So I have previously read two of Sparks' other books and really was not a fan of them. After that I swore off reading more of his work. But I received this book for Christmas last year so I ended up reading it. I have been angrily ranting about it the entire time I've been reading it so I will try to keep my review short and (bitter)sweet.
Here is a list of some of the things that I did not like about this book (in no particular order):
- Maria's character- childish, weak, can't take care of herself (more on this in the next three points)
- Representation of sexual harassment- and Maria's casualness about it. Like "Oh, this guy makes me uncomfortable enough that I don't work late and forgo certain opportunities at my job, but no, I don't want to do anything drastic like file a complaint or tell anyone. I'd much rather be creeped out and potentially be held back at work." Good job, Maria. Way to inspire women everywhere to continue doing nothing about sexual harassment.
- Representation of stalking- and again Maria's casualness about it. If you have a stalker, tell somebody. Preferably the police. Don't just suck it up until it gets out of hand. What kind of law school did Maria go to that she thinks it's okay for people to just creep on her all the time?
- Hardcore White Knight Action- I like Colin enough as a characters. He's got the only real backstory out of all of the characters. But this book is clearly written from a male perspective. Maria, "the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants", is constantly in need of Colin rushing in to save her (and taking off his shirt all the time, like it's really ridiculous). Maria is such a damsel in distress, I can't even figure out how she made it this far in life without Colin coming to her aid. As a woman, this really irritates me, and it makes it worse that from what I can tell Maria (and her family) is one of the few "non-white" characters in the book. Way to go, white people. Good job perpetuating the myth that "minorities" need your gracious assistance to get by in life.
- Representation of mental illness- don't even get me started on the whole Lester thing. I can't even count how many times someone called him "crazy" or wrote off his actions due to insanity. We clearly need mental health awareness in this country.
- Super slow story, the whole first half was just relationship set-up, which was very boring for me. I like detail, but this was just too much. I don't want to read every word Maria and Colin spoke to each other.
- Story was predictable- Sparks kept dropping random bits of awkward information that clearly stuck out so it was very easy to figure out who the "villain" was and what said person's plan was.
- Most of the mysteries in the book seem to be solved by the characters suddenly getting an epiphany. This just felt lazy. The characters rely so much on their intuition and luck that I'm surprised anything got done at all.
So while I was not expecting to like this book, I was not prepared for how much I disliked it. I think a lot of the plot points (stalking, mental illness, sexual harassment) are serious topics that were used to make the story more interesting without much effort. For me, this was an offensive approach and I am very disappointed by it.
I think Sparks took a risk with this book; from what I can tell, it is a bit out of his genre and I respect that. It was a romance story that morphed into something representing a thriller. But there were too many harmful myths and representations in the book for me to like it. The whole thing felt lazy to me and was not well-done.
Slow, overly-detailed, and at times offensive, this was not my kind of book.