Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Giving It Up by Amber Lin

Dear Ms. Lin:

Trigger: Rape

Your book came highly recommended by author Ruthie Knox. Knox did admit that her view may be somewhat colored by the fact that the two of you are friends. There are moments of incredible loveliness in the writing and I appreciated the challenging characterization you were trying to bring to life, but the story got bogged down by an unnecessary suspense plot and lacked depth for the other individuals in the book. Telling a story in the first person can create immediate intimacy with the reader, but it also requires a deft hand in making the other characters of the book fully realized.

Giving It Up Amber LinAllison was raped by her best friend. She has a number of confusing feelings that arise out of the rape including how it was her fault, that she could have done more, and how she still loves her rapist. Her lack of self esteem, her trouble finding release in anything but the most degrading sex, were heartbreaking and I wanted to find out more about her life and her redemption.

Allison seeks out anonymous and rough release from club pickups approximately once a month.  One night she spies a brawny tough in her favorite pickup spot and after she spies at least one gorgeous woman getting shot down, she thinks that it is unlikely the tall silent man would have an interest in her.  Yet he does.  Not only does he have an interest, but the taciturn man seeks something from Allison that she doesn’t really believe that she has in her to give – tenderness and intimacy.

The man is Colin and he’s an enigma.  We don’t find out why he is pursuing Allison; and, more importantly, why he’s so understanding of Allison’s personal issues.  The latter is a fairly big issue in the book because Allison’s treatment of Colin provides a certain tension in the romance and unfortunately, the resolution simply limps toward the end.  The two have significant emotional issues; Colin maneuvers Allison into moving in with him against her will; Allison’s supposed search for independence disappears; she resigns herself to Colin’s safe keeping only to have her peace of mind threatened by a romantic suspense subplot and the confrontation with her rapist.

I felt like you were trying to tell an anti romance story, pushing against genre norms and I wanted to appreciate it more. Colin was into organized crime but he was a white knight for Allison. Allison’s best friend was a prostitute.

As the story unspools, I came to believe that this was not a story about Allison’s redemption, but simply one about her imperfect life and her struggle to cope and if that was the story I was being given, I would have been on board.  Yet genre norms kept creeping in such as random couplings of secondary characters (i.e., the prostitute hooking up with Colin’s brother) done for no other purpose that to what? provide sequel bait?

There are so many improbabilities in the book that wear down the realism of the story. Allison’s rape trauma and her subsequent demoralized self esteem was diminished by having her raped by a cop in the hospital room after the rape kit is taken because it appeared over the top and ridiculous. Why not have him come to her house later and do the deed? Placing his aggression at the hospital scene places a surrealness to the story and detracts from the impact of Allison’s suffering. It was as if you were trying to pile on extra victimization so we really really understood that there was no one she could trust. A little subtlety could have gone a long way here.

The voice of the writing was quite nice and I felt like there was a really amazing story somewhere in amongst the messed up plot and the crazy romantic suspense thread. Unfortunately, the emotional arc is never really fully realized, either by having Allison just realize there is no healing or by having her achieve peace in her situation or actually coming into a better place emotionally.

The idea that this ephemeral feeling of “love” that she feels for Colin (although why it is love, I’m not sure) can heal her or somehow make the sexual experience different for her was completely disappointing. C-

Best regards,

Jane

 

AmazonBNSonyKoboARE

 

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

14 Comments

  1. Vanessa (Bookborne)
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 13:51:35

    Interesting… sounds like the concept has potential, but some of the underlying messages would really bother me.

  2. Janine
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 16:02:41

    I downloaded the kindle sample for this book and read it all the way through, but the sample wasn’t quite enough to persuade me to purchase the book.

