Standalone to date
“Riley Stone is just about perfect.
She has a crush on her French teacher, Alex Belrose.
(And she suspects he likes her, too.)
Riley has her entire life planned out.
(The plan is nonnegotiable.)
She’s never had a secret she couldn’t keep.
Riley is sure that her life is on the right track.
(And nothing will change that.)
She’s nothing like a regular teenager.
(But she doesn’t have any problem admitting that.)
Riley doesn’t usually play games.
(But when she does, she always wins.)
She thinks a game is about to start….
But Riley always has a plan….
And she always wins.”
Thank you to the author and Olivia (who manages the review chain) for providing me with a copy of this book. All opinions expressed are my own.
“For about two seconds, I play with the normal teenage girl hope that rises up in my chest. Maybe dating someone wouldn’t be so bad. Then I pinch it out like a candle. I am more than all of that.”
Where do I even begin with this book? I have very mixed feelings about it. Let me explain:
1. The theme. When you start out, there isn’t too much of a theme happening. The story follows Riley, a perfect, high school senior, as she navigates the last year of high school and the pressures of romance. That’s when things start to take an unpleasant turn. I found Riley’s love interest to be rather creepy to be honest. If I were her, I would have run in the other direction as soon as possible. But in any case, it seems like there’s the whole ‘love will prevail’ theme happening which was fine and dandy. And then the author brings in the whole ‘why do women even need to be dating someone to warrant attentions?’ debate which was slightly unexpected but not at all unwelcome. But the ending! The ending just threw everything through a loop. It usurps the themes and changes everything you thought you knew which was completely wonderful! I just wish the author had done it in a slightly more obvious way. I read this book through twice and I only got the subtle references to the change in message and ending the second time around. It was completely worth the reread, though.
“Of course, I also heard she ahs an insane temper and almost got fired five years ago when she threw a hammer against the wall when someone questioned her knowledge of table saws, but maybe you get that way from years of systemic sexism.”
2. The characters. Like I said previously, I found Riley’s love interest to be creepy and I didn’t really enjoy Riley’s scenes with him. Perhaps that was the point, however, which I’m willing to concede to. Riley herself is wonderfully portrayed and painted. I honestly connected with her quite a bit (especially with the bookstore scene!) and I loved being in her head. Riley’s friends, Kolbie and Neta, however, are a different story. While they are nice characters, I didn’t feel as though they were completely fleshed out and felt. They were there and they were fine but they weren’t spectacularly built. I felt much more from Riley’s parents, surprisingly enough.
“So of course my mom came downstairs to see what the hell her daughter was doing vacuuming so late at night (or at all), and saw Rob, who of course ma’am-ed his way into my mom’s heart immediately, and I’m relatively certain she had him mapped out as my prom date and possibly as my husband before he’d left.”
3. The plot. Like I mentioned in the theme portion, the ending takes a wonderful twist but until then, the plot is simply standard. While I was completely sucked in (I finished it in one sitting both times through), it wasn’t anything remarkable. After the second read I have come to admire the ending the author crafted, though, and the last chapter is truly stunning. Think Agatha Christie type breadcrumbs left for you after you realize what has been happening all along. It’s quite lovely and an honestly beautiful construction.
“The space heater starts to make an odd metallic noise. I hope it’s not going to explode. My mom is always going on about space heaters exploding and starting stuff on fire and everyone dying.”
4. The romance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I found Riley’s love interest very strange and off-putting. You could practically spot the red flags from a mile away. Sadly, Riley doesn’t seem to recognize that until it’s too late and she’s turned down a path she didn’t want. I did enjoy the dynamic the author created by introducing other love interests into the mix. Not as a love triangle (or square) formation but as a comparison of what a relationship should be like and what Riley perceives it to be.
“Weird that it took a guy for them to notice that their daughter was here, around, a sentient being instead of a picture to straighten on a wall. Weird that I wasn’t enough on my own when I was being the perfect child and pinning awards and ribbons to my dream board and filling my bank account I can’t touch with grants and my future with scholarships. It took a boy and bad grades to even get them to look at me.”
The Final Verdict:
Once I delved deeper with a second reading, the true merits of this book shone beautifully. However, some might find the subtle twist in the ending too slight and could find the book lackluster (like I did the first time around).