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Book Review: You Don't Know Me (Part 1)

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

First off, I’m going to have to break this review up into pieces. I’ve got too much to rant about - complete with screen grabs - that tumblr will hate me. Not to mention, I want to show you the pain and then talk about some of the more salient problems with this book in depth.

A little over a month and a half ago I said I was going to do something stupid. I was going to read my way through Faleena Hopkins’ book You Don’t Know Me. I got through the first half in a fairly decent clip - the writing was not good, the characters weren’t good, the plots were flying more than mosquitoes in summer… and then I got to the part where I just started continually shouting.

Laws of physics, laws of nature, laws of storytelling were all thrown aside as if they were garbage, and then literal garbage was shoved into its place.

This was not a good book. This is not me ragging on her as an author. But I am not joking when I say I’ve read stuff by actual teenagers that was much, much better than this. And because I had to suffer through it, you have to suffer through my ranting. Aren’t I nice?

The story takes a common trope “Secret Love Child” and combines it with another “The Missing Heir” and adds a dash of “Draco in Leather Pants” and “Poor Little Rich Boy” into the mix. By the way, if you can’t guess, TV Tropes is my wiki-walk rabbit hole and I have no regrets. The same cannot be said for this book.

Rue Calliwell (and I don’t care if I misspell the name - the author doesn’t; why should I?) is trying to make it in Los Angeles. She works the graveyard shift at a local grocery store while trying to catch her big break as a dancer. When Jack Stone, one of America’s Famous Billionaire Playboys, suddenly appears on her doorstep hopping mad, she wonders what died in his Wheaties and maybe if she can kiss away the frown he’s fixing her with. (Yep, she’s dreaming about some brother banging.) After dragging the story out for way too long, it’s finally revealed that Rue is the bastard daughter of Jack’s father and that he’s been embezzling from his company to stock up an inheritance of $50 million that has Rue’s name all over it. If she refuses the money, it goes to the KKK and she can’t allow that to happen. While her other brother, Sean, treats her to a Pretty Woman makeover, Jack wrangles their best friend Alec (and super hot lead singer of a band that’s never mentioned and isn’t important to the plot in any way) to seduce his sister and then break her heart. Because that’s what all pissed off brothers do, dontcha know?

So where do I even begin with this?

How about at the beginning… I have over 120 notes that I made on this as I read it. I’ll share some of them with you.

This is the opening paragraph to this book. There is so much wrong with this I just can’t even. From the random thought, to the run-on sentence (a Faleena Hopkins Trademark), to the weird-ass descriptors. Frowning Forehead? Are there lips on this forehead? Another face? Not to mention that there are missing en-dashes and it’s in a confusing tense. (Most of the book is in first person/present tense… because of the contraction, the sentence can be read as both present and past tense.)

The story introduces us to Rue, Jack, and Sean in pretty short order. Rue is supposed to be the heroine. The one we’re rooting for. Jack is the antagonist. One of the two wronged brothers and the one who thinks that Rue has an agenda. He is not a nice character. Then there’s Sean who is too good for this world and is written like every single stereotypical gay best friend but he’s got a “SECRET!” You have one guess what that is going to be.

If you can’t tell, this is in reference to Jack. But not only do we have a wild apostrophe, but we also have Exorcist levels of neck contortion. Not to mention a super awkward sentence.

This is also a Faleena Hopkins Trademark.


I also mentioned that the story was in need of a good editor. Not just a proofreader, but an actual story doctor who could prune the 15 or so subplots down to something manageable while actually giving us a romance. Not a sex story shoved into a family drama. By the way, this story BARELY qualifies as a romance and I’m not totally convinced it is. The main characters end up together, but it is in no way satisfying and the focus of the story wasn’t on the relationship. More on that later.

But let’s go back to the editing.

Sorry about the italics not translating between Goodreads (where I can access my notes) and what’s in the actual book. Trust me when I say that this woman hasn’t met an italic she didn’t love, except when she should use them.

As you can see, there are now enough errors for me to mark it down a star for poor proofreading. And I’m not even a quarter of my way through this. The errors continued including something I find a death knell… the author spelling her main character’s name wrong. I’m not going to bother sharing more of her proofreading errors, unless they are really eye-roll inducing.

Another reason why this book is so bad is because the foreshadowing is heavy-handed as fuck. Like I’m going to hit you over a brick with it but I want you to act surprised when the reveal takes place. It’s that bad.

Here’s one of the most egregious examples.

We didn’t get the actual reveal of what was in the summary until 7% of the way into the book. Which is 21 pages and 5 Chapters into the book. Even then, the author played with it for a while, making it so that Rue didn’t believe the lawyer and thought this was some elaborate reality show prank. Yeah.

The author also wasn’t terribly good at hiding her foreshadowing.

This was in the character’s head. You don’t hide that kind of thing in your own head. It’s why most mystery writers don’t write from the POV of the killer, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” aside. It gives away the mystery. Coupled with the over abundance of POVs and this heavy handed handling of the character. I would have dropped this plot line entirely…. More on this later. Trust me, what goes on with Sean is a rant in and of itself and is enough for me to rate this one star.

Now let’s get into the flashback portion and will portion of the plot.

This is where the first gif really starts showing through.

Part of me really wanted to send Hopkins the Wikipedia article on cancer. The other part of me wondered: if this is what she considers hyperbole, then what other horrors did I have in store?

I shouldn’t have asked.

This is brought up, but never actually addressed. Also I need to talk about how the father gave Rue the money. He gave it to her in a lump sum. $50 million. Not a trust. Not a foundation. Just here! Cash!

The author tries to address it later. But fails.

And that’s assuming that there aren’t locality taxes and again congrats you’re in a higher income bracket.

The biggest problem with this is that the father would know better. Or have the money offshore… not something that would be transferred into a U.S. checking account to make the IRS piddle their pants like an errant puppy. The father who claims to have loved the mother and the daughter, would make sure that the daughter had the money to keep her comfortable for the rest of her life and not able to spend it or give it away all in one go.

I used to work for a lawyer’s office who specialized in estate planning (and real estate) - in most cases, if you have more than $250,000 in assets that will survive your death, it’s recommended to have a trust because the federal government takes so much.

These tricks are one of the many ways that the rich stay rich.

As I mentioned before Rue gets a makeover, courtesy of Sean.

I’m thinking of the now deleted video of hers… But here’s the author.

So of course from here on out, I’m picturing Faleena as Rue… which did not help matters.

The reason why I say this is a nice lampshade is literally until she finds out that Jack and Sean are her brothers, she’s fantasizing about sleeping with them and kissing them. Which again is “Ew!!!” for the reader and not funny and kinda crosses the pseudo-incest vibe that Amazon will allow and goes into Incest because again, we the reader know what the score is, it’s in the damned summary.

This is a huge problem in the book. The sainted mother who died of the mystical cancer is the sole woman who doesn’t get the slut/bitch/sexist treatment. Huge problem. Not even Jenna is immune (which happens later) and Jenna falls into another bad trope which I will get to later.

There’s more, but let me tell you, headhopping in the first person, present tense is tough. You’re deep into one character’s head. That takes talent.

Crappy talent. But talent.

This is where I’m going to stop my first post. We’ve just got the first mention of the love interest, Alec. And opened up another problem.

How is Alec Sean and Jack’s only friend? I say this as someone whose best friends growing up were identical twins. Most siblings, especially those that aren’t twins, won’t have the same bestie. They don’t want the same bestie. It’s a thing. They may have friends in common, but most best friends tend to be someone else. Mostly so they have someone they can rant to about the other.

If you think this is bad, wait until you meet Alec and the new siblings have a night on the town.

It’s going to be great….

You can find Part 2 here and the masterpost here.

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