Friday, October 24, 2014
No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale
Let me apologize in advance, as this is going to be horrendously long and super rambly.
By now, thousands of people have probably read this piece and a collective terror of sorts has arisen in the reviewing community. The obvious thought most reviewers had was “this could have been me.” I’m here to tell you it could have easily been me. You see, I’ve been named as one of the so-called “bullies” by a certain website. My crime? Writing honest reviews about books I don’t like, giving 1 Star ratings where I feel they are due, and having the nerve to create a “never list” for books written by BBAs and super-spammers. I’ve never contacted an author to tell them how much I hated their book – I’ve never told another reviewer their opinion was “wrong,” but somehow I’m a bully. You know what has happened, though? I’ve been contacted by an author telling me to remove a bad review. I’ve been told my opinion was wrong . . . and called old . . . and fat . . . and stupid . . . and a bad mother . . . andonandonandon for posting reviews that dare to have an opinion opposite of that of the masses. And you know what? That’s cool. Sticks and stones and all that jazz.
I’m not here to condone anything Ms. Hale did, but I’m not here to villainize her any further either. I’m not a psychologist, but there must have been some kind of issue that caused rational thought to fly out the window and a person to rent that car in order to confront a complete stranger at their front door.
Like I said, I have a “never ever list” containing a lot of books that came to light from circumstances waaaaay less extreme than this. Mind you, many of these books are fall into the “special snowflake” category of stuff I probably wasn’t going to read anyway, but I want a shelf that reminds me what not to buy when I’m perusing the cheapies at Amazon or the local used book stores and see a title that looks familiar. The difference with No One Else Can Have You was that it was on my “to read” list already . . . and I was really looking forward to it. The title, the synopsis, the cover (god that cover is still one of the best I’ve seen this year) all had me intrigued. But like books tend to do when your TBR is at “infinity,” No One Else Can Have You got pushed down the line with addition of even more titles. Then the terrible awful happened and it popped back on my radar – and I promptly put it on the “never list” (along with about eleventy billion other readers) – but then I thought to myself: “Self, why don’t we just do an experiment and give this one here a looksee? After all, it was on your TBR for a reason.” I decided I’d read it if it were available through the library and, by golly it was.
I went home last night and told my husband what I was doing and he said “WHY THE F*&^ ARE YOU READING THAT? HOLY SHIT ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!?!?!?!?” which was pretty impressive since we’ve been married 126 dog years and he tends to tune out a bit when it comes to my stories of Goodreads trials and tribulations.
I cooked dinner (and read) – I let the dogs out (and read) – I broke up a fight between my two heathen children (bad mother, remember?) (and read) – I took the world’s fastest shower (and then read) – I updated that I was going to stop reading and go to sleep, but guess what? I didn’t (spoiler alert: I read). I couldn’t put this book down. I know it was probably partially driven due to the fact that I had people telling me they were waiting for my review, but it was also because I thought it was good. Surprisingly good. Especially for a first-time author.
Please note that I believe the old saying about opinions (in case you live under a rock and don’t know – they’re like assholes ‘cause everybody’s got one). I don’t fault another reviewer for having an opinion that differs from mine (and I suspect I’ll get some backlash for being an apologist of certain subjects contained in this book). Here’s the deal. I’m not easily offended –I actively seek out books containing offensive subject matter sometimes. No, I don’t mean stuff written by hate mongers and bigots – just “pushing the envelope” kind of fiction when it comes to the taboo. Some of my favorite authors push the envelope for a living – specifically Megan Abbott in the YA genre and Chuck Palahniuk when it comes to . . . well, just about everything (he’s pretty much an equal opportunity offender). Hell, my farking profile picture is me and my dead wild pig head/best buddy Mitchell reading American Psycho together - I’m pretty sure I offend WAAAAAY more people by that alone than will ever get the chance to offend me.
Also note I have zero triggers. Reading about a character doing harm to someone else (or an animal) or drinking or drugs doesn’t hit me on an emotional and/or psychological level. If a person hits a deer with their car and then shoots it to take it out of its misery I don’t think of it as animal abuse – I think of it as life in the Midwest (and I think of how I know people who would then load it in the back of their truck and take it home in order to eat it – blech). If a character says he’s “not going pretend to be some faggot crybaby” my brain doesn’t think the author is a homophobe – rather I think the author is telling me I really shouldn’t like this dude, no matter how good looking/athletic/popular/rich/etc. he’s described as being. If someone writes in their diary how “Lisa does it with everyone on the football team, but pretends she’s some sweet virgin”, I don’t immediately scream “slut shaming!!!” – instead I think boy Ruth’s a real bitch and it’s making it a lot harder to feel sorry about the fact that she’s dead. I read for my enjoyment, plain and simple, and sometimes that enjoyment comes from a “dark humored” style like No One Else Can Have You.
I’m not going to apologize for enjoying this book – and I don’t expect anyone to apologize to me for not liking it (or for not wanting to read it at all after the events that have come to light). I liked Kippy and I think I “got” her. (There’s another term that offends a lot of people – “you didn’t get it.” You know what? I “don’t get” a lot of books my friends like and vice versa – it is what it is). In my opinion – Kippy was . . . developmentally stunted maybe???? I’m not a doctor, so I have no clue what the official term for how Kippy came across to me would be. She lost her mother a very young age and went through/still is going through some serious emotional problems because of it Then you add in a psycho-babbly father who has nothing but good intentions, but instead has just made things worse rather than better over the years and you end up with Kippy – her thought processes and fixations are just a little different than most.
Add in a stream of familiar (but not copycat) characters from some of my faves:
(like the voice of William H. Macy in Fargo for Kippy’s father)
(and the über –Christian/pure awful classmate like Mandy Moore in Saved)
(and the Dianne Sawyer obsessed Kippy)
(and the bumbling cops who you just know could be convinced to do a desk-pop)
and my enjoyment level went right through the roof. Yeah, I knew who did it right away, but guess what? I didn’t give a shit ‘cause the ride to the end was so much fun. That’s not to say I found this book to be 100% problem free. No, I thought it was probably 50 pages too long and the accents really grated on me, but they were minor problems that didn’t lessen my pleasure all that much. I found myself giggle-snorting out loud a couple of times (yes, more than likely at inappropriate things) and read the entire book in one evening. Now that I’m done with the book and this review all I can think is “whyyyyy??????” Why would someone with so much talent shoot herself in the foot like this? Why that review/reviewer? Why not ignore the mediocre and flat-out bad reviews and focus on the nearly 1,000 5 and 4 Star reviews here on Goodreads instead? Why????? It’s just a shame : (