Always, in December (CBR14 #6)

I don’t normally suggest reviewing a book while angry at it, but here we are. I should probably wait to further reflect on why I’m feeling this way. But. But I have already angrily thrown it into the return slot at the library and after four hours of being annoyed, and having it come right back to front of mind the moment I was done watching the finale of the Station Eleven adaptation I have decided to try to purge my anger into digital ink and just be done with it.

Because I am actively angry at Always, in December. Here’s why:

  • I was lied to by the publisher (or whoever else shelved this thing) – this book is not a Romance, and it is being advertised as such.
    • I will concede that there is a romance plot line, but it pretty much wraps up at the end of the first section and then the fallout of that arc propels the rest of the book.
    • If that first section had a different final ending than the book, it would be a great Romance novella.
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  • Simultaneously, the characters are hollow. Which is incredibly frustrating because Emily Stone appears to be a confident and competent writer but her female lead is so dragged down by grief and loss that she is emotionally quite empty, and her male lead is a cypher throughout. Even in his own section (of which he only gets one of the four major ones) the reader isn’t let in on the secret the book is trying to keep and therefore we are left without the ability to know the character.
    • This book also commits the grave sin of a problem that could be solved by an honest conversation. Sections 2-4 are a litany of missed opportunities for either character to speak emotional truth.
Writing Pet Peeves #1: Foreshadowing From Hell - sera ashling
  • The book is emotionally manipulative. I clocked what was happening at about the 2/3rds mark – that the book wasn’t going to deliver on the Romance tropes but instead head to a darker ending – at that point I flipped to the end to see just how bad this was going to be (VERY BAD) and then went back and finished and at every single point that Stone could use the plot to wring tears from her reader she did. But they weren’t earned in the characters, those moments instead banked on the readers own losses and hit emotional cues to bring them up.
    • This book attempts to do what Jojo Moyes did in Me Before You (your mileage may vary, that book worked for me) but it falls short in major ways. Moyes crafted two beautifully well-rounded protagonists who affect the courses of each other’s lives in big ways, and perhaps more importantly in small ways. Stone does not achieve that.
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  • There is an unrelenting undercurrent of fat phobia and disgust running through the book, but most noticeably in the later sections. I’m hard pressed to think of an example where any sort of roundness or softness was used as a positive descriptor in this work and by the midway point I was actively on the lookout.
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  • Most importantly it handles grief, illness, and death in ways that I don’t think are necessarily healthy while not providing a Content Warning.
    • The CW should include multiple deaths of loved ones; off page cheating; heart attack; cancer, sudden unexpected death

About Katie

Museum professional, caffeine junkie, book lover, student of history, overall goofball.

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