Book – All of the Above
Author – Quinn Anderson
Star rating - ★★★☆☆
No. of Pages – 155
Cover – Lovely!
POV – 3rd person, single character POV
Would I read it again – No
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Romance
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
Reviewed for Divine Magazine
Okay, this is a hard one, for me. It's my first book by the author and I'll admit I feel a bit...underwhelmed. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't brilliant either. It's in that halfway mark of just Meh and Okay, where I don't really know what to say about it. I do, however, have to admit that I considered DNF'ing a few times. It just didn't have an impact on me, enough for me to say – well, this is interesting, I'll keep going. It was all a little too perfect.
First off, I found it really, really cheesy. Corny. Tooth-ache inducing. It was as though someone had done a quiz asking people what the most cheesy, stupid dating stuff they'd ever imagined might be and put it all into one book. Maybe it's me, because I hate making decisions, but the whole 'choose your own date' book was really corny. Like, cringe-worthy corny. Then the whole “life is perfect” epilogue. And how easily they settled their first relationship argument. There was zero angst here. Not an ounce of it. Whenever there was the chance for angst, it was quickly covered up, removed or dealt with. Maybe that's why I didn't care whether I finished it or not, I don't know. I just know there was nothing that grabbed me and told me to keep reading. I simply finished it because I had nothing else to do.
I really thought this would be more “meet cute” than stalker. I thought that the whole “quiz” part of the story was going to be the impetus for the couple getting together, that it was some kind of cosmic plan by the quiz writer, Matt, to get a guy he'd seen at all his favourite haunts to notice him. The mention of his favourite bookstore was just far too blatant in the quiz to be anything but a “come meet me” or a “this is where we keep seeing each other, but you never notice me” mention. To find out that it was nothing of the sort makes the entire plot feel far too contrived for my liking. If it had been a mutual attempt by both MC's to get the other to notice them, it would have been a really cute – if not well executed and stalkerish – attempt to find their perfect match. Without that, it feels far too obsessive, stalkerish and just plain wrong.
Also, I wasn't thrilled by the characters, either. I didn't like Brendon from the start. He was all ego, vanity, arrogance and flighty, without once showing any substance until the 'dating' began. He came across really shallow and self-centered for most of the story. Similarly, I didn't like Matt, either. He was arrogant, hard-headed and had his head up his own ass. The excuses they made for each other, calling them “flaws” just felt like a way to excuse the fact that these weren't likeable characters.
For side characters, I didn't much like Sasha, though her husband had a little more spunk to him. For me, Sasha was a judgy cow and I didn't like the way she talked to Brendon like he was a child. Sure, he's not the smartest guy or the best at making judgements, but there was no reason to talk down to him, tell him he took “resting bitch face to new levels” or that he was an Ice King. That's just rude!
I didn't feel the chemistry between them. It felt like two strangers, every single time they were together. They literally were, for about 90% of the story. They had eye-flirting at the book store when they first met, then had some epic love-at-first-sight thing going on, during their first date. The 'break up' was far too serious for how long they'd known each other and for how well they knew each other. Even as they were dating, I felt like Matt was trying to find reasons to be angry with Brendon, while Brendon was trying to find reasons not to like Matt. It just didn't feel natural, at any point. And then they went and had sex on their second – first after the big fight – date. It just felt far too forced.
I didn't exactly start the book on the best grounds, since it had Brendon seriously contemplating being hit by a car just so he could get out of work. As someone in a wheelchair, who would love to be able to walk as well as everyone else can, it felt ridiculous and insulting. It was part of the reason I didn't like Brendon right from the start – he was a diva, an egoist and melodramatic. If it wasn't about him, he wasn't interested or invested.
When it came to the actual writing, it was okay. It had some characterisation but not too much and it didn't exactly make me love the characters, so I'm not sure if it was successful or not. It tended to skip ahead in time a lot and, despite the nice presentation with chapter headings etc, it felt like too much text, at times. Which, I know, is a weird thing to say, but the chapters felt really long. I barely registered any of the chapter headings, despite them having a big block of black ink as the book image, because it just felt like it all flowed into one block of text. There were no scene breaks, despite some paragraphs skipping through entire hours of a day. A simple break, here and there, would have really helped make it feel less like each chapter dragged on for an age. There were a couple of editing issues – missing words or extra words – as well as a continuity issue (mentioning that Brendon had a lot of downtime, then claiming he had none, later) and far too many instances of “per se”.
And, let me just talk about that cover, for a minute. Because, although I love the idea, I have an issue. My laptop went haywire on me, when I was typing notes and I had to open it again. When I did, I actually stopped to read the text on the cover, which I hadn't bothered to before. I assumed it was part of the quiz and didn't want a spoiler. Well, HELLO, SPOILER! The entire text on the front of the cover gives away SO much of the plot. I was only at 62%, just after the big revelation, when I read it and it ruined the rest of the book for me. In fact, if I'd have read it before starting the book, it would have ruined the entire thing. It gives away a whole lot about the ending (to forgive or not to forgive) that I don't think any book wants to give away right there on the cover! I just can't wrap my head around why anyone thought it was a good idea. There are a million other quotes – some funny, some touching – that would have been far better and far less revealing, to place on the cover. The quotes that are there just tell you the ending, right there.
So, why 3 stars? Why not 2? Because it was a good idea. It could have been brilliant. It could have gone a million original ways. It just didn't. I picked out three different places where, if it had just gone a little bit wrong, it could have really surprised me and made it far more interesting. Instead, everything was contrived to work out perfectly. But, I got the picture, I got the idea and I liked that. I liked what it tried to be. There were a few moments it actually managed to make me care and feel and hope, but they were so few that a 3 is as far as it goes. It has potential and promise, but it just didn't follow through, and that's where it faltered, for me.
“He snapped a quick selfie and uploaded it to Instagram. God bless filters. Making him look less like a zombie since 2010.”