Sassy, No Spoilers: Nothing to See Here

book reviews, contemporary, fiction

I first heard of Kevin Wilson when The Family Fang came out, and I was slightly incensed by the whole idea; it seemed, to me, a cheap attempt at a Wes-Anderson-meets-JD-Salinger-knock-off story. The reviews were all over the place, and I kind of let the author slip through the cracks. I don’t know–maybe I was too busy doing whatever I was doing in 2011 when it was released: working at Whole Foods, and trying to get boys to buy me fancy drinks. It was a strange time, okay?

So anyway, fast forward to 2020 and I keep seeing Nothing to See Here glaring at me from my library shelf. It’s my fault that it is glaring at me, as I keep choosing this book as one of the face-outs, trying to convince people to check it out. And they do. And then they tell me how “weird” the book is. Like, quirky-weird, fire-children, weird.

I love weird.

So, I breezed through this short book in a few days, loving the story of two “fire children” as metaphors for wealthy, political families trying to ignore (see also: hide) their misdeeds (see also: children from a previous marriage, pawned off onto the unwitting “governess”). It was funny, a little sad, and wildly entertaining. This book does a great job burying a Big Social Statement wrapped-up inside a tidy little funny package (see also: Helen Ellis’s Eating the Cheshire Cat), and I do love a clever plot.

I also felt slightly smug (as I basically have for the past few months, considering what a dumpster fire 2020 is turning out to be) for the fact that I am gleefully childless. This book added another mark to that tally.

I’ll keep this review short and sweet, just like the book, and recommend for:

  • Wes Anderson fans (yeah, yeah)
  • Someone needing a lighter read, perhaps as a break between All Those Damn Thrillers
  • Gleefully childless people. Also parents that find themselves calling their kids “little demons”
  • Those wishing for a summer read that:
    • Doesn’t involve a murder
    • Isn’t totally mindless and might just pass the Bechdel test
    • Actually has a moral to the story
  • Anyone that ever went as a scholarship kid to anywhere

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sassy, No Spoilers: Beach Read

Uncategorized

Romance novelist meets literary novelist? Love? Okay…

So, Romance really isn’t my jam. Call me a cynic, a curmudgeon. I don’t really enjoy “contemporary love stories” unless they were written by Nora Ephron (or are Bridget Jones, my guilty pleasure read), and anything else falls short (change my mind?).

BUT.

I’m also one of those people that enjoys “seeing what all the fuss is about” with popular books (see: Twilight, Where the Crawdads Sing) so that I can complain about how overrated they are, but intelligently and with bodies of evidence backing up my loathing (see: Twilight, Where the Crawdads Sing). The only book I couldn’t get through (or past a sentence, actually), was the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, in which case I might point to a lengthy Target receipt and boldly state that it was better penned.

I’m nowhere near a beach. So I Googled images of nice beaches at work.

Anyway, everyone in the Book of the Month community was losing their minds over Beach Read, as a light-hearted, fun Romance for “the rest of us,” the skeptical snobs who turn up their noses at Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks. (Guilty.)

And reader. I was disappointed. I found myself eye-rolling and skimming through many of the mushy-gushy scenes because it was just so over the top as to be pure fantasy. I felt the author was coming from a good place, but I just found the protagonist weak and not as full of venom as the dust-jacket copy promised (and for someone who clearly understands the mechanics of a novel, as she wrote them into the book very clearly for the two “writers,” the promise of the premise was a huge letdown).

So what’s it about, anyway?

A woman (and popular Romance writer), reeling from the sudden death of her father, inherits his beach house that he shared with his secret lover. And who lives next door? None other than the protagonist’s enemy from college. Another writer. A literary one. Trouble ensues, they end up making a bet that the other can’t write a novel in the same genre. Sexual tension builds, of course, which comes with its own set of problems.

I got through it, and I can see the appeal. And I really don’t enjoy negative reviews, so instead I will note the good things about this novel.

  1. It reminded me of a lot of relationships in my 20s, and the stupid things I did that makes me cringe now. Personal! Growth!
  2. The man’s name is Gus, which is my dog’s name, though I do not think my Gus cares.
  3. It was a nice brain break away from all the thrillers I’ve been terrifying myself with.
  4. It broadened my horizons in a genre I don’t normally read.

And there you go. While it wasn’t necessarily my cup of coffee, I’ll recommend BR to:

  • Romance enthusiasts with a positive outlook on love, not a skeptical one for those of us ruined by reading too many Stephen King/Chuck Palahniuk/Flannery O’Connor stories.
  • People on a beach (though there’s a huge lack of actually being on the beach in this book?).
  • Book clubs looking for something that won’t make everyone blush TOO terribly.
  • Someone that needs a flippin’ break from too many scary books in a row.

Rating: 2 out of 5.