Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Boyfriend From Hell by E. Van Lowe

*This book was sent to me by White Whisker Books in exchange for an honest review.

I love it when I get approached to review something and I am able to say "Yes." That might seem like a strange thing to say. Why wouldn't I say yes? I'm a book blogger.

Well here's the thing: my philosophy as a reviewer demands that I only say yes to books that I genuinely want to read. I treat review requests from authors and publishing companies the way I treat going to the book store. I wouldn't buy a book I think I won't like. And I won't accept a book for review that I feel that way about, either. This helps me keep things simple: my ratings mean the same thing whether I'm reviewing a book I bought or a book I receive.

Boyfriend From Hell is a book I didn't just want to review. It came complete with a premise that had me bouncing up and down with excitement. I had to review this. I had to read this. It was just that kind of idea; that kind of book.

And I am happy to report that it totally succeeded. This is a book that I really loved and now I get to tell you all the reasons why.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)

Fifteen year-old Megan Barnett and her single mom, Suze, have a special relationship—they are friends, close friends, who do almost everything together.

“But come on, guys, she’s my mother… Can I really tell her that while we’re snuggled up on the sofa watching Spider Man Three, I’m secretly undressing James Franco with my eyes? Of course not…”

The special bond takes a turn for the worse when Suze decides to start dating again. She hasn’t had a man in her life since Megan’s father left ten years ago.

Enter two mysterious young men, Megan’s new classmate, sinfully attractive bad boy, Guy Matson, and the dangerously handsome art dealer, Armando. Before long Megan and Suze both wind up in steamy relationships.

But neither of the handsome pair is quite what he seems. In fact, one of them is Satan, with his sights set on a new bride. Megan has precious little time to figure out how to stop him. If she doesn’t, either Megan or Suze are quite literally going to HELL.

This book held my interest from start to finish. Whether the characters were having lunch at the food court or discovering that the Devil has come to earth, there was never a dull moment. This is a real talent, in my opinion. In many paranormal or fantasy stories the intricacies of real life can take a major backseat to the supernatural elements of a tale. The fact that I remained interested during the entire story is a good starting point.

The story moves along over a period of time and allows the reader to get to know the characters and their stiuations in a natural, gradual way. E. Van Lowe did a great job of making sure that I really cared about the people in the story before things started making major turns for the weird, which made the situations that happened really matter to me; left me on the edge of my seat, so to speak. 

Another big plus is the fact that things that happen have real consequences. When people got angry it took effort for things to patch up. When someone did something stupid characters reacted in ways that made sense. When someone made a mistake it actually had the potential to be that, a mistake. There was no waving of the magic wand and having things be a-okay without any effort.

The only real issue that I had with the plot was that the culprit behind the entire situation, and their unmasking, took me for a left turn. I wish that E. Van Lowe had left a bit more of a sense of clues so that the reader could be trying to figure it out more. It was a shocking revelation that caught me totally off guard. Or it could be that I "missed" the clues that were provided. Mystery is not my strong suit.

The Characters:

Megan may be one of the most original, interesting, funny and likable heroines that I have read about since starting my blog. I totally, absolutely love her. And the best part is that she is not perfect. She struggles not only against the forces of darkness, but also against her own thoughts and feelings. I love how much I saw her grow and mature as I read Boyfriend From Hell. I love the fact that she felt so real, as if we would have been friends if I'd been one of the kids going to her school. 

Guy, the hero of our tale, did not impress me quite as much. I don't think that we get to know enough about him to really be totally invested. I can understand, to an extent, that this is because he is mysterious and has a big secret. And the reason for his absence during certain parts of the book is explained well by the end. I just feel that I didn't honestly see the "romance" between him and Megan and I didn't see enough about him to understand why she was so interested.

On the other hand, I loved Suze and Mando. Anyone who feels that parents are not present enough in YA really needs to read Boyfriend From Hell. The relationship between Suze and Megan is absolutely beautiful, and as someone who is close to her own mother (and I was at Megan's age, too) I found the exploration of this type of mother / daughter friendship refreshing and interesting. As for Mando I think that E. Van Lowe did a good job at making him equal parts charming and creepy and this kept the reader guessing about what was going on until the story was ready to reveal it's secrets fully. 

