Friday, April 22, 2016

New Review! Innocents by Mary Elizabeth, 3 Cranky Stars

This review has posed some what of a dilemma for me. I read people were either going to love this book or hate it. I ended up ambivalent and struggled to finish.

On the one hand, the writing is beautiful and poetic. On the other, I struggled with some of the content and underlying concepts contained therein.

The story centers around Bliss (aka as Leighlee, Princess, Baby et al) and Thomas (aka Dusty, Trouble). She's the only child of a judge. He's the son of a lawyer.

Bliss is the best friend of Thomas' sister, Beckah, and over time, the two start a secret, somewhat destructive, relationship.

The ages of Bliss and Thomas in this story are young. They first meet when Bliss is 9 and Thomas 11. But they speak of love like forty-five year olds on their third marriage.

Bliss is innocent (hence the title). Well, she's innocent in terms of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, but in terms of lying and deceit - she's a contender.

Thomas is the bad boy. He has the reputation. He's a champ at sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. He has girls falling at his feet or dropping to their knees. Literally. 

He is wild and unruly. He's cynical and presented as having some kind of fatal flaw, but I struggled to understand why. His parents' marriage isn't perfect. They argue, but they're there and care for him. They also try to save him or keep him on the straight and narrow - to little avail.

After the girls and the parties and the consumption of drugs and alcohol that would make Keith Richards proud, Thomas always returns home to Bliss. His happiness. His bright spot. The girl who sneaks out of his sister and her best friend's bedroom to spend the night with him. The girl he is supposed to love, but cheats and lies to.

Bliss' virginity - her purity - sets up the Madonna/whore dichotomy. Thomas will fool around with all the other "Sluts" (they're actually called sluts in this work by boys and girls alike), but he will find his way home to the young and virginal Bliss, stealing kisses and cuddles, but leaving her purity intact. 

The slut shaming in this book is disturbing. Considering the story takes place in the 21st Century (referenced by Calvin Harris' song, We Found Love), I actually became uncomfortable. All the 'sluts' come from poor and broken families. They're portrayed as predatory, clinging and cloying. On the make to grab someone up and coming - like Thomas, the son of a wealthy lawyer - to take them out of poverty.

In this regard, I found the sluts, as a counterpoint to Bliss' innocence, a reference to class and privilege. Bliss is allowed her innocence. Her happy family life and social position grants her a protection the other young women in this story aren't afforded.

Bliss engages in this type of thinking as well. Her virginity makes her exceptional. The sluts are less than - walking vaginas to be used and discarded. They're interrupters to the grand love affair of Bliss and Thomas where the 'good' girls always beats the 'bad' ones for the prize.

To be honest, I had real reservations about the 'prize' (Thomas). 

On some technical points: I found the interchange and use of names somewhat confusing. Everyone seemed to have at least two. Thomas' mother was called Tommy as well. The first time she was introduced, I had to re-read twice to be sure she was a different character and it wasn't just another nickname for Thomas. 

The introduction of Thomas' point of view wasn't indicated. It just swung and a sub-title with his name on it would have helped reduce the confusion. 

Overall, I give this 3 stars for the beautiful writing alone.

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