Princess Pita and the Prick

Sweet  - Erin McCarthy
I started climbing Riley, trying to get over him to the free side of the bed. We were a tangle of limbs, my balance off as we rocked slightly. "Why are we moving? OMG, is this a waterbed? Who the hell has waterbeds?"

"People whose mothers were fourteen in the eighties and in love with hair bands."

Yeah, I can't give this a 4 despite the LOL moments Erin McCarthy gave me with this one. 

I remember liking the first book in this series, True, because the heroine in that one reminded me of my shitty little self back in the day. Jessica Sweet barely registered in my radar, though this book reminded me that she's Rory's roommate who used to sleep with Tyler and a bunch of other guys. Riley, I remember because he made a quip about one of Rory's friends looking like a Care Bear. A grown man, tattooed and stereotypically ripped from working in construction, who knows his Care Bears? Why yes I can swoon over and climb that.

Though I wasn't sure exactly how the chemistry will work between these two. And at times, especially in the earlier chapters, the fit felt forced and awkward (Paint fight? while doing house repairs? Can we get anymore predictable than that?). Once they got together midway through, I found the entertainment and heart-warming quotient improve exponentially from the (obviously contrived) bickering as they struggle to reconcile their values and beliefs to make their relationship work.

While on summer break, Jessica lies to her parents that she's going to help build houses for the poor with a Christian mission group when she's actually bunking with Riley Mann in their about-to-be-foreclosed house while the rest of the Manns are vacationing with Rory and her father. Jessica and Riley are hardly friends to begin with: Jessica likes to party and believes in having open sexual relationships without any commitment is the best way to defy her parents' expectations of her being the preacher's daughter; Riley has no parental expectations to buckle anymore. After their mother died from drug OD, he's been fighting for sole custody of his ll-year old brother while trying to make ends meet for the rest of his family. 

My biggest issue was with Jessica. She essentially believes that with sleeping around, she's proclaiming her sexual freedom as an independent woman of the 21st century, bucking the rigid expectations of being the preacher's daughter. She's making a stand y'all, feminism yay! Slut-shaming boo! And yet she keeps this a secret from her family. She's taking a course in college insisted upon by her father. She lets her mother bully her to re-friend her asshole brother in Facebook. She has to make up an excuse why she can't come home during the break… why? It was such a conflict between who she is and who she claims to be. There was a portion in the story where she tells Riley that they'll cut her off if they find out what she's been doing. So why doesn't she tell them? She thinks their lavish lifestyle is hypocritically opposite of the religious virtues they teach anyway, wouldn't getting cut off from her family be the freedom she so desperately seeks? 

Her issues come across this side of contrived, almost as much as the way the anti-slut shaming dialogue came out. It was too hammer-in-the-head, too deliberate. I liked the intention but the execution lacked the finesse of subtlety. Repeat after me:context is your friend.

She's too much of "The Cool Girl": video gamer, male-like perspective towards sex and commitment, not afraid to get dirty and can get her Martha Stewart on if she wants to. Her details come across a little of a try-hard to please when the time that this stereotype was considered charming has passed (i.e. Sandra Bullock. In the 90s.).

I did like her humor better than Riley. Sometimes she comes across as trying too hard, but sometimes, when she doesn't mean to, I find myself laughing at her offbeat responses.

"I bet that somewhere up there in heaven, where there's no heroin, your mom is watching and she's proud of you and happy."

I have a feeling I shouldn't laugh at that but what can I do?

I liked Riley. He was a pleasant surprise seeing as its easy to peg him as the usual tattooed and ripped bad boy. I liked his take on sex and relationships. I understand Jessica's as well but I appreciate the author's effort to break out of the usual mold in New Adult. I didn't like that his character was made out to come across as myopic when he was used as the jealous boyfriend who can't deal with his girlfriend sleeping with his brother before they got together. But someone has to be there for Jessica to make that anti-slut shaming statement to, I guess. I found the Praying Steps scene romantic and Riley's apology and declaration sweet but also honest.

So a good half of a book all in all. Would've worked better if Jessica wasn't such an eager beaver for me to think she's cool, progressive and likable. Trying is good, but the effort shouldn't be so obvious.