Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines

Wow, this review is so overdue it's scary.

I was gifted a kindle edition of The Vincent Boys last Christmas (2011) and then I was gifted a physical copy, along with a copy of The Vincent Brothers, this year. The fact that someone must really want me to give an opinion on this book is quite apparent. ;)

I have to be really up front here. I'm very anti-cheating, so I knew this book was likely gonna ruffle my feathers. But I also know this is a high school book, and I have to remember that unlike Anna and the French Kiss (which I totally flambed for this...) I knew what I was getting into with The Vincent Boys.

Are you curious what I think of The Vincent Boys? Well, read on and I'll tell you more then you probably ever wanted to know. ;)

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
There was something wicked about Beau that drew me to him. What was wrong with me? Why did I want to sin so badly

Ashton is getting tired of being good, of impressing her parents and playing ideal girlfriend to Sawyer Vincent. Sawyer is perfect, a regular Prince Charming, but when he leaves town for the summer, it’s his cousin Beau who catches Ashton’s eye. Beau is the sexiest guy she’s ever seen, and even though he’s dangerous, Ashton is drawn to him.

Beau loves his cousin like a brother, so the last thing he wants to do is make a move on Sawyer’s girl. Ashton is off-limits, absolutely. That’s why he does his best to keep his distance, even though he’s been in love with her forever. When Ashton wants to rekindle their childhood friendship in Sawyer’s absence, Beau knows he should say no.

Ashton and Beau don’t want to hurt Sawyer. But the more they try to stay away from each other, the more intense their urges become. It’s getting way too hard to resist...

The main plot for this book is simple but brilliant: a girl grew up with two friends who were cousins. One was her best friend and the other became her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she secretly wants the one she did not end up with and lacks the courage to do something about it. When the opportunity to be with him for a summer is presented she goes for it--consequences be damned.

Despite my own experiences and my own opinions in real life, I will admit openly that I liked the dynamic between Beau and Ashton from the very beginning. I had no trouble at all understanding why she wanted him / he wanted her. Watching them rekindle their friendship and struggle against the attraction they both felt was gripping and made for some hella-hot sexual tension.

My problem with this plot is that I didn't really "see" what was standing between them. I saw very clearly that Ashton had some very powerful personal demons to deal with. I saw her blame these, and their necessity, on a lot of people. But either Abbi didn't flesh her problems out deeply enough for me, or the point was suppose to be that Ashton's problems--most notably her obsession with weighing her godness / badness--was something she fabricated within her own mind.

In either of the above cases, this resulted in a serious strike against the plot: the solution to Ashton's problem was neurotically simple. She needed to toughen up, tell Sawyer it was over, and be with Beau.  When the book started showing me her struggle at remaining Sawyer's girlfriend and did not clearly show me what consequences were truly looming over her head. People talked about stuff--Beau not being good enough, her parents cutting her off, etc. But it's never the right people. Every problem these characters faced was caused by their own pre-conceived fear, rather then by fear caused by others. The only time Ashton faces direct consequences, from the students at her school, I was simply agitated because it wasn't any of their freakin' business!

The Characters: 

There were a lot of moments when the characters in this book drove me batshit crazy, but that does not mean they weren't well written. On the contrary: outside of Ashton's whole good / bad complexity, which was overused to a point where it stopped being characterization to me and started being an authorial tool, I was genuinely impressed and intrigued.

I often hear people lament weak characters, and I often come to their defense. There is nothing wrong with these people so long as they do eventually show that they have strength or agency in relation to something. This is my big problem with Ashton. Someone has to do everything for her: tell her how to address her issue with the brothers, tell her how to address her grief over her grandma's death (and how she did this made my skin crawl, if I'm being totally honest)... Hell, in the end of the book we have Sawyer telling Beau to go get Ashton. As that is the purpose / plot / quest / goal of the tale, that makes this his book rather then hers, in my opinion. That's fine, especially since it is in both of their pov, but I must confess: the more I got to know Ashton the less I could comprehend why anyone would want her.

The good news: I adored Beau. His loyalty and devotion, the pain he has suffered, his struggle to actually figure out who he was and what he truly wanted... all of it was deeply compelling and kept me frantically turning pages needing to know more. At times he was a bit more rough and ready then your average YA hero would be, but it can be fun to have a guy like that in fiction once in a while so I was cool with that. Despite the fact that he was interested in a spineless jellyfish (Ashton) any of his major issues were generally not used toward her. I can handle a more edgy guy as long as he's not slinging the bad parts of that at the heroine (a little banter is fine and was present, but I could see that he would be good for Ash...)

And this section would not be complete if I didn't talk about Sawyer. I had a hard time sorting out this guy, but that's because the number of angles I had to look at the situation on if I wanted to be fair were so skewered. On the surface level, my heart went out to him because no one deserves to be cheated on. If you don't wanna be with someone, break up with them. There is also his 'role' in the good girl / bad girl thing. Since that was never fully clear to me--did he expect Ash to behave that way? Did she only think he did? How would he have reacted if they had sat down and talked about this ages ago? Because there's really no way to be certain of this, Sawyer was more of a device for conflict then anything else, and that is truly a shame.

The Romance: 

Here's the problem with the structure of this book, at least for me. The story took off like a bat outta hell for about the first 100 pages. Then it slowed to a torturous crawl after Sawyer got home. I was really enjoying getting to see Beau and Ashton's relationship develop, but because of the type of plot we were dealing with here there is a very clear transition between "What are they like together?" and "How can they be together?" and unfortunately, since I felt that the core conflict wasn't strong enough, the book weakened for me when the story transitioned from (essentially) phase A into phase B.

In General: 

I liked this book more then I could have. This is the kinda story that could have been a total disaster for me, and I'll gladly concede that my issues with it do, in part, stem from personal issues, ideals or opinions. On the flip side, I didn't like this book as much as I could have. The Vincent Boys had a simple but interesting premise. Unfortunately, there were major keystones within it's execution that left much to be desired.

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