Initial reaction: Yeah, I can't even say anything right now. This story started well and it just devolved into the same typical New Adult melodramatic B.S. that many titles devolve into for the sake of love.
I'm tired of it. I'm seriously tired of it.
This is the kind of review I was hoping I wouldn't have to write this year, but even if I'm the only person saying it, I think it needs to be said. Before I do, I kind of want to start this review with a constructive point because I don't want to turn this into a pure rant, but rather bring something constructive to the table on examples of where this kind of story would be done well, versus the one that was presented here. This book made me angry, but I'm trying not to translate all of that anger here, but I will say this is one of the reasons why I tend to think New Adult books do a terrible job of treating very serious and controversial issues. It's like it's almost trivializing the very heavy themes it tends to deal with and milking it for the sake of the emotional rollercoaster.
And I have very deep issues with a book trivializing the murder of a child for the sake of love. More on that later.
I knew from picking up "Put Me Back Together" that I would be in for a ride, and this is actually a book I thought I would really like. The cover's beautiful (I'm always suckered in to books of this genre by pretty covers), and it does a good job of representing both the image of the hero and heroine I had for this book in my head. Katie's actually bi-racial (Indian and Dutch), so that was also a cool inclusion to have, though I don't know how comfortable I was with the narrative in the way that it handled her biracial identity. That's another issue I'll get into later.
I knew Katie was a young woman with a lot of deep seated issues. It's almost textbook New Adult cliches, and up to a certain point of this novel, I would've said that was probably the only problem with it. Katie tries to put the past behind her and tries not to involve herself in any relationships that would get her too close to the past. It also doesn't help that a certain date is coming up to remind her of the events she wants to forget.
But as Katie meets Lucas, the walls she's built up start crumbling down. I even have to admit that I liked their chemistry in the beginning. I somewhat forgave the rather typical opening where Lucas ends up breaking up a scuffle involving Katie, some drunk guys and a cat they were torturing that Katie only wanted to save, I still liked the way the narrative developed their rapport. Lucas treats Katie well - he's touted as a bad boy, but really he comes across as a clumsy oaf in spaces around her, and he genuinely likes and respects her. Their scenes in the art class were among some of the gems the novel had to offer.
The problem came more when some of the familiar NA cliches started to rear their heads. I could forgive the fact that Lucas had a past he wasn't proud of and even the reason behind that because he expressed remorse for it. I could forgive the fact that Katie came across as something of a typical heroine who swears off any romantic ties because of her own past - even if it was loosely drawn.
What I couldn't really forgive, in the beginning, was the rampant slut-shaming. It stuck out like a sore thumb in the narrative and even with the book having a solid premise for conflict already, it felt like just cheap divisions to not only create conflict between the hero and heroine, it just serves as a measure to undermine young women and their relationships in general. I get that slut shaming happens in real life and the jealous sentiments that develop between females who are vying for the same guy (or even people shaming a guy for his sexual expressions) - I really do. If it's done in a way that presents the reality of it for what it is, I can get behind it, but not if it's glorified and made to undermine the expression of female and male sexuality in general and just as a measure for cheap conflict in a narrative. That's not cool with me.
Plus, it felt like this conflict slowed down the pace of the book for what it was building upon, so that was another point against it. It probably would've even been better if the narrative focused more on the overarching issues Katie was having with a contentious stalker associated with the events of her past.
I also had trouble with the presentation of Katie's biracial representation. It seems like she's almost flippant with it, calling it a "conversation killer" everytime she brings it up and that people make a point of asking her about it. And that was an annoying aspect too. I almost feel like I could give Erin McCarthy more credit for her recent book "Believe" in that at least the biracial identity issues were more positive in presentation there than here, because at least it was fleshed out and given weight in the protagonist's life there than it was with Katie's here. I may be the only person who feels that way because I myself am a woman of color, but I don't know. I seriously don't know.
What infuriated me further after a time, as the presentation was quite unrealistic, is that Katie herself chose to ignore all these cues that would compromise her safety in relation to the events of her past. At least until Lucas became involved, she wasn't even going to try to deal with it at all.
And naturally, the only measure of actually dealing with the matter comes with a very vivid threat to Katie's safety, which she has a series of meltdowns over. Lucas is honest about his issues, Katie's less than forthcoming up until a good ways into the book.
I recoiled at the reveal of the actual events, to be honest with you. It was somewhat foreshadowed near the beginning of the narrative, but I took it - at first - as something as a blatant display of shaming in the discussion (which I didn't like), but I figured "Oh Katie probably observed something along those lines, but she probably feels survivor's guilt over it all."
That's not necessarily what happened. I feel like this narrative pushes aside the weight of what Katie's role in her past event, dismisses the morality and responsibility lines of Katie's actions, and makes it okay all in the name of love. I probably would've respected the narrative a lot more if it actually *dealt* with Katie's guilt in a responsible way and didn't tie it up in a pretty little bow that Lucas and her parents were so forgiving of, because even if she didn't direct the event (she really was dealing with someone who was unhinged and murdered for the sake of murder), the fact that she still lied about the events up until that point should've still carried more weight.
And the fact that she lied to her twin sister about it (and pretty much everyone in her life for about six years), but yet told Lucas at the drop of a hat. And that her twin actually ended up getting caught in the crossfire and compromised in a *huge* way.
But no, even as Katie deals with the stalker person's brutal attacks (and the attack against her is described in very gratuitous detail) and is covered in blood, Lucas still sneaks in a passionate kiss and says he loves her despite it all. While she's covered in the blood of the person she defended herself against.
Give me a break. I'm not here for this melodramatic, violent B.S. that trivializes the crime committed and ties up the love story in a pretty little bow that has the heroine healed by the love and forgiveness of the guy she's with. Reality doesn't work that way, and I'm honestly tired of the way that New Adult supposedly claims to represent reality and the emotional gravity of these situations in displays that are anything but, that don't even come with the responsibilities that they imply. It's such an utter disappointment and offense to boot.
And yeah, to close it off, it involves the murder of a child, but I can't say more than that. Just that it's handled very shallow and irresponsibly. I would've respected if Katie's narrative had more self-awareness in the way that Ilsa J. Bick's "The Sin-Eaters Confession" had with respect to its protagonist's guilt. Bick's work is YA, but it does a fine job of showing the grief the protagonist feels in his confusion and responsibility for the death of another. This book, in comparison, makes it seem like the death is secondary and easily resolved.
So, honestly, from that measure of events, I can't recommend this book. I can't recommend it at all. Alongside the NA cliches and derivative measures, along with the offensive portrayal of a serious issue, it's not something I would read again and my thought is...I hope NA in general gets far away from this kind of trivialization for the sake of a love story.
Overall score: 0.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.