Last, I want to say how much I liked the way that the story deals with Megan's friends. I found it really interesting how much growth and change happened in this area of her life -- admittedly an aspect of character development that is often ignored or brushed over in paranormal romance. Matt, Erin and Maudriana all had a very welcome sense of depth and each ended up being truly interesting and important to the story in his or her own way. 

The Romance: 

It pains me to tell you that the romance was by far the weakest part of the story. Now, let me add that considering how breathtakingly strong other elements of the story were that this does not mean the romance was "awful". Instead, what I am telling you is that while the romance did play a part in the story it was not the be all and end all of the entire thing. 

I wish that we'd seen a more natural progression of what was going on between Megan and Guy. There are story related reasons that eventually made it clear this wouldn't have worked, and hopefully this issue will be addressed in the next book. I never fully felt like I knew or had met Guy. This stood out like a sore thumb because E. Van Lowe's character building was so awesome with so many other characters in the story. 

I will say that the chemistry between the two was clearly there and the scenes where they were together were great. I'm not trying to imply that there was a problem with what *was* there -- rather, I want to see more. I hope that the relationship between these two will get the time and care that everything else here has so clearly received as the series goes on. 

To put this all clearly: E. Van Lowe does a great job of setting up a potentially interesting romance. Whether it will blossom into something equally as great as the rest of this book is something that must wait to be seen. Here's hoping, because I really think he's on to something great here.

In General:

Something I've touched on, but that I want to take a moment to really spotlight for you guys, is just how insanely funny this book is. This is never at the expense of the paranormal element. Rather, Megan has this naturally humorous way of thinking that had me cracking up time and again, and this made being inside her head a total joy. (It also contrasted beautifully against the moments when she was messing up. I like a character with a sense of humor.) 

On the downside, though, I must point out that there were a couple places where I feel an adult voice crept into the narrative. What am I talking about? There are a couple key places where I felt that we stepped out of the action and Megan was looking back, rather then forward. This did not ruin the book for me in any way and in the two occasions I noticed it the problem was only present for a couple paragraphs. However, as a reviewer of YA I feel I would be doing those reading a disservice if I didn't point out that I did spot this. 

I absolutely loved Boyfriend From Hell and I am excited to read Earth Angel (and extremely lucky to already have it sitting here on my Kindle.) If you haven't heard of this and are wondering whether it's worth reading, here is my take on it...

An exciting and original premise, memorable characters, writing which is by turns touching, scary and hilarious and the beginnings of an interesting romance make Boyfriend From Hell a book that is not to be missed. 


7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. Sorry, let me try that again; got a bit too wordy.

    I can see what you mean about the synopsis. It appealed to the adult and the hidden young adult in me! I felt like you were speaking directly to my pet peeves when you wrote about those who feel that parents are not represented enough un the genre. That is my one constant lament! I'm very glad to see that's not the case here. Thank you for this review!

    New follower~

    Stephanie ~Misfit Salon~

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  3. Im gonna have to add this one to my To-Read shelf asap!

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  4. Wow you really liked this! :D It sounds very promising I've only ever seen the cover but never looked into it before. Wonderful review!

    Giselle
    Xpresso Reads

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  5. @ Giselle: Yes, I really, really did. If I didn't have other books with dates sooner I'd be jumping straight into Earth Angel. This is a contender for Book of the Month. It was great!

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  6. Oh my gosh, I LOVE the sound of this one!! Your enthusiasm is so infectious!! I can't believe I haven't heard of it before because it seems like such an amazing read, and seeing you give it five stars hearts makes me even more excited to read it! :)

    Awesome review, Kathy! I'm glad you loved this one! Plus, I really like that cover too!

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  7. Hi Kathy,

    Thanks for the awesome review. So glad you enjoyed Boyfriend From Hell. I can't wait for you to read Earth Angel.

    -E

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