Let me start this review by putting aside any and all notations of this being a typical New Adult novel with all the bells and whistles of problematic cliches that plague this genre to the point where it gets extremely annoying and unrealistic. I think that's important because there are problems with this narrative that somewhat supersede the former, and made it more of a chore to read in other measures for me.
"Say When" by Tara West lacks the art of subtlety or creating tension to build anticipation. The author lays all of the cards out on the table and spells everything to the reader to the point where it's difficult to feel for the character's situations and backgrounds. Even if we're talking about two very flawed protagonists,
21-year old Christina is probably the biggest, brattiest adult you could probably be inside the head of. I'm not kidding, she's so flawed that even when i read through the first few chapters, it was difficult to feel any sympathy for her. She breaks up with her fiance because he's not good in bed and she seems physically repulsed by him. (But considering her put downs, it was difficult to figure why she was engaged to him in the first place.) And then Christina continually seems to downplay her relationship with her "best friend" Karri (I say it in quotes because Christina slut shames, puts her down, and otherwise insults her for a good while in the narrative. It's hard to glean why they're best friends in any measure of the word. Karri's not a likable character - and make no mistake, I hated her with a passion - considering she neglects her young child. But there was really very little to no attempts from the main character to try to better the situation - she just complained constantly.)
When Karri's car breaks down, the two meet a mechanic named Andres, who is described as your stereotypical hot Spanish lover. (He's later noted as Mexican, but goodness this is such a horrible presentation of a Mexican heritage character.). Don't get me wrong, I actually think Andres had potential. He's not the typical, undeveloped angry New Adult alpha male who possesses the female character - he's actually a pretty decent guy with his own scars as a war veteran turned mechanic who wanted to help out the heroine. I actually looked forward to getting in his head a bit more because he was more tolerable and less selfish than Christina. But I hated the fact that his character was pretty much used as a parrot to spell out important plot points and he wasn't really developed beyond calling attention to his and the heroine's problems. It didn't make him feel human, much less more than a cookie cutter character used to infodump. That wasn't cool, and I think the collective narrative suffered for it on his and Christina's behalf.
But even then, Andres's perspective is not frequented as often as Christina. Many times, Christina juxtaposes herself as being "new' versus her "old" self and talking about her transformation to where she calls out the problematic things in her life and ditching her old relationships and deserving better, when really - she doesn't do anything about the complaints she makes in her life. She just puts up with it and doesn't grow or change or feel like she's doing anything but spouting out the mouth and hating on everything around her. This is no fun, nor is it fulfilling to read about, and I couldn't help but be irritated by it through the entire narrative, even when her relationship with Andres grows. It's just...not good.
I tried with it, but ultimately, this book did not rise above its cliches or do anything to make me want to sympathize/empathize with the characters. And when you have a narrative like that, it won't recover. The style and development of the narrative could've used so much more work to at least make the presentation of these problematic characters a little more tolerable.
Overall score: 0.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.