Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: "Fallen Too Far" by Abbi Glines.

“Fallen Too Far”
Author: Abbi Glines
Publisher: Self-published.
Pages: 207 (Kindle edition).
Summary (taken from Goodreads): To want what you’re not supposed to have…
She is only nineteen.
She is his new stepfather’s daughter. 
She is still naïve and innocent due to spending the last three years taking care of her sick mother. 
But for twenty-four year old Rush Finlay, she is the only thing that has ever been off limits. His famous father’s guilt money, his mother’s desperation to win his love, and his charm are the three reasons he has never been told no.
Blaire Wynn left her small farmhouse in Alabama, after her mother passed away, to move in with her father and his new wife in their sprawling beach house along the Florida gulf coast. She isn’t prepared for the lifestyle change and she knows she’ll never fit into this world. Then there is her sexy stepbrother who her father leaves her with for the summer while he runs off to Paris with his wife. Rush is as spoiled as he is gorgeous. He is also getting under her skin. She knows he is anything but good for her and that he’ll never be faithful to anyone. He is jaded and has secrets Blaire knows she may never uncover but even knowing all of that…

Blaire just may have fallen too far.
I think I should just give up trying with New Adult literature. So far, the genre has offered none of the maturity or complexities of the liminal period between teen years and full-on adulthood, instead preferring what merely amount to college age erotic romances with a hefty side dish of misogyny. Indeed, the frequency with which sexist portrayals of women and relationships appear throughout works labelled New Adult suggests that the pair go hand in hand. While “Fallen Too Far” didn’t reach the despicable lows of “Thoughtless”, it did come pretty close thanks to its incredibly unsettling portrayals of women and relationships.
Let’s start with one issue this book presents that I think represents a real disconnect from the contemporary world it claims to depict. Blaire moves from Alabama to Florida to live with her father after the death of her mother, with nothing but $20 in her pocket and a rusty old vehicle. She needs a job to make enough money to get a place for herself. The book is set in 2012 America. We currently live in a world of falling living standards, rising unemployment and a widening gap between the working and middle classes. This applies not only to USA but to most of what is known as the developed world. Blaire is a 19 year old high school dropout with a GED and some brief experience in a couple of after school jobs. Within one day of moving to a completely strange place, she has a well-paying job at a country club, where she is frequently given $50 and $100 tips. She literally walks into this place, says she wants a job and is given one with barely any questions asked. This bugged me for a number of reasons, the main one being that it was insultingly unrealistic. The defenders of New Adult keep talking about how this burgeoning genre has such amazing potential to depict real-life situations that modern young people face every-day, from the personal to the political. Glines took the cheapest route possible with what could have been an interesting twist on the contemporary drama. Unemployment and money troubles are huge issues for my generation, and those stories are dying to be told, so seeing the heroine have it all handed to her so easily (and really? $100 tips?) felt like a real slap in the face. I’ve talked before about how YA and romance tend to fetishise wealth, and “Fallen Too Far” does this to some degree. While it’s made explicit to us that the country club regulars are all lecherous old men or “jealous sluts”, the designated love interest Rush is conveniently very wealthy and will never have to worry about money.
Once again, we have another New Adult book where Those Other Women fall into one camp of characterisation – bitches and sluts. If they’re not unreasonably jealous of the beautiful and perfect gun toting virgin Blaire, they’re throwing themselves over Rush or begging for sex constantly. Even side characters, such as country club worker Darla, seem to have nothing but sex on the brain, as she tells Blaire to essentially sex herself up for tips. The virgin/whore complex is rampant throughout. Every single woman in this book who isn’t the heroine is shamed in some manner, be it by the heroine herself or the men around them. It’s the laziest characterisation imaginable and it’s also horrifyingly sexist, particularly when coupled with the male characters of the story, who seem to be nothing but walking erections. Every man in this book except for Blaire’s father leers at her, openly proposition her and make it very clear what they want to do to her. Not only are women seen as objects throughout this novel, every woman aside from Blaire is portrayed as one.
Unfortunately, not even the sainted heroine makes it out of this damaging double standard unscathed. Yet again, we have another NA romance where the heroine is simultaneously infantilised and sexualised by the designated love interest. Rush is very controlling (of course), getting angry when Blaire turns down his offer of food (and of course we have another romantic hero who is obsessed with getting the woman to eat, although shudder to think any of these authors would ever portray the heroine as anything other than the stereotypical skinny size), and talking about Blaire as if she’s an object. He’s obsessed with other men touching her or wanting to touch her because apparently they don’t deserve to touch her. The book also includes the delightful line “Your pussy is mine” (to paraphrase it, I didn’t write it down for obvious reasons). The sex scenes are as awful as you imagine them to be, chock full of cringe-worthy dialogue about how hot, tight and deep the sexual experience is. You’re not drilling for oil, Rush, you’re having sex, and being “so in the moment” that you forgot to put a condom on makes you a fuckwit, not a romantic. The “romance” is more lust-based than anything else (of course), with no discernible reason given for why they’re so dramatically in love other than they’re both gorgeous (of course). It seems to come from nowhere in the beginning – Rush goes from being cold and showing absolutely no interest in his step-sister to telling her to stay away to throwing her against a wall in lust to getting angry when others flirt with her at her place of work. It was exhausting, but not as exhausting as the pathetically weak attempts at plotting, characterisation and grammar.
I don’t care if your book if self-published. If you let it out into the real world and charge money for it, there is no excuse for sloppy grammar and spelling. There weren’t just one or two slips. There were countless examples of this sloppiness. I don’t know who is editing Glines’s work, if anyone is, but it needs to be sorted out. If you want to call yourself a professional author, you need to act professional.
The dialogue is sloppy and predictable, ticking off all the expected boxes of New Adult angst and all-consuming lust (because I refuse to call what these books portray love). The attempts at ambiguity and tension fail miserably because everything is so obvious. There is absolutely no reason for any of the supposed deep dark secrets of Rush and his “bitchy” “spoiled brat” sister Nan to be kept secret. They’re kept secret solely to push forward the bare threads of a plot. The deliberate withholding of information for no reason other than it needs to be withheld for there to be a story is incredibly sloppy writing. When the “cliff-hanger” ending is revealed, we’re left with nothing but a weak excuse for a cash-in sequel.
It’s not just that this so-called contemporary romance is unrealistic and chooses the easy way out over tackling the real world issues of our generation. It’s not just that it’s badly written and terribly edited. It’s not just that there are spelling errors and misplaced punctuation and pacing issues. It’s not just that it’s incredibly sexist, romanticised yet another controlling and unhealthy relationship, all the while shaming women in a way that made my skin crawl. It’s not just that the sex scenes were a mixture of laughable dialogue, irresponsibility and sheer boredom. It’s not just all those things. It’s that “Fallen Too Far”, for all its genre in its sexism, laziness, internalised misogyny and sloppiness, is what we’ve now come to expect from New Adult literature. It exemplifies exactly why this genre has failed to meet its most basic potential. All these books, from “Fallen Too Far” to “Beautiful Disaster” to “Thoughtless”, make me feel a little bit dirty. There is something seriously wrong with normalising stuff like this as romantic and sexy. “Fallen Too Far” was detestable. Avoid.