It is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I love Australian authors that are more obscure here where I live in the US. I’ve read enough now that IIt is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I love Australian authors that are more obscure here where I live in the US. I’ve read enough now that I’ve even gotten a pretty decent grasp of the terminology for certain things. Like, I know what a punch up is. Or pashing. Or Uni… I suppose it’s pretty self-explanatory, but don’t burst my bubble. I feel like a pro.
When I joined an online book tour for Hate is Such a Strong Word it was because it was an AUS author, and because it was cultural. Not to say that I search out books that are cultural. I generally don’t mind one way or the other but I don’t seek them out. However, when this one was presented to me the fact that it was about a Lebanese teenager struggling with how to be a ‘good Lebanese girl’ living in modern Australia drew me to it. It was about the complexities of dealing with racism, and finding your place in the world when you don’t quite feel like the rest of your family, but you’re too confined and afraid to test the