Thursday, April 11, 2013

My first DNF book thoughts: Taking Chances, by Molly McAdams

Release date: April 16, 2013. Previously self-published October 16, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow / HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 452 pages

Goodreads description:
Eighteen year old Harper has grown up under her career Marine of a father's thumb. Ready to live life her own way and experience things she's only ever heard of from the jarheads in her father's unit; she's on her way to college at San Diego State University.

Thanks to her new roommate, Harper is introduced to a world of parties, gorgeous guys, family and emotions. Some she wasn't expecting yet, and others she never knew she was missing.

She finds herself being torn in two as she quickly falls in love with her boyfriend Brandon, and her roommate's brother Chase. Covered in tattoos, known for fighting in the Underground and ridiculously muscled...they're exactly what she was always warned to stay away from, but just what she needs. Despite their dangerous looks and histories, both adore and would do anything for Harper, including stepping back if it means she's happy.

Her first year away is turning out to be near perfect, but one weekend of giving in to heated passion will change everything.

The following post is based on an eARC I got from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Thoughts upon DNF-ing the book:
Yes, this will be my first DNF post (I am not calling it a review), and I really dislike doing this to a book I got for review from the publisher. However, I’m just so annoyed with this novel that I decided it’s no longer worth my time. I’m only getting more and more worked up and I see no way this book could redeem itself in my eyes. I might pick it up again at a later point because not knowing what happens in a story tends to nag at me, but right now… no more.

First off I have to say that I was looking forward to reading this book and really wanted to like it, and in the beginning I did. Then it all went downhill for me. However, most of my problems with the book are personal – many, many people have enjoyed it! The Goodreads rating is around 4 stars, and I’ve also included links to blog reviews by people who loved the book at the bottom of this post so that you can weigh the different points which have been made about it and form your own opinion and judgment.

The description of this novel made it sound great to me. College setting, freedom, trying new things. I’m usually wary of love triangles but I had the impression that this one could be well-done, with an interesting dynamic between the characters. However, what I got instead was a selfish girl stringing along two pretty awesome guys she didn’t deserve. Harper was the main reason why I had to quit this book at 55%.

Caution: in order to properly talk about why this book didn’t work for me, there will be spoilers for the first 40% or so. If this bothers you, stop reading now and skip to the summary-paragraph at the bottom.
I was prepared to like Harper when I started reading this. She had an unusual and in some respects shitty upbringing, with a dad who never showed her any affection and whom she couldn’t really talk to. She grew up on his marine base as ‘one of the guys’, taking part in some of the marine training and being home-schooled there. She didn’t have any friends her age at all, so leaving at 18 and flying across the country to start college in San Diego was a huge change for her. There she meets Bree, her roommate, and is introduced to her loving family and her circle of friends. At this point Harper is still likeable, learning to get along with regular people, dress in more feminine clothes, and we also see that she can hold her own in a fight and kick ass if need be.

And yet, the weaknesses in her characterization are already showing. Of course she is totally gorgeous and only half-aware of that fact (at least in the beginning). And since she grew up under her father’s watchful eyes, she is unkissed and a virgin, though she’s heard plenty of stories from the soldiers on the base. Anyhow, she is quite shocked at what she sees when Bree takes her to a party at her brother’s house, but to cut matters short, there is instant chemistry of sorts between her and said brother, Chase, who also happens to be quite the manwhore. Then a couple days later, Harper meets Brandon, who also lives at Chase’s house, falls for him pretty much on the spot, and makes out with him before the day is out. What follows is Harper being with Brandon while constantly feeling her body drawn to Chase and having to fight off the urge to kiss him whenever they meet alone. Meanwhile, Brandon is a wonderful guy to her. He’d do anything for her and never pressures her to have sex with him before she’s ready.

There is nothing wrong with that – at the beginning I really liked that this book showed a loving relationship that worked without sex, and that Harper didn’t let herself be pressured into anything. Sometimes, though, I felt that she was being unfair to Brandon and playing with his feelings. Especially considering her thoughts about Chase. Especially when she visits Brandon's family over the holidays and basically thinks about marriage with the guy only to then go back… and sleep with Chase. Yup, you heard me. Then she keeps this from Brandon for weeks while also cutting off Chase and telling him she needs time to make up her mind. Yet she constantly complains that Chase isn’t around. Ugh.

The way she flat-out lies to Brandon after all that was disgusting. She was so duplicitous and basically a coward. She should have come clean to him. This goes on for weeks and she still doesn’t have sex with Brandon, even though obviously her ‘being ready’ isn’t an issue anymore. The only reason why she finally confesses everything to him is the following: she didn’t just cheat on him with Chase, she also begged him to keep going even though they didn’t have a condom. Alsahjaskdhgkahg!!! So. Stupid!! Even if STDs didn’t exist, did she really think that just because she’s a virgin she can’t get pregnant?! At this point I wanted to stop reading. I have a problem with pregnancy and don’t like reading about pregnant characters. A personal peeve. I had just hoped this book would follow a different course. But I read on… past her break-up with Brandon, past her keeping her pregnancy from Chase for another two or so months before telling him he’s the dad, which also drove me crazy.

This plays into yet another thing I disliked about Harper, and the setting: she’s actually rather one-dimensional. She goes to college, but we never see her in any classes. Or studying. Or doing homework. I know that she had As and Bs in her exams after the first semester, but I have no idea what she’s even studying because it’s never mentioned, though Brandon and Chase’s studies are. When she gets pregnant, she decides not to go back to school after the summer because her priorities changed. Yes, her dad will no longer pay for her and basically threw her out, but we also know that she’d have the money to pay for her education herself. (Because apparently 13 year-olds can work a 40-hour week at the marine base and save all that money they make during those 6 years. I don’t know about the US, but here it isn’t even legal to work at that age.) But she doesn’t, since apparently being a mum is a full-time, paying job and totally good planning for your future. Right? It was just unrealistic! But hey, it’s not like she had any other goals or dreams in life that we know of. I couldn’t even tell you whether she has a hobby.

And the question of abortion? It never even comes up. I mean if she wants to keep the child that’s fine with me, even though she’s way too young to think about babies and marriage at 19 in my opinion, but come on! It’s a question she should have asked herself, and an issue that should have been tackled in a novel like this. But it’s all just dandy and she can move in with Bree’s parents, all the while still not saying a word to Bree’s brother Chase, the kid’s dad! It drove me crazy. Her constant wavering between the guys and how selfish and needy she was acting, even though everyone kept assuring her it wasn’t her fault and she wasn’t a horrible person and was being mature about the situation… I would have laughed if it wasn’t actually so problematic ideologically. This also goes for sentences like “Guys need to understand that sometimes, we mean exactly the opposite of what we say.” (location 3270) Nnnngg. No wonder so many guys have a problem understanding that No means No means No. Always. Under any circumstances whatsoever.

This love triangle could have been treated with a fascinating and intricate dynamic between all three characters, but that never happened. Maybe it does later in the book, but all that I saw was two different but equally likeable guys being used because they see something awesome in a girl whose merit I couldn’t glimpse at all. Her decisions were always based on selfish motives and she wasn’t ready to really give up either of the guys and kept dragging everything out for weeks and weeks. She also had a habit of jumping to conclusions in moments when it was obvious to the reader that she was misreading the situation. It was just unnecessary drama. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the overarching plot or character arc of this novel is supposed to be. There was so much material that could have been cut because it was superfluous (just look at the pagecount!), while some important conversations I would have liked to see play out were merely summarized. When new drama started to rear its head after a while of everything looking unrealistically peachy, I decided to call it quits.

Finally, it’s impossible to read this novel without drawing some comparisons to Beautiful Disaster (which I didn’t like but finished with much eye-rolling). Virgin sleeps with manwhore without a condom. Similar situation about the college setting. Travis is also an underground fighter, like Brandon. Though Brandon is apart from that not as obsessive as Travis and generally a lot more likeable, in my opinion. I always felt uneasy about Travis, but never about Brandon or Chase.

Soooo… to summarize, without spoilers: this novel did not work for me at all, but it apparently does for a lot of other people. If you want a read with two great guys to swoon and drool over and don’t care about the female lead character that much and like lots of drama, go for it. The dialogue was pretty funny at times and the make-out scenes were good. The writing in general, while not outstanding by any means, was solid enough, and I might pick up another book by the author in the future depending on the subject matter. I just couldn’t deal with some of the content here, with Harper’s behavior and the way she and her relationship to the two love interests was portrayed. If you liked Beautiful Disaster, you’ll probably enjoy this. If not, stay away.

Some positive reviews:
Once Upon A Twilight
Readergirl Reviews A Teen Book
Confessions of a Book Addict

I can't believe I just wrote my longest post yet on a book I didn't even finish or like. Ugh. Anyhow, what are your thoughts after reading my reasons for DNFing? Have you read the book? Agree? Disagree? I guess this post might be somewhat controversial, but it really wasn't my intention to offend anyone and I hope I didn't rant too much...