  3. Ruthie
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 17:34:31

    Since I’m named here, I hope it’s okay for me to chime in and say that I *also* told Jane I didn’t think this book was likely to be her cup of tea. :-)

    To my mind, the character development is subtle, but it’s there — and a lot of it is sexual, in terms of what the heroine feels she’s allowed to ask for, allowed to permit herself and to deserve. And the suspense plot, I thought, gave her an opportunity to claim the hero as her own — to move beyond the small world she’d created in which only herself, her child, and her single friend mattered, and to admit that she felt strongly enough for the hero to act on his behalf despite the fact that he was imperfect and had not turned out, in every way, to be the rescuer she’d allowed herself to hope for. And since this was a book in which hero/heroine only rarely TALK — they’re very guarded, silent sorts — the necessity for the gesture made sense to me. (Also, the heroine is very young. I thought she moved forward in the book, but she has a long way to go.)

    It’s not a perfect debut, but it didn’t frustrate me as much as it did Jane. I was content to roll with the book in the direction it went, rather than hoping it would go differently.

  4. Jane
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 17:40:58

    @Ruthie Knox – I agree with you that the character development occurs in the erotic passages of the book and those scenes along with the internal narration that surrounds the female MC’s grappling with her feelings about sex were the best of the book. However, the rest of the story muddled those more powerful moments. The romantic suspense plot felt very false and awkward instead of adding to or enhancing the emotional arc. I wished that entire portion of the book would have been excised but then I guess we would have been left with a short story.

  5. Ridley
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 18:09:26

    The romantic suspense plot felt very false and awkward instead of adding to or enhancing the emotional arc. I wished that entire portion of the book would have been excised but then I guess we would have been left with a short story.

    This is how I feel about 99% of contemporary novels that include a suspense element. Building suspense and mystery is a real talent, and not many romance authors have it.

    I own this but haven’t read it, so I can’t comment on the specifics.

  6. Selene
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 03:32:04

    Not available in Europe… Am I in a particularly unlucky spree lately that lots of books I’m curious about and would like to pick up aren’t for sale here? *grumble*

    Selene

  7. Angela
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 06:16:54

    I really, really appreciate the trigger warning. It’s not that I don’t read books with rape in them, because I do, but it’s a subject that has to be handled just right (for me). I had this book on my wishlist.

    Allison’s rape trauma and her subsequent demoralized self esteem was diminished by having her raped by a cop in the hospital room after the rape kit is taken because it appeared over the top and ridiculous. Why not have him come to her house later and do the deed? Placing his aggression at the hospital scene places a surrealness to the story and detracts from the impact of Allison’s suffering. It was as if you were trying to pile on extra victimization so we really really understood that there was no one she could trust.

    And this makes me think that rape isn’t handled in a way I can read. Like you said – too over the top. Trust issues are generally difficult enough after one rape – making this seem like it’s for shock value.

  8. Loosheesh
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 07:35:07

    @Angela: Everything you said. I had this book on my mental maybe list but not after this review.

  9. Brian
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 08:58:21

    @Selene: That seems odd. I didn’t think Loose ID’s books were geo restricted. Did you try AllRomance? They have it in both ePub and Mobi and I don’t see any restrictions mentioned (although I’m not sure if they normally mention them or not).

  10. Patricia Eimer
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 09:26:46

    Rape’s a no go for me so I’ll have to pass. Especially if it’s added in for additional shock value.

  11. Selene
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 09:28:10

    @Brian: Thanks for the recommendation of AllRomance! I’m lazy I guess–I rarely shop anywhere but on Amazon. It’s just so much more convenient with everything in one place, especially since I always read a sample before I buy anything. (Well, except for my autobuy authors.)

  12. Zippy
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 09:46:51

    I got half way thru it and quit. After reading the review I can see why.

  13. cleo
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 13:23:58

    @Brian: @Selene: And, fwiw, all Loose ID books are 25% off at ARe until the end of the month.

  14. Review: Giving It Up by Amber Lin | Smexy Books
    Jul 18, 2012 @ 07:31:08

    [...] Reviews: Dear Author – C- Ana’s Diary – 2.5/5 The Forbidden Bookshelf – 4/5 Lisa’s Book Review – 4/5 Fiction [...]

%d bloggers like this: