Initial reaction: Textbook definition of an abusive relationship and somehow everything in this privileged girl's life works out? I think not. This was terrible in more ways than one.
All right, before I start raging over significant issues with this book, I'll tell you guys the story of how I happened to pick up this book after quite some time.
At one of the local libraries in my area, I saw a girl, probably about 14 or 15 years old, reading a copy of this book (I'm not sure if it was from the library or something she bought herself). The librarian asked if she liked the book, but she shrugged and said it was okay, but mostly halfhearted in the response. I saw the cover and it made me think "Wait, I've seen this book before somewhere, but I can't remember from where..."
Went home to realize that this was a book that I was approved for from NetGalley that I've had on my Kindle since 2012. Ouch. :(
So I cursed myself for being late on the read. But after reading it now, I understand the girl's "meh" response. Completely.
This book was pure drama. While it had the chance to show a really serious issue in an enlightening way (and dare I say rather different, because there really aren't a lot of books that 1. are written from the perspective of characters of color and 2. Those that show an abusive relationship from a female to male viewpoint - with the female being the abuser), it dropped the ball. Everything in this book ended up rainbows and sunshine in the aftermath and I'm absolutely livid at the portrayal.
Kamiyah - for much of the book - was never meant to be a sympathetic protagonist, at least the way I saw it. Her internal voice is annoying as anything - she prefaces her monologues with words like "Anywayz" and probably uses the word "boo" and "thirsty" 250 some times in the book. She's problematic in her viewpoint from almost point one. Spoiled, insufferable kid who makes it her mission to find a "man" and slut shames any girl who somehow gets in the way of that. There were so many uses of "skank," "ho" and "slut" in this book that I wanted to throw my ereader at the wall. Her father spoils her with shopping and gifts, her mother (whom she calls the Wicked Witch and comes half a step from calling her own mother a "bitch") clashes with her at every turn. But no, Kamiyah pretty much does what she wants when she wants, and that ends up presenting a lot of problems with the way things turn out in the forthcoming story.
Kamiyah ends up coming across Sincere, a guy who comes from a decent family, though he has a bit of problems of his own. Unfortunately, those issues were never really explored in the narrative, something that saddened me, because that could've been used to develop his character more. He treats her well, calls her his "boo" (a word, as I mentioned, used far too often in this narrative). But Kamiyah is never satisfied. She always thinks (for no particularly good reason, except for her assumed prejudice that ALL men cheat) that Sincere is up to no good and not willing to be with her when he says REPEATEDLY that he likes her (or in his words, is "big on her.")
So what does she do? Oh, she crosses boundaries like nothing else.
Here are just a few things she does:
1. Physically rips a girl's hair out in a fight that ends up on Youtube and spread across her school and community. All over being "disrespected" in front of her "man" by a girl who got into a row with her over Sincere. Sincere doesn't quite know what to do in the situation, and she accuses him of not being "man" enough to take hold of the situation and preventing her from beating up the girl.
He stays with her, even takes up for her in front of his and her parents saying the other girl provoked Kamiyah.
2. She slaps him pretty hard following a confrontation in the cafeteria. He asked her what happened, she says it's none of his business. He confronts her about her constant questions about where he is and what he's doing, and yet he asks one thing about the cafeteria confrontation and she gives him heck about it. She starts walking away, he tries to reach for her to get her attention and she practically hits him and the poor guy's in shock at the gesture.
But that's not the end of it.
3. Kamiyah decides to guilt trip him in to making him think he was in the wrong for grabbing her (which he shouldn't have done, but in comparison to her manipulation, I don't know how to relay that). She stalks his Facebook and other social media, stalks other girls in his feed and tells him to defriend them because she really wants him to be with "only" her. He tells her this is "crazy". She's not having it. He changes his FB status to in a relationship with her to placate her concerns, but she's still not happy, and her behavior escalates.
3. She goes through his phone, calling random girls and telling them to "stay away from her man" or else she'll find them and insinuating beating them up.
That's when Sincere gets a bit freaked out. He's offended, shocked, and tells her to "step off" in so many words. He's done with her, decides he doesn't want to see her anymore and she practically attacks him - nails on back, fists flying. She's hurting him. He has to hold her down to stop her from doing more, and then she spits in his face. I didn't like the fact he retaliated by returning the spit factor, but that whole scene left a bad taste in my mouth.
4. After Sincere blocks her on FB, Kamiyah's stalkerish behavior escalates. She creates a fake account to friend him and STALKS HIM ANYWAY. Continues making threatening phone calls to girls he talks to and masks her voice in doing so. She hacks into all his social media profiles by figuring out his password. And she misses him SO much that she skips classes just to drive in her car and follow him where he goes (TELL ME THIS ISN'T CREEPY! Seriously, I dare you to try.)
He confronts her at one point after she barricades him in his own driveway. The two have an argument, but somehow, he reluctantly takes her back (I seriously have no clue why...I would run far away from this girl). After a night in which they have sex, she installs spyware on his phone to monitor his behavior while he's asleep, knowing that if he catches her doing this, it could mean the end of their relationship, but to her, she has to keep up with her "boo."
*Rose fumes, but composes herself*
That's not the only problematic thing about Kamiyah's behavior. While she's legitimately obsessed with Sincere, her home and school life is on the rocks as well. She disrespects her mother every chance she gets, she slut shames her friends and other girls very rampantly. There are uses of the "R-word" in liberal use here and derogatory terming. She skips school to be with Sincere or follow him in stalkerish ways, she blames him for all her problems, even when she's supposed to be some Mary Sue in AP classes and attending Juliard because she's oh-so-perfect in every way but suddenly falls off the wayside because she can never be with him; because she needs him, wants him, desires every part of him to be around her at every point in time (Hahahahahahaha...NO.)
You would think that as this behavior escalates that either Kamiyah would have an epiphany about what she was doing being very wrong or Sincere getting the heck out of Dodge away from her, and her family getting her some measure of help because of their daughter's very rampant issues.
Well, maybe, but it's all tied in a very convenient bow. Because while, yes, Kamiyah's problems can be linked to her mother's temperament and relationship with her father (and yeah, Kamiyah and her mother both very prone to be abrasive - physically, emotionally, and verbally), the end game is that while Kamiyah gets several confrontations about her behavior and it ends up in her getting therapy, she still gets the guy. She still gets to be around him, and he calls her "crazy" affectionately. And she still gets to go to Julliard, she still gets her good grades, she gets off punishment after what seems like "forevah!" and she still manages to check his Facebook accounts and stuff to see if he might be creepin' but not as much.
Dude...screw this book. It had a chance to show things in a serious way (because there were plenty of messed up circumstances here), and it end up being a mockery of drama and sexed up innuendos every which way but loose (fair warning on the content - it's frank about topics like oral sex and features put downs in the aforementioned measure, some of which made me even uncomfortable. I don't doubt there are some teens that have these conversations, but seriously, it bugged me).
I cannot. I seriously cannot. The only redeeming factor is that while this book felt like a New Adult novel for drama, it does provide context that this behavior was problematic, that Kamiyah was not a heroine to be worshipped for her behavior, but the ending subverted those messages by making everything tied up in a way that really didn't have any heavy repercussions for her, and still managed to make her still continue her creepy followings (not to mention make it a family thing - her mother, sister and her have been abrasive - physically and emotionally - in their relationships of the past.)
This is not a good message to send to teens. At all. I'm still livid.
Overall score: 1/5 stars
Note: I received an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.