This book, man.
Overall, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever read in my life. To give the author a few points, the bones of a good plot are there, but… unfortunately, the meat is stringy and tough and utterly flavorless, and could have done with a lovely marinade or dry brine. There are some rather thick cliches here and there, the way the author addresses race and POC is, quite frankly gross, and there’s an incredibly problematic romance that’s central to the plot.
I’m going to spoil it, I’m afraid, so if you’re not ready for spoilers, this is a good jumping off point.
Alpha Male Casting Call
“It never crosses her mind that there are a million places I’d rather be than here…”
“I grip her wrist tighter and I know it hurts.”
“I back her against the wall, bumping into a lamp as I do… I hold her there. I tell her to shut up. I say it over and over again.”
“I take a step closer and hold the gun to her head.”
“I yank her into the bedroom and tell her that if I hear her so much as breathe she will never again see the light of day.”
“I saved her life. Who the h___ does she think she is to run away?”
“It’s like I’m caring for a d___ infant.”
“What pisses me off is that she talks like she got the short end of the stick. Like her life is full of hard knocks.”
Brace yourselves, lords, ladies, and jesters, because this clown is our hero.
He is the criminal with a heart of gold… a man who believes that, after kidnapping, restraining, punching, and threatening a woman, what he’s done was for her benefit, and the predicament that he created is ultimately her fault.
Let me set the stage:
After she consents to go to his apartment, he keeps her there, hours after she has repeatedly stated that she needs to go home, he then pulls a gun, forces her into a car and, instead of taking her to his (scary African… we’ll come back to this) colleague who would demand a ransom from her (terrible) father, takes her to a poorly outfitted cabin in the woods on an impulse that we’re perhaps meant to find endearing.
He terrorizes a store clerk. He repeatedly and harshly grabs and restrains Mia, being sure to let the reader know that he’s completely aware of the pain he’s inflicting. At one point, he tackles her, taking time to remind us of the difference in their respective sizes. He hits Mia. He threatens to murder a kitten to ensure Mia’s compliance. He repeatedly sexualizes his naked victim while bathing her in cold water to bring down a potentially deadly fever. He plots to get Mia a fake passport so they can run away together because, of course, she has no say in whether or not she goes home. He demeans her incessantly in his thoughts, calling her weak and stupid. However, despite it all, he seems to think that Mia should be grateful and there’s a nasty implication that he expects Mia to, in particular, be grateful because he did not rape her, or take her to the scary African (we’ll come back to this, I PROMISE), whose scary African grasp would surely mean a fate worse than death for our delicate Mia. Mia’s random nightmares about a black man with a machete are hilarious, considering that she has been kidnapped by a scruffy, cute white dude with a violent temper (but, of course, she can’t have nightmares about him, because he’s doing all this to save her from a black man, and that makes what he’s done perfectly okay, and she should love him for it).
The deeper we go into this squicky narrative, the more the victim and her kidnapper begin to open up to each other (yay) and the more he tries to shame her about her wealthy upbringing (because, you know, if your family hasn’t been on welfare, your kidnapping is justified and you should pity the predator in question). He’s excused for everything that he’s done because his father abandoned the family and they were poor.
The Pixie is Manic.
You might think that Mia (being the eponymous “Good Girl”) is the focus of this story… but you’d be wrong. Mia is nothing more than a blank page that the other characters simply project their own perceptions onto. She’s a list of characteristics with no actual personality attached, and while I hope that was intentional on the author’s part, it made for an irritating read.
For Colin, she’s a waifish, delicate, manic pixie, who enthuses at length about the colors of the sky, used to wish on airplanes because stars aren’t visible in Chicago, and blithely dismisses the very real possibility that she could have been killed by Colin, because she “would have killed him” if she had the chance.
Of course, being the victim of a BRUTAL KIDNAPPING, her act would have been JUSTIFIED, but sure, whatever.
For Eve, (Mia’s
cardboard cutout mother), Mia is a shadowy reflection version of the young Eve, and one who doesn’t really become all that interesting to Eve until everyone thinks Mia might be dead. Eve barely has a relationship with her daughter prior to her kidnapping, and manages to make Mia’s ordeal into a long personal whinging session about how Eve used to be beautiful and how she married a jerk. She spends page after page obsessively longing for a daughter that she couldn’t be bothered to contact for weeks on end… and also apparently wants to see the detective’s badge and weapon, if you know what I’m getting at.
Detective Hoffman is such a cliche himself that he deserves an entire blog just about him… but we’ll just say that he wasn’t as consumed with finding Mia as he was with sniffing her mom’s perfume.
Mia is such a void that caring about her (other than in a general sense) is difficult, and considering the format of the story, you know that she is ultimately found. She’s a walking plot device.
People of Color = Danger
“… and as I looked around the bar, I saw that I was the only one who was white.”
“When I saw him, my throat rose up inside me and I found it hard to breathe. His eyes were black, like coal, his skin dark and rubbery, like tires.”
“He was black, like the blackest of black bears, like the rubbery skin of the killer whale, an alpha predator with no predators of their own.”
“I looked into his black serpentine eyes…”
“Nearly everyone there, except for a twentysomething waitress in jeans and a too-tight shirt, was male; all, besides me, were black.”
These gems are all from the last few pages of the book. Previously, we had just been treated to the usual reiterations of race relations from people who somehow still don’t seem to know any better… Detective Hoffman judges how safe neighborhoods are based on the ratio of white people to people of color. People born in other countries do not speak fluent English. White people (like our poor sweet Mia) do not really belong with inner city types and teaching art to those inner city types makes white people like Mia saints.
All you need to know to navigate the world is that African men have skin like rubber.
To wrap this review up, which is much longer than this book deserves, let me state the following:
Black men are not animals. That’s an ancient trope, and it’s an unacceptable one.
The presence of numerous black people in one place does not indicate danger. Again, ancient and unacceptable.
If a man thinks that hitting, restraining, and terrorizing a woman is for her own good, then he needs therapy, not a lover. This is yet another ancient trope.
I want to say something good about this book, because I really don’t like feeling as though I’ve taken a hatchet to someone’s work, even if I hated that work with the heat of a thousand suns, so…
I liked the cover art.
It’s very pretty.
Good job with that.