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Book Review: A Terrible Love

Today’s book review is a book I struggled to finish. I know, this isn’t starting out well. Still though, I give it 3.5 stars. You might give it more. Let me explain by way of breaking the story up into its elements.

3 stars: The story. It starts out talking about a crime that was committed by Jess’s (the main character’s) half brother. But there’s very little detail on the crime and on how Thad (the half brother) got away with it. There’s some, yes, but not enough. I found myself wondering often when they’d get to it. It’s such a central detail of the story and it could have really enhanced the drama.

Quickly, it launches into Jess in hiding from her entire family because they didn’t believe her story and Thad was vaguely threatening her. Again, the story could have been enhanced by just a tad bit of backstory here. Conventional wisdom says that Prologues are less than desirable in books these days. But honestly, a well written prologue can do so much to enhance the reader’s experience. You can’t use a prologue to do all of your world building for you of course, but even just a few pages can really fill in some of the details you don’t want front and center in the story.

Jess is living her life when she decides to do something that she knows she probably shouldn’t – try out for the PNW Ballet. She was a dancer back in her former life and she’s kept up the practice, in private, in her new life. This decision seemingly sets off a sequence of events that lead to Jess’s life being in danger again. However, the dramatic events of the story don’t necessarily line up properly – a fact that I only truly realized about a month after I’d finished the book. Mitch and Cas are competing for Jess’s affections and one of them does not have noble intentions. In fact, he has the worst intentions. At the same time, Jess’s old life is threatening to come crashing back down on top of her. It should be due to the fact that she’s taken up ballet again, but that’s not made clear. We see aspects of the story that are introduced only a few days after she tries out – before anyone from her old life could ever know where she is. Perhaps they were there all along, but that’s not obvious. Or perhaps there was more notoriety than explained with the tryouts. Whatever it was, a little more detail would have been useful.

A Terrible Love is set in Seattle, largely at the UW, but for someone not from Seattle, it really could have been set anywhere. The location didn’t seem to play a major role (this is neither good nor bad).

4 stars: The characters. Jess/Jewell is believable, if not a little childish in some of her thoughts. But then again, she’s 20. I don’t expect her to be the most grown up of all people. Though she has been through a lot and that should make her more mature. So while I believed her, I thought we could have seen a little more from her. Cas is well done, as is Mitch. Carlie could use a little more fleshing out, but even she’s decent.

No rating: The writing. This book is written in the first person present. I’m not a huge fan of this tense, but just because I’m not a fan of it doesn’t mean that I should take a star off for it. It just doesn’t appeal to me. So take that as you will. If I was being forced to rate it, I’d give it 3 stars because I didn’t like it, 4 stars because it was technically done correctly. But since I don’t like first person present, I don’t feel like I’m equipped to rate it adequately.

I will say that I had one serious issue with the writing. Jess’s foreshadowing. She says things like “I don’t think about leaving myself vulnerable. But I am.” or “I wish for excitement. I get it.” There were too many of those little mini-foreshadowing dramatic pauses that ended chapters. I think that sort of writing lends itself better to past than present and I just kept feeling like a truly present tense story wouldn’t have those thoughts in Jess’s head.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was a good story and I felt satisfied with the ending although I think it could have been expanded just a touch and been even better.

A Terrible Love

3.5 stars

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