Image Courtesy of Goodreads.
*I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
2.5/5 stars (I rounded it up to 3).
This book started off with a good premise that I was genuinely absorbed in.
I love modern retellings of Classics so this book was right up my alley. The book is told from 2 perspectives (Finley & Oliver’s) chapter by chapter.
The book overall felt so stilted and almost unfinished. The initial chemistry between Finley and Oliver was there but then it just petered out. As a reader, I was never really given an explanation as to Oliver’s (alleged) deep love for Finley until at least halfway through. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really him loving her but was more-so him wanting to be Finn’s knight in shining armor. He says multiple times throughout the book that he wanted Finn to think for herself and give her own opinions, all the while pushing his own perspective. Also, a lot could have been resolved had they both just spoken to one another like normal people.
On top of that, Harlan seemed like a genuinely caring character and his fatal flaw and subsequent actions were kind of out of left field. I actually thought that this book was going in a different direction where Finn realizes that this “stranger” who is only in Chicago for a small while is the breath of fresh air she needs. I like that they didn’t have “instalove” and she actually disliked him after first meeting him. But they both sort of won each other over unintentionally.
The one huge thing that I disliked was that after the play being shown, the book felt like a roller coaster ride and I swear I got whiplash from how quickly Harlan changed from a supportive boyfriend to being clingy and attention hungry. It just made no sense.
He was truly there for Finley when she needed him & it was because of his support that she was able to confront her mother’s past abuses towards her. But somehow, especially in Oliver’s point of view, he was still the bad guy for doing so? Because Finley was apparently (not verbatim) too “pure and innocent” to confront someone that hurt her physically and gave her PTSD that she still suffers from?
Please shoot me a message if you can make any sense of that.
And for him to go from “I actually don’t drink but that’s just my tabloid persona” to “I will get drunk off my behind and hook up with this girl because I was upset once” was just mind boggling. Another thing that confused me was how he was somehow made out to be the villain for helping Finley out with her Mansfield pre-interview. He knew he had the right connections to help his girlfriend out and was only trying to help her.
Another thing I massively disliked was the Oliver + Emma storyline. I actually felt bad for Emma because Oliver kept pining over Finley like a lovesick puppy, and it felt like he was using Emma at times. Not only that, but the bizarre scene where he overhears Harlan admit to his sister, Emma, that he only tried to win over Finn for a bet might as well have not been included because it went nowhere. I understand that they were trying to show that he wasn’t actually a good guy but it just felt so disjointed and randomly threw in for the sake of extra drama.
The worst part was when Harlan cheats on Finley with Juliette, Oliver’s sister. That honestly came out of nowhere and left the reader going “surely this must be an editing error?” I have several points with this 1)The character of Juliette was laughably bad. She was more like a cartoon villain than an actual person. Even terrible people have 1 redeeming quality but other than snark and insulting Finley whenever she got the chance, she had no other personality trait. A cardboard cutout would have been a better choice than her character. 2) Even after hooking up with Harlan, she has zero remorse. She actually accuses Finley of stealing him from her, despite the fact that she was in a relationship at the time. 3)And her “punishment” for that level of betrayal was something that belonged on a Teenage Sitcom, honestly.
And Nora. Oh boy. If it was possible to have someone be completely callous and somehow worse than Juliette, she was that character. This woman was more like the evil stepmother in Cinderella than a fleshed out character who was (possibly) a lawyer? She was just completely vindictive towards a 17-year-old kid and it kind of blew me away that not one person in that family (especially Oliver who was supposed to be so astute and observant) noticed her vitriol towards Finley OR the few times they did notice her snarkiness, they just turned a blind eye to it?
And somehow Finley still picks Oliver over Harley. Why?
*End of Spoilers*
Overall, I’d say it was a quick and easy read (the only reason it took me as long as it did was because of work) but I think it definitely could have used some tweaks to make it flow better. And while I do understand that this was a modern retelling, Harlan deserved better than he got for his character.
Much Love and Literature,