Initial reaction: This is the kind of novel that I expected to enjoy, but the execution of the novel did it no favors. Between the haphazard tech jargon, the slut shaming and Elle giving a guy who was terrible for her one too many chances, and just something about this narrative that felt like it was trying too hard - I couldn't get into it. I'm still going to try the sequel to see if that's an improvement, but I have a feeling this could've been a lot better than what it presented itself as.
*sighs* Okay, I'm going to level with you guys a bit - I wanted to like this book and it seemed like it was right up my alley with an intelligent heroine who's a graduate student and has the possibility of being drafted into the CIA, but this book really disappointed me on several levels. I expected it to be far different than the formulaic and awkward presentation it had.
I guess the first thing I'll say is that the slut-shaming was one element of this story that completely ruined it. Elle starts off as a student who thinks she has her life all figured out - where she wants to go to school, the possibility of who she wants to marry (long time relationship), and she's doing well for herself. She's intelligent, she has a solid group of friends - you know, what could go wrong?
Apparently when your long-time boyfriend is caught red-handed with another woman in a series of graphic sexual pictures - that's the first step. Understandably, Elle's upset and her relationship with Adam is on the rocks. Adam tries to apologize, comes off as an ultra misogynistic douche ("I'm just a guy! She was just someone I could blow off steam with! She didn't mean anything, not like you!") and Elle was having none of it. I actually admired her shutting him down, even if it took her a while to see the relationship would never work again. But Elle has a heavy tendency for slut shaming other women, even women who engage in casual flirting with any guy she may be potentially interested in (She even slut shames/bitch slams the secretary who flirts with Preston, her coworker and potential love interest aside from Adam.)
But that's not the only problem with this novel. I felt like a lot of the jargon and dialogue shaping Elle's thesis and college environment was...fake. Psuedo-intellectual. It was trying too hard and extremely vague. I kept reading about Elle working with data numbers and trends and figures, but none of it was ever really described to any kind of detail or genuine interest. And it felt weird to read, as well as convoluted - I couldn't really immerse myself in the narrative on that note. I could also say that I had a hard time following the characters because while they were presented with stakes in the story, they just weren't all that developed, really.
I understood that with respect to Elle's work, she had the potential to be drafted to the CIA, and there was some kind of terrorist plot that was involved at the university she was at, but in the end, the narrative didn't make me care enough.
I did get Elle's interest in her relationship with Preston though. I understood also that she ended up wanting to change the course of her her life because the path she thought she wanted to go wasn't the one she wanted to take at all (between her father pulling favors for her to attend school in Virginia versus going into the CIA, and of course Elle realizing that despite her relationship with Adam, he wasn't ever going to change his betraying ways.) I could see those issues, but the problem was that I only felt a loose connection to them because the presentation didn't feel all that intimate. There was something about this narrative that held it back from being a more resonant read. I wish I could say otherwise, but it just didn't provide for a pleasant reading experience.
I'll read the sequel to see if it improves, but overall, this narrative left me wanting more from it than it provided, even with some of the action scenes and CIA portrayals. It just didn't feel genuine enough for me to follow.
Overall score: 1.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.