Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Loving Emily by Anne Pfeffer

Title: Loving Emily
Author: Anne Pfeffer
Publisher: Bold Print Press
Pages: 276
Release date: November 17th 2011
Genre: Contemporary YA; romance
Source: Received a finished copy from the author in exchange for an honest review - thank you, Anne!
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:
Ryan Mills is torn with guilt over the death of his best friend, and it's all because of Emily Weintraub. If Ryan hadn't seen those incredible gray-blue eyes, hadn't pegged her as a Potentially Amazing Woman, he would never have gone looking for her at the party that night. He would have never left his wasted friend Michael alone, when Michael needed him and asked him to stay. And if Ryan hadn't left, Michael would never have driven off, totaled his car, and taken the cosmic ride into death.

As far as Ryan's concerned, when you've done something terrible, you don't deserve to be happy. He tries not to fall for Emily, but he can't help it. Before long, he is "completely, gonzo, out-of-control in love."

Ryan then learns that Michael died with a secret. Still grieving, he feels compelled to take on his friend's unfinished business. When Emily begins to question where his commitments really lie - with her or with Michael's memory - Ryan is forced to examine his choices. What does he owe to Michael, to Emily, and to himself?

First sentence:
Any other night, I'd be down for driving my best friend Michael to the party, but tonight is different.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

To say I had low expectations for Loving Emily is an understatement - the melodramatic cover with the creepy guy in the back; the too-long description; everything about this book screams small publishing - you know, not enough editing, too many typos, etc. And while it's far from perfect, I ended up really, really enjoying Loving Emily!

Honestly, I think the cover, title, and description are kind of misleading. They make it seem like the main storyline is the romance between Ryan and Emily. But for me, that's not the most important part at all - it's a coming-of-age story, it's about family, it's about grief, and yes, it's about love. But I don't like how the title and cover let you believe it's just romance.

Ryan is a good character. He's easy to relate to and a really sweet guy. He's always trying to do the right thing, and you can't help but feel for him and want the best for him. There are a few scenes, though, where the male point-of-view is a little unrealistic, in my opinion. Yes, it's LA, so maybe it's different, but I still thought the descriptions of appearance were a little strange - I don't think it's realistic for a guy to notice what color shoes people are wearing. But then again, what do I know about being a guy?

The family's situation is a storyline I really enjoyed reading about. Ryan's dad is a famous director, so he and Ryan's mom are almost never home, and Ryan has two adorable younger sisters. I really liked reading about how the situation affected Ryan and how it developed throughout the novel.

I also liked the grief-storyline. Ryan and Michael's friendship is portrayed realistically and relatably, and Michael's grief is heart-felt and honest.

The romance is the only storyline I had a problem with - maybe it's because the romance is the storyline I enjoyed the least that I mind how the cover, title and description focus on that. Anyways, the romance is a little too insta-love for me, and I think it's unrealistic how quickly the two develop such strong feelings for one another. Emily's character fell flat for me, and I feel like the reader never really got to know her. Yes, she has some interests and character traits, but her portrayal is too superficial, in my opinion. Since I never really got her as a character, I had a hard time relating to Ryan's and her relationship.

I also don't get why, in the beginning, Ryan wants to keep himself from falling for Emily. He says abandoning Michael when needing him gave him bad karma, so he needs to do a lot of good to make up for that, which makes sense, but somehow, he thinks he can't be with Emily because it would mean getting even more bad karma. I'm no expert on karma, but... why would falling in love be bad karma?

My favorite storyline is one I can't talk about without spoiling the book - I really liked reading about Michael's secret, the "unfinished business." The storyline and the relationship that comes from this secret seemed a lot deeper and more realistic than Ryan's relationship with Emily, if I'm being honest.

But none of those storylines is what I liked best about Loving Emily - it's the coming-of-age and Ryan's character growth. I loved reading about how he grows as a person and figured out who he is.

I can't justify giving Loving Emily more than three stars because I did have some problems with it - it could have used some more editing and copyediting, the whole story is a little-drawn out, so it got boring in places (it's only 276 pages, but the font is really small compared to most YA books, so it's actually pretty long), and I didn't like the romance. But still, I really enjoyed Loving Emily, a lot more than I thought I would. A good protagonist and a nice cast of secondary characters and an interesting plot make this a great coming-of-age story. This is the kind of book that makes me happy to be a book-blogger - it's great to know I can promote a good book people probably haven't heard much about.


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