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REVIEW:  The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

REVIEW: The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

bodies-roberts

Dear Ms. Roberts,

My thriller kick continues, this time with one falling into the science fiction genre. I’ll be the first to admit that the science fiction is light in The Bodies We Wear, which is fine with me because I’m not in the mood for a rigorous read. Your book almost has a dystopian feel but I’m pleased to say that this isn’t a case of dystopian masquerading as an SF thriller. Publishers have tried that before, and it’s never worked.

In the near future, a drug called Heam reigns. Highly addictive, it has the effect of showing users a glimpse of a place many consider heaven. But it has some other side effects. People who overdose come back marked with a spider’s web over their chests. Thus marked, they’re ostracized by society — unable to complete an education, get an job, which in turn only encourages them to pursue their addiction.

Faye is a survivor of a Heam overdose, through no fault of her own. Her father was a Heam dealer and when things went wrong on his end, his boss went after Faye in retaliation. While Faye’s best friend died, she survived. Unfortunately, her mother kicked her out and eventually Faye was taken in by a former detective.

Driven by revenge against the men responsible for ruining her life and killing her best friend, Faye trains day in and day out in the hopes that one day she’ll be ready. Then one day she meets a guy named Chael, who seems strangely familiar and makes her begin to question her mission.

I thought this book had a promising concept. Even the beginning worked fine for me, but as it continued, I found myself frowning at various point. For example, the book makes a point of talking about how Heam is “so” dangerous, that in some countries, creating and distributing it results in the death penalty, not just a life sentence. This displayed an ignorance of international drug to me since many countries already have anti-drug trafficking laws and it is already an automatic death sentence. This is not actually a change.

Another thing that kept bothering me was the death of Faye’s best friend, Christian. Christian’s death is the primary impetus for her revenge quest. That’s fine. But she goes on and on about how Christian was the love of her life. This happened when she was 11. Now I’m willing to buy that you might meet your soulmate very young, but I’m not quite so willing to believe that you’ll recognize them as your soulmate until you’re at least in your teenaged years. It doesn’t seem like a big difference in years but I can buy this type of declaration in a 15- or 16-year old, not in an 11-year-old. I just couldn’t buy it as a motivation.

Chael’s true identity was not a surprise or a revelation. It was obvious very early on what was going on there, so I found it irritating that Faye took a huge chunk of the book to put the pieces together. Part of it is also that I didn’t like Chael at all as a love interest. He stalked Faye and he constantly came down hard on her mission. We all know how I feel about stories where random boys who come along and tell the girl they supposedly like that their way of doing things is wrong. You’ve known each other for 5 minutes, come on. And in particular, there are things he does later in the book, that take away Faye’s agency and choices, which made me unable to like him.

The Bodies We Wear isn’t entirely bad. I liked Faye’s experiences in school and wish we could have seen more of her trying to have a normal life in spite of the overdose stigma. I liked her attempts to help other overdose survivors. There are passages that I really loved:

“The bodies we wear,” he says. “They’re not the ones we always want. They get damaged. Used. It’s who we are on the inside that counts. The person waiting to jump free.”

or

The bodies we wear can only take so much damage. We wear them down and eventually they stop working. But I now know that who we are lives on, even without our bodies.

A lot of my dissatisfaction with The Bodies We Wear stems from mislaid expectations. I went in, thinking I’d get a revenge story. What I got was ultimately more of a meditation on life and death, what we do with the time we have and what happens after. I don’t want to spoil the ending but let me just say, if readers expect an HEA, that’s not what happens here. C-

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  Don’t Judge Me by Sylvie Fox

REVIEW: Don’t Judge Me by Sylvie Fox

dont-judge-me

So far, Raphael Augustine’s ten year career as a comedian consists of a lot of ones: one night gigs, one night stands, and one night in jail. But he’s committed to inking a successful TV deal, nonetheless. He’s not looking for a relationship and certainly doesn’t expect to have his briefs tied in a knot by a prim and proper woman from Connecticut.
There’s not much to laugh about in Daisy Fletcher’s life. She never thought an Ivy League degree would land her work as an adult webmaster. Years later, fake chat room dates are her only companions, and a failing business her reward. Her father always told her men only want one thing. By selling that one thing to virtual customers, she’s lost faith in the opposite sex.

