REVIEW: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara

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TITLE: Lovely, Dark and Deep

AUTHOR: Amy McNamara

GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance

TAG LINE: “A resonant debut novel about retreating from the world after losing everything—and the connections that force you to rejoin it.”

 

RATING: 2 1/2 Stars

 

SUMMARY: Since the night of the crash, Wren Wells has been running away. Though she lived through the accident that killed her boyfriend Patrick, the girl she used to be didn’t survive. Instead of heading off to college as planned, Wren retreats to her father’s studio in the far-north woods of Maine. Somewhere she can be alone.

Then she meets Cal Owen. Dealing with his own troubles, Cal’s hiding out too. When the chemistry between them threatens to pull Wren from her hard-won isolation, Wren has to choose: risk opening her broken heart to the world again, or join the ghosts who haunt her.

REVIEW: I picked this book up by random at my local Half Price Book Store. I really wanted something YA to read and I was feeling a bit romantic, so it seemed like a perfect fit. The cover is absolutely gorgeous and the summary intrigued me, plus it was only like five bucks.

My first impressions of the book were pretty positive. Wren has a fairly strong voice, and Ms. McNamara has a way of stringing words together very poetically. I’ll go ahead and give the grammar Nazis out there a warning: this is written in first person, and Wren speaks in incomplete sentences a lot. At first it was a bit off-putting, but then I got use to it; but, to be completely honest, by the end of the story the short and jilted sentences were getting on my nerves. It would have been okay if it was only once and awhile, but Wren doesn’t seem capable of speaking in complete sentences at all, and by the end of the novel it was tiring, and at times, a tad confusing.

I’m torn between giving this book a two-and-a-half star rating and a three. I really enjoyed it when I first started reading it, but the further I went, the more I stopped liking it. By the time I was done, I wasn’t particularly fond of the story.

The summary says it all: girl meets tragedy, escapes to the woods, meets a boy, and they both heal one another. I feel like the story could have been considerably shorter, and if it had been, it would have been ten times better—probably even a five star rating. Wren is wonderfully tragic. She saw her ex-boyfriend die in front of her in a car accident she helped play a part of. When she comes to her father’s house, which is isolated in the woods of upstate New York, she meets Cal, an architect student who also escaped to the woods for refuge. Cal is running from the fact that he has MS and it most likely will kill him, just like it did his mother.

Throughout the story, Wren and Call develop a bond that helps heal them. They’re never too co-dependent, and for the most part are really freaking cute.

Ms. McNamara is talented at writing. She describes the moments between Wren and Cal, and the pain that Wren suffers, elegantly. She can draw you into an environment and leave you just as chillingly breathless as Wren. You (or at least I did) get all squishy and warm inside when Wren and Cal are being adorable together.

But she made the story last about a hundred pages too long, her secondary characters are weak and all of them are pointless/forgotten about, and she adds unnecessary drama/angst, which she then forgets about, leaving several loose ends. Plus, in the end, the ending was horrible, and if it hadn’t been one o’clock in the morning when I finished the book, and I wasn’t afraid about waking my roommate, I would have hurled the book across the room screaming.

It was that bad.

I’ll address each point, to break it down for you.

First, the length was unnecessarily long. This is because of all the points that followed. If she had trimmed back on some of these plot issues, she could have shortened the length and had a much stronger and well-written novel. Because she seemed determine to turn her gorgeous story into a horrible preteen Lifetime movie, the story suffered.

Ms. McNamara provides a slew of secondary characters, most of who are fleeting and only there to stir the pot. I didn’t come to care for the secondary characters at all. They were just background noise, objects meant to drive Wren into Cal’s arms. They were a means to an end, and nothing more. I prefer stories where I fall in love with the entire cast, not just the two protagonists.

I also want to say that Wren’s dad belongs in the Bad Dads Rad Club, because he’s the worst father. Up until like the very end of the story (and I mean the last two chapters), he’s a useless father who seems to give zero cares about his daughter. He makes horrible decisions about her, including leaving her alone to go screw his girlfriend, when Wren is evidently emotionally delicate and volatile. Plus he was a raging dick to Mary, who spent all of her apprentice with him taking care of his daughter so he could work. If he had died in a fire, I wouldn’t have been sad. I hated him 100% of the time.

And the characters Nick, Mike, and Meredith were all pointless. They had zero point. I’m not kidding. If you removed their arch from the story, it would change nothing. Absolutely nothing.

The loose ends and plot twists were mind numbing. There are four points in the story where unnecessary plot devices are used to up the angst game, and for all but one (sort of), they’re left without any kind of closure. This continues up until the last two chapters of the story. Yes, that’s right, one of those plot arcs, which helps bring the story to an end, isn’t really explained and you’re left scratching your head as to what happened.

I’ll spare the details, mostly because I don’t want to put in spoilers, but needless to say, those characters I mentioned that could have been removed? Yeah, all these loose ends are tied to them.

Now, the ending. The ending, which is the ultimate reason I want to give this a lower rating. I seriously didn’t realize it was over until I turned the next page and there was nothing there—and I don’t mean that in a good way. I was so mad. Raging.

She ended it there? And with that?

I spent the entire book wondering how it would end—dying to know how it would end. Would Cal’s MS win? Would Wren turn to Nick? Would her depression (which grew really old and childish by the end of the story, by the way) consume her? HOW?

Have any of you heard of a deus ex machina? Well, the award for biggest deus ex machina goes to Ms. McNamara. I mean, you can’t get more freaking obvious with the trick she pulled. I’ve been good about spoilers up until now, but I have to put one in here. So if you don’t want to be spoiled, go ahead and quit reading this. All you need to know that the ending sucks and it’s the reason I’ve decided to drop this rating to a two-and-a-half stars.

SPOILERS

The entire story ends with Wren having a very abrupt and last minute epiphany on how life doesn’t absolutely suck, and with Dr. Williams telling her there’s a magical, experimental cure for MS that’ll make Cal’s symptoms go away. The only problem is Cal, for some dumb reason, is refusing to take the pills—not because they’re experimental and could be dangerous, but because he doesn’t believe he’s that bad—so it’s up to Wren to convince him. The last chapter is literally Wren going into his bed room, saying like two things, and him going ‘Okay, I’ll do it because you asked’. That’s it. That is the end.

I read 341 pages to get to that; for a magical cure and Wren to be all hunky dory. No real resolution. About a dozen loose ends not explained.

I can forgive a story for a lot, but I can’t forgive it for pulling one of the most obvious deus ex machinas I’ve read in a long time. Ms. McNamara took a story that held so much potential and began so strong, and finished it with a wet fizzle.

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