Ever wonder what if Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne got together and wrote a book?
Yeah me neither.
Then I read this and now I know.
Anyone familiar with my blatherings would know that I don't mind cliches. I am perfectly comfortable in admitting that recycled storylines, with the proper execution, fall in my comfort reads category. This book promises a re-telling of Pygmalion and threw around a lot of references to similar film adaptations in a very meta manner. I find it pretty hard to make me hate anything related to this trope. I can practically recite Pretty Woman from memory, the hacky sack performance in She's All That still cracks me up and seeing as I have been in an awful slump these past few days, I thought this was going to be an easy, breezy, fun ride.
We've seen it all before: rich, preppy hot guy Ethan Price is stuck with goth, pierced and "edgy" Stephanie Kendrick on a screenplay project in NYU film school. They hate each other at first sight. Only they don't. Not really. (insert mild eye roll here)
Ethan comes up with the bright idea of polishing up Stephanie and make her his pretend girlfriend in front of his very straight-laced, pedigreed and moneyed family over the summer. Mostly to put a stop to his mother trying to set him back up with his cheating ex but also because they're using it as source material for their Pygmalion-inspired screenplay.
Because they're method screenplay-writing students.They can't just fabricate a screenplay out of, oh I don't know, their imagination. Imagination is for pussies. They have to experience it to write it.
"Think about how much better our screenplay will be if we can base it on real life experience."
Which makes me wonder if anyone thought of adapting Requiem for a Dream.
Being rendered homeless over the summer and forced to live with her own cheating ex-boyfriend, Stephanie "reluctantly" gives in to the deal when Ethan threw in the offer to live in his apartment rent-free in exchange for her participation in this charade.
Because this book chose a well-trodden path in contemporary romance, the burden lies really on the likability of the protagonists. Unfortunately, neither Ethan nor Stephanie did any of that silliness. True, owning up to their stereotypes was an easy bribe but beyond that, I found both of them extremely annoying. Stephanie mistakes being uncouth, wearing black and being all around rude with edginess and righteous angst while Ethan assumes the role of the snobby, misogynistic douchebag without the charm. The entire book was spent on them playing the cat and mouse game where one thinks he/she is falling in love while the other is just still playing their designated role in the charade. Which would have been totally fine for me if their alternating POVs didn't already lay both their cards out in the table from the get-go.
Unnecessary tension is unnecessary.
For a story set in film school, I surely didn't feel Stephanie as the impassioned film student. A lot of the details were glossed over, those that were discussed about filmmaking were already common knowledge. I didn't expect it to be an all-out Martin Scorsese lecture on the history of filmmaking but I do expect it to have a grain of authenticity.The story failed to capitalize on that aspect to make it unique, instead focusing on either character's personal drama which pushed all the wrong buttons for me.
I do appreciate that Ethan wasn't made a manwhore, but not that he's an asshole towards Stephanie.
I do appreciate Stephanie's growth throughout the book, but not how it was executed.
How the story was handled felt very dated and had some questionable ethics that I am explicitly against. I am not a militant feminist reader. I am, however a woman who knows offensive when she sees them.
When they were making out, almost about to have sex, Stephanie confesses that she doesn't know if she's a virgin because her ex-boyfriend roofied her and she can't remember anything. Ethan urges her to get in touch with Caleb, to know what happened that night. Which she did.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Ethan asks, yanking me out of memories.
I give a little smile and shake my head. "I think I'm all talked out on that topic, you know?"
He searches my face. "But when he writes back, you'll tell me."
I didn't have a choice. Not if I wanted Ethan to touch me.
Because he'd make it very clear that night when he'd gently set me away from him and slowly pulled his own tee-shirt over my head to cover me that he wouldn't touch me again until I had closure.
One could argue that this was all in Stephanie's head and that it doesn't necessarily mean that Ethan didn't want to have sex with her until they found out if she was raped.
Oh wait. He did mean that.
Stephanie deserves answers. Whether or not she and Caleb had sex that night, she didn't remember it.
Which means that whoever she sleeps with will essentially be her first.
And she deserved her first to be someone other than a guy who was more or less paying her to pose as his girlfriend.
This skewed logic just sets my temper into a boil. Making your heroine find out if she was raped or not because the hero wouldn't sleep with her if she doesn't?! I know, that justification from Ethan's part is supposed to be sweet and a balm to… you know what, it's not. It's offensive and a blatantly dated school of thought where the take home message sounds suspiciously like virgins deserves the best, non-virgins are fair game for assholes. And all that business of Stephanie being forced to face that horrible experience FOR A MAN and not for her own well-being or peace of mind?
FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
End-rant because there's serious apoplexy going on this side of the monitor.
I was going to give this a 2, but I'd be misrepresenting my insurmountable urge to punch something.
ARC provided by Random House-Flirt thru Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes may not appear in the final edition.