After Daisy catches Raphael’s shirt during a striptease at a gay bar, she’s tempted. Can a rakish comic change her ideas about love and fortune?

Dear Ms. Fox,

In a world full of romance books on SEALs, billionaires and Dukes I love it when an author steps outside the ordinary and gives me something different. When I read the blurb and saw this would be about a stand-up comic with issues and a woman who makes her living funneling users to adult internet porn sites, I thought now there’s a book I want to try. While I appreciated the unusual livelihoods of Raphael and Daisy, ultimately I had other issues with the story.

The story jumps into gear with a fast start. Daisy needs more oomph in her business which is suffering from user ennui. No, it’s not that people have stopped using adult websites but as Daisy has found out, the demand and drive is for new, New, NEW faces and combos and content. Eventually that will come back to haunt her but tonight it drives her to beg her friend Nari to accompany her to a gay bar where she meets her catnip, Korean-American Raphael.

But Daisy thinks Raphael is gay (he’s not, but his brother is) though this misunderstanding avoids being milked for comic relief. No, it’s when Raphael is arrested for sex with an underage minor (turns out the girl is of age but barely) that the truth comes out. Meanwhile Daisy is crushing on Raphael’s Korean-ness. Lots of effort goes into Daisy telling us that she’s really not fetishizing but given that she keeps saying how attracted she is to Raphael because of his ethnicity along with her long term friendship with Nari, Nari’s family, and Korean food, I find it hard to believe.

But okay let’s move on to Raphael. He’s not the typical hero material if only because of the many ways he keeps screwing up. I’m used to a hero being humanized with one bad decision but sleeping with a barely legal female is only the start of his problems with other women. But for some reason, he’s still attracted to Daisy. When he discovers what she does for a living, he thinks he’s hit the jackpot of sex with a sexy woman who knows all about sex from her job. A terrible first sexual encounter with Daisy keeps his sexual scorecard in the negative.

Daisy’s best friend Nari has been desperately trying to get Daisy to quit her job but then Nari sort of disappears for sections of the story. Daisy really stretches their friendship to the breaking point when she pulls the stunt for her work videos at Nari’s house. Seriously, just washing Nari’s $500 bedding would never be enough to make up for staging a porn shoot there. Meanwhile, Daisy’s longstanding issues with her WASP family (including alcoholic mother) continue.

Raphael faces his own family problems with a father who has rejected his gay son and an immigrant mother who can’t or won’t stand up to her husband over it. He works his ass off to win a reality TV show that will get him a network contract and tries to work to keep Daisy in his life after never having to work to get any woman before. Will he be able to get her to leave her lucrative sex industry business behind and has 10 years of it warped her idea of sexual normal?

There’s a lot going on here. It’s edgy, it takes some risks with trying to make us like the hero after his sexual exploits. It deals with family logistics and immigration worries. It deals with Asian stereotypes while also exploiting them and then throws in some WASP ones as well. What was whole WASP aspect for? To show how Daisy learned her business skills from her banker father? To bring in the issue of her mother’s drinking? Just to show she has a flawed family too? And has Daisy’s view of sex and men been skewed?

The problem for me is that all of these things are introduced but few of them are carried to a end. The story builds up to a scene and then it’s over without us seeing how it resolves. At one point my notes say, “Back and forth again.” So many plot points get introduced but then sink without a trace.

Their relationship goes like a gerbil in a wheel. It just keeps seeming to circle around and doesn’t really get anywhere new until suddenly the book is almost over and both declare they love the other. I closed the book still feeling like they’re feeling their way through and not quite to the stage that is presented as done.

It did make me want to try all this Korean food. But I’m still uneasy about the way the book ends. I’m told that they’re in love and in a steady relationship but I think they’ve still got a lot of work to do and have some issues that I never really saw resolved. Perhaps that’s intended and this is a HFN, which I can see, but not quite a HEA. C-

~Jayne

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