorite member followed by Noah. I’d love to see their stories one day.
Do you notice what’s missing? If you said the main characters, you’d be right. There’s a reason for that. Now on to what I disliked… and be warned… here there be spoilers.
The Hero, Levi, was cut of the same cloth as Edward from Twilight and Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey. The dude is super stalkery. Especially at the beginning. He was pushy to the point of WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU!
So there’s the normal insta-lust that happens in a lot of novels. It’s ubiquitous so I didn’t give a whole lot of thought. Then it quickly got worse. So here’s a pro-tip, authors… when a woman says no repeatedly to a date but the guy persists, it isn’t romantic. It’s sexual harassment.
But wait, there’s more!
Levi also oversteps a line when he follows Brooklynn home. Sure I get it, you like the girl… that doesn’t give you the right to get into her cab and not get out. If I were Brooklynn, I’d have gone to a wrong place then taken a subway home. It’s even worse, because when all of this goes down he had the power to fire her. So that meant that anything he did came from a place of inequality and if she said no, she’d be out of a job. Literally Brooklynn told him “no” over 20 times and he didn’t back off. Even going so far as to corner her (the author’s exact words) and kiss her without her permission. That’s not romantic. That’s sexual assault.
Later in the book, when they hook up, he dictates where she sleeps. Levi also jumps to so many conclusions, overrides Brooklynn’s wishes, and even steamrolls her. And takes care of her sister’s care even though he wasn’t asked to. I couldn’t warm up to him. I wanted Brooklynn to dump him and hook up with Noah. Seriously. This was 50 shades of fucked up.
Then there’s Brooklynn. She’s a little too perfect. Perfect voice. Perfect body. Talented. The thing is, I liked her. But in that "you’re way better than the hero and I need someone to like" kind of way. The problem was that the story took place in NYC and the author apparently didn’t think about that… and so kept mixing up the heroine’s name with the city. Whoops?
The PoC representation wasn’t handled well. Black characters repeatedly had their skin referred to as “mocha,” something that is considered offensive by many in the Black community, and their hair was referred to as “wild,” which is also an offensive term. If you’re an author and not following writingwithcolor then you need to be right now.
Go do it. I’ll wait.
In addition, Brooklynn is supposed to be of Native American descent. That isn’t explicitly stated until 94% of the way through the book. I mean there’s tiny hints… but not nearly enough. To be honest, I was picturing Brooklynn as mixed race Asian based off of her description. But initially she was scanning as white. When indicating race, it needs to be done early and it needs to be done with all characters. Not just the PoCs. And in addition, Native Americans need to be identified by tribe. Representation Matters.
Speaking of representation, the book seriously misrepresented an already stigmatized mental illness: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The stalker is revealed to be Brooklynn’s developmentally delayed (yes, that is the actual terminology used in the novel) little sister who’s got undiagnosed BPD.
BPD is often referred to as “Crazy Bitch Syndrome” colloquially; however, in reality, the way BPD manifests is in self-harm and self-destructive behavior. Marsha Linehan describes BPD thusly “…borderline individuals are the psychological equivalent of third-degree burn patients. They simply have, so to speak, no emotional skin. Even the slightest touch or movement can create immense suffering. Yet… life is movement.” They don’t stalk people and they definitely don’t physically harm others. They also tend to commit suicide when they feel hope is lost… and the illness has a very high rate of suicide. They don’t try to commit murder.
What is often identified in media as BPD is actually Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). The fact that the book perpetuates this myth is incredibly damaging. Representation matters, and for people suffering from BPD or those whose loved ones suffer from BPD (like us) this hurts and can actually reinforce the negative image that all sufferers of BPD have where they feel that they aren’t worthy of love and affection and respect. BPD has such a high rate of stigma that finding psychologists who can treat this (it isn’t an illness that is treatable by medication) can take years.
This kind of negative portrayal has very real impact. And it would have been easily solved if the author had done their research or hired a sensitivity reader. Even the Wikipedia article addresses this. This is willful ignorance. And it’s an unforgivable sin.
This sin is made even worse in that the two suspects are Women of Color. The decoy suspect is a Black woman which just helps support the “Angry Black Woman” stereotype. The actual perpetrator is Native American which goes right into the “Savage Natives” stereotype. Seriously, don’t fuck around with mental health and PoC. Just don’t. And be aware of the Unfortunate Implications of what you’re writing.
Did you follow writingwithcolor yet? No? Do it!!!
Finally, the ARC I received could have used a good proofreader. I tried to check the preview to see if the errors were visible but since they didn’t start until chapter 7, I couldn’t. Therefore since the book has been published and I received the ARC after the publication date, I have to assume the errors made it in.
Basically, I wanted to like this. I really really did. But I couldn’t. This book made me angry in all the wrong ways. So I can only give it
If you really want to read this, you can get it on Amazon. *** I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley
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