Thursday, 15 August 2013

Review - How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

How My Summer Went Up in Flames
How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Series: Standalone
Published by Simon Pulse on May 7 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 307
Rating: 2/5 stars

First she lost her heart. Then she lost her mind. And now she’s on a road trip to win back her ex. This debut novel’s packed with drama and romance!
Rosie’s always been impulsive. She didn’t intend to set her cheating ex-boyfriend’s car on fire. And she never thought her attempts to make amends could be considered stalking. So when she’s served with a temporary restraining order on the first day of summer vacation, she’s heartbroken—and furious. 
To put distance between Rosie and her ex, Rosie’s parents send her on a cross-country road trip with responsible, reliable neighbor Matty and his two friends. Forget freedom of the road, Rosie wants to hitchhike home and win back her ex. But her determination starts to dwindle with each passing mile. Because Rosie’s spark of anger? It may have just ignited a romance with someone new…

I’m not sure exactly what it is that I love so much about road trip books. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the idea of being stuck in confined quarters with people a la Big Brother? Maybe it’s the definity of having a final destination in mind that is so comforting? Or it could be the constant change of scenery and watching as characters adapt to each new setting they come across? I don’t know, but there was something just a bit off about this. It certainly didn’t do for me what Wanderlove by Kristen Hubbard did (not that I was really expecting it to). It just felt very lukewarm and soggy noodle-y. This book is really lucky it’s short, because if it were 100 pages longer I wouldn’t have finished it. As it were, I read it in about a day and a half (mostly because I locked myself out of the house and had a long stretch of uninterrupted reading time).

My biggest issue with this book was Rosie. She just didn’t really interest me as a character. Her obsession with Joey was off-putting from the very beginning, though she claimed not to be hung up on him. She was a very wishy-washy character and the impulsiveness that she was supposed to have felt more like a character trait the author selected for her and then clung to than an actual facet of her personality. It didn’t feel organic at all.

Additionally, she slut-shames ALL THE TIME. It starts with the girl who Joey cheated on her with, which is uncool to begin with. The 14 year old girl is not to blame for Joey cheating. Joey is to blame for Joey cheating. End of story. It would be bad enough if that was the extent of her judging other girls for their so-called “slutty” behaviour. But oh no, it doesn’t stop there. Rosie  later notices a girl at Dollyworld with huge boobs in a skimpy lycra tank top and comments that she (Rosie) “keeps [her] curves tastefully covered.” Um, you’re at DOLLYWORLD. Also, this girl’s breasts are none of your concern. She goes on to describe Avery, who is pretty much the sweetest girl in the universe, as “so cute in a nonslutty Barbie kind of way”, which I think she actually means as a compliment. There are a few other grossly misogynistic tidbits thrown in sporadically throughout the rest of the book (like when Rosie immediately assumes that Avery’s dad is the one who makes all the money just after being told that her mom is a renowned doctor), but they aren’t all worth mentioning.

I didn’t hate the male characters as much as I loathed Rosie, but they were a little flat. I actually liked Matty and Spencer far more than Logan, but of course she would go for the “hot” guy. I never expected otherwise, though I did find it weird and off-putting that Rosie had romantic entanglements with literally every somewhat age-appropriate male she met (who wasn’t her brother). Their nerdiness was kind of endearing (though I noticed that almost all of the apparent nerdiness happened off-page), and there was one appalling misuse of Yoda linguistics. “Stalk no more, I will not” makes absolutely no sense. Double negative much?

The writing tried way too hard to be funny and when it was trying to be slightly more serious it reeked of amateurism. There weren’t many grammar errors, which speaks highly of either author or editor (or both), but it read like a ninth grade story assignment that was written the night before it was due. 

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