  1. Aww, sorry this one didn't sit well with you. The lying and weakness in characterization would be an issue for me too. Thanks for honesty!
    Brandi @ Blkosiner’s Book Blog

    1. It was just... ugh. And there was never any criticism of what she was doing, only wannabe-justifications. No really bad consequences. It was like a wish-fulfillment fantasy. Anyhow, I'll stop now lest I rant again ;) Thanks for commenting!

  2. I had big problems with this author's other book 'from ashes', unfortunately I read it after I bought this one! Let's just say that I'm not in a hurry to read this one. I had similar problems with the other book, they're actually quite similar in the whole love-triangle thing, and the instantly falling for aomeone thing as well.
    If this one is anywhere near as bad as 'from ashes' I can understand you not finishing it!

    1. I read the description for From Ashes and thought the same thing about them sounding very similar. Also the covers fit together, though I admit I still love those even though the content didn't sit well with me at all. But yeah, I definitely won't read another love triangle book from this author.

  3. I think I have this book for review, I was excited for it as well, but with all the stuff going on, I have not had a time to start it. Interesting though. I have a book I did not finish because it just did not work for me and bothered me for many reason and been battling writing my review on it as well, but didn't really know if people did this (still a baby to blogging world) but I applaud you for voicing what you believe in. Perhaps I shall write mine :)

    1. I'm also fairly new to this and as I said, I never DNFed before. I've seen a lot of bloggers do it though and I think it depends on how they handle it. I found it important to state clearly that this is not a review post for me but my reasons for deciding to stop reading. I don't think I can judge the whole of the book since I've only read half, but I also don't want to read a 100k-words book I don't enjoy just for the sake of it, only to then write a negative review anyway.
      Different bloggers do this differently, also concerning whether or not to rate the book and cross-post their reviews. I think Rachel from Fiktshun had a discussion post on this topic up on her Blogger's Corner blog a couple weeks ago, if you're interested...

  4. Yeah, I'm not even going to bother with this. I'd seen some less than stellar reviews, but your breakdown of exactly why you and this book didn't mesh pretty much settles things. Thanks for the honest, coherent explanation. I only just posted my first DNF review, and it was difficult, but no book will be perfect for everyone, I suppose.

    1. Yes, a lot of people apparently enjoyed all the drama I found over the top and annoying - just proves how different people are and read, which I think is an amazing and positive thing :)
      It wasn't easy to write the post, but I think it was necessary, also for me to find closure with the book because it's so unusual for me not to finish something. I read your post about Taken and I think you handled it very well!

  5. Funny how it's always easier to write more or say more when you need to vent!! Anyways, thanks for the honest, fair & well written review hun! I remember you spotlighting this one so I was curious how you'd make out with it. While it isn't my usual genre, I would have probably wanted to read it at some point if you had enjoyed it but from what you mention here,I know to stay clear! The MC sounds BEYOND frustrating, flat and I can not stand cheaters so right there I'd have had a problem too. It's also a shame that the issue of abortion aren't even addressed at all. Doesn't seem very realistic to me...

    I'm sorry you had to go through that >.< bleh! But you handled it great :) Let's hope for better luck next time! *HUGS*

    1. Thanks hun :) I'm also still fairly new to contemporary but I've found quite a few stories I enjoyed - however, this isn't one of them, unfortunately :( If you want something outstandingly awesome, go for Gayle Forman's books! I read 3 in 1 week, that's how good she is ^^'
      As for the cheater thing, for me it depends on where the relationship is at when the cheating happens. In Abby Glines' Vincent Boys for instance, I could deal with it. I understood why the girl did it and though I still think it's a bad and hurtful thing to do generally, it was credible for me in that situation. But here? Nope. Especially since it took her forever to own up to and she'd flat-out deny it.
      More luck to both of us next time ;) I'm starting a Rachel Vincent book next so that'll be great ^^

  6. Ok, Carmen. We had SO many of the same issues with these characters. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I was SO irritated with her about the lack of condom. I mean, REALLY? Are you that stupid? And the fact that she kept the baby from him for HOW LONG? Ugh. I feel so much better about my review. I seriously almost DNF'd Stealing Harper myself.

    Jessica@Lovin' Los Libros

    1. I'm also glad I'm not the only one who had such big problems with this story! The whole not telling him about the baby thing drove me nuts and I couldn't believe his family was backing her!