Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: BELIEVE by Erin McCarthy

BELIEVE by Erin McCarthy
Pub Date: 1-21-14 by PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL
ARC received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review:
Dannie says: A *like* I wanted to *love*!




Robin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she’s faced with being THAT girl, and couldn’t be more disgusted with herself. She can’t even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that’s good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin’s house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he’s drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn’t care that he’s done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it’s a na├»ve dream to believe that his record won’t catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…


WHAT I LIKED

The concept(s). I loved the idea of a twenty-something getting out of prison for something he admits to doing, and having to figure out how to move forward with his life. And I think the idea of a girl that blacks out and has sex with her bestie's guy is unfortunately something a number of college women can relate to. The concept was a like and not a love because I didn't really feel like these two MCs stories wove together fluidly enough. While they were both engaging concepts by themselves, they were really islands that didn't intersect, other than when forced to by the characters. I also felt that, perhaps as a consequence, neither of their situations really got thoroughly explored. Phoenix's essentially gets glossed over all together, and while Robyn does face some fallout, it felt, for me, like it was resolved too easily. All that said, I was hooked by the concept and finished reading the entire book within a matter of hours.


WHAT I LOVED

Superficial stuff first. I love this cover. It's just yummy. Okay, moving on.

Phoenix. I love how broken he is, but that he's still lovable. I love that he's not a college guy, that he's out of the box from a lot of new adult L.I.'s.  I think the author did a great job of making him a three-dimensional, fleshed out character. I liked that he owned his flaws and that they factored in to his primary predicament in the story.


WHAT I WANTED MORE OF

Complexity in the FMC. I felt like her drinking could have been more thoroughly fleshed out in both the narrative and the overall plot. The elements are there, but for me they got overshadowed by the whole will-they-won't-they get together trope that has become mandatory in NA/CR. There's a sort of joke among NA authors that we don't need to flesh out our female MCs, because that way the readers can pretend that we are the characters. I for one am not a fan of this trend, and when female MCs seem watered down or unclear to me, I have a hard time rooting for them. When you add that to a girl who's done something on the not-so-likable side to her bestie, she's even harder to champion. I'm also not a fan of "oh I was drunk and I blacked out so it wasn't my fault" themes in both life and literature. I felt like this bordered on that theme a smidge, something that might have been cleared up if we had gotten a little deeper into Robin's character. 

Authentic narrative voice. As much as I love Phoenix I wanted a more distinctive narrative voice for him. And as mentioned above, I found most everything about Robin to be more vanilla than I'd hoped.

A messier ending. All around, I wanted more conflict, but especially where the ending is concerned. You've got two pretty effed up main characters in this book. I wanted the ending to reflect that more. 

Okay, short story long--this was not a terrible read. It was engaging enough that I zipped through it in one sitting and was hooked and invested. A like but not a love for me. Read it and let me know what YOU think!


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