REVIEW: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.
April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.
On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.
With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?
CW – fat shaming and parental emotional abuse
Dear Ms. Dade,
The blurb for this book grabbed me as I love me an unapologetic romantic comedy as much as the next reader. For the first third, that’s what I got. And I loved it. It had me floating on a fluffy cloud. Then the pain of fat shaming, dyslexia, and parental expectations appeared. Okay, I was good with this as it explains the MC actions, the way they view life, move through life, and have gotten over what other people think. Unfortunately to paraphrase secondary character Alex, past that point the sponge got claggy.
Marcus and April have both hidden their true selves most of their lives. Marcus because he has severe dyslexia (and why didn’t his teacher parents figure this out? That made no sense to me.) April has been fat shamed since puberty, not only by the world but by her (asshole) father who was aided and abetted by her mother whom he has kept on a short leash about maintaining her own weight. No matter that April’s mother and Marcus’s parents might have loved them, they all failed their children.
Marcus has worked hard for his career (the tidbits about the gawdawful past “straight to DVD” movies, including “ManMaid” and “Sharkphoon” in which he earned his acting chops in are hilariously funny) and has devised the best way he knows in order to avoid probing questions from journalists. If the world considers him a genial, smiling, handsome face and nothing more, well so be it. He’s poured his heart into what he’s done and tried to give value for the money.
April is cool and intelligent. She’s a geologist who loves delving deep beneath the earth and getting soil samples. She can also look at a location and, just as if she’s reading a book, tell exactly what has geologically happened there in the past. Marcus is enthralled by all she tells him about her chosen profession and why she went into it. April, in one of the funnier scenes of the book, finds her well publicized dinner with Marcus starting off as a bore when faced with his charming “Golden Retriever” persona. Then she begins to notice things he lets slip in conversation. This man is not the idiot he is playing in real life.
As their relationship continues and begins to deepen, I was delighted with how their characters are so much a product of how their backstories were written. What they do, how they think, their reactions are part of their core beings. It all makes sense. I didn’t mind when what I thought was going to be more a fluffy story took on pain and angst.
Then I realized that there was still about half the book to go and beyond what I knew would be the third act conflict, what was going to fill the rest? Marcus and his co-star friend Alex love binge watching that show about British Baking and will razz when someone’s sponge goes wrong. Yeah, a lot of the last section of the book, up until the conflict I knew was coming, was like a claggy sponge. It just kind of sat there in a lump and wasn’t the light and airy showstopper beginning of the book.
The conflict, as conflicts do, came out at the worst time for the other character to absorb. I knew it was going to happen and that it needed to happen for these two to have a future together. One thing that I did like about the book was that Marcus and April talk out their problems in the first half. In the second half, emotions swirl (as emotions should by this point) and drive a deeper wedge between them. It takes an outside force for one of them to appreciate the truth behind the other’s worries regarding what caused the lie by omission. At this point, the lie-ee quickly realizes this but I’d like to have seen them come to that on their own.
There were a few other things that seemed off to me. Marcus and April are supposed to be in their late 30s but they often seemed to behave as if they were much younger. The relationship between the MCs is very instalove which is not a personal favorite of mine. Marcus has so many moments of losing faith in himself, collapsing in on himself when faced with conflict and sort of, yes I’ll say it, milquetoastiness that I wonder how balanced the relationship with outwardly tougher April will be in the future. It also seemed to me that many of the other secondary characters were little more than short, thumbnail descriptions: the cold parents, the lesbian coworkers, the foul mouth actors. Very few of them felt like fully realized characters. April’s geology career basically disappears once past the early set-up of her character.
I also lost interest in all the fic and fandom aspects. At first it helped set the stage for a lot of April’s and Marcus’s backstories but after a while, the inclusion of bits and pieces between chapters only detracted from the main story. Since I don’t read fanfic or visit fandoms, I had no idea what a lot of the abbreviations were. And I have to be honest about the fact that Marcus writing fanfic about a series that he is in and a character whom he plays is creepy even if he doesn’t include sex in his fic. The epilogue is full on rainbows, unicorns, and fluffy bunnies.
I wanted to totally adore this book for putting fat-shaming out there and calling it what it is. The way that Marcus and April finally call their parents on all the emotional abuse they’ve endured and say enough, no more is fantastic. The initial way that these two discover that they are drawn to and interested in each other is lovely. Then alas the shortcomings became more apparent and the second half of the story fizzled out for me. C