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Book Review: Bend The Rules (Part Five)

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

If you haven’t read the four part rant, you might want to go back and do that now. I’ll wait.

Or if you don’t and just want a quick summary of the trainwreck that is this book, that’s fine too. I won’t judge.

So trainwreck.

As a reminder this is what the story is about…

Yes, I’m being lazy and just posting the blurb, but can you blame me?

Bend the Rules is supposed to be a redemption arc romance featuring two characters with troubled pasts working together to solve a case and forge a brighter future for themselves. It’s billing itself as a second chance romance (which has a very specific meaning in the romance community) and it isn’t.

Despite our reader asking us to verify if the story is as bad as they thought, I went in with an open mind. After all, everyone has different kinks, ships, and preferences. What I’d rate as a five star, others have rated as one stars. Perception is everything.

It’s why we’re very up front about our rating guidelines. And I stick to it while reading.

So what makes this book so bad? It’s a lot of things. I’m not going to lie; there are some things I liked in this book. There’s some funny lines. Some cute Dialogue. Oscar. There are some great unexpected twists. And the core mystery, even the stuff that’s inspired by The Accountant, is mostly well done and engaging.

The real problem is the execution. The characters. The stereotypes. And the Author’s own prejudices.

So let’s start with the first one.

I don’t typically criticize authors when leaving reviews. It’s not helpful and it can be seen as a personal attack. But it’s also important to point out where the author is projecting something they personally believe onto their characters.

In this case, it’s the body shaming.

If it were just Mary who had the issue with everyone’s weight, I’d be annoyed but I wouldn’t be dinging the book as hard as I am. Negative self perception is a thing. It’s something that a lot of women feel and experience. It’s fine as a character trait. But to prevent it from becoming a hurtful stereotype, it should be limited to one character, acknowledged as hurtful, and ideally the character who has the trait should do something to become a better person.

None of that happens. Every character comments about people’s weight. Every single character. Major characters, minor characters. They all do it. And every comment that they make is negative. That’s the projecting.

Body stereotypes are hurtful. And in some cases they can be life-threatening. Doctors provide worse health care to people who are obese. They don’t listen to health concerns. They often only tell the person to lose weight. Even if the issue is something like… “I have this blinding pain behind my right eye.” Thin people are perceived as better workers than fat people. In only one state (Michigan) is it illegal to discriminate against people based on weight.

But body stereotypes aren’t the only hurtful ones here.

I’m sure that the author thought that by making the Big Bads Gay, she was playing with preconceived notions. And she was. Where it fell down was in how she did it. By killing the lone Gay characters. By having the only Gay characters be evil. She was making a commentary about the whole community. About the lifestyle. It comes off as “Gays are evil!” and that’s not okay. If she had had even just ONE positive Gay person in the story, this twist would have been fine. But she didn’t.

The same is true for the Persons of Color. Only Rocco Neri is described as dark… but the skin color, ethnicity, etc. are not explicitly stated. Considering that Hispanic and white characters are explicitly stated, it’s impossible to assume that Rocco is a Person of Color. In addition, Rocco, while not a villain, is not a good guy. He’s an antagonist and an obstacle for both Mary and Crash. So even if he is a POC he’s not a Good Guy™. The only explicitly Good Characters are white. Again, I’m damned certain that this was not intentional on the author’s part. I’m sure she went… “Oh! I’ll have a Hispanic based truck jacking ring with a surprise white boss!” And didn’t give it any more thought.

The problem is that you can’t and shouldn’t do that anymore. It’s not about Political Correctness. It’s about decency and treating people like humans. It’s totally okay to have Persons of Color be bad guys… so long as there are Persons of Color who are also good guys. It wouldn’t have taken much, for example, to make Ronald the Klingon-speaking IT guy Black or Hispanic or even Black Hispanic. In fact it would have improved the story and defied expectations. It’s about making sure that you have equal representation and positive representation.

And all authors need to bone up on their ethnic slurs. If you want to use a slur to make your bad guy very clearly bad, that’s fine. But it’s about treating your fellow humans with respect. And yes language is changing. But if you can keep up with trends in your chosen genre and research the exact kind of lettuce your main character eats, then you can spend two minutes making sure that you’re not being an asshole.

It’s really not that hard.

Now lets move on to the characters.

Mary is unlikable. And nothing about her changes from her introduction to the book’s end. She doesn’t go through any character transformation. She’s still the same elitist, classist, body shaming, trash policing, busybody that she was on the first page. People have to change to be around her. And that’s selfish as fuck.

Crash goes through a change, but most of it isn’t on the page. He also hurts people, kills people. and breaks the law without any consequences. In fact, he gets off scot-free. It’s a problematic trope.

Specifically they are both Designated Heroes. When the protagonists/heroes do things that in any other context would make them antagonists or villains, it’s a problem. Especially if they don’t suffer any repercussions or consequences to their actions.

Then there’s the execution. Everything from the pacing to the troubled foreshadowing to the editing is problematic.

There are enough grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors to take this down a star.

The ending is rushed and there’s some really major character development that takes place off screen. Not to mention randomly shoehorned in scenes that feel out of place but due to the laws of conservation of detail ultimately aren’t, but they aren’t presented in a satisfying way. Which also takes it down a star.

So because of the Stereotypes, the Body Shaming, the Pacing, the Characterization, and the ending.

I can only give this

One Star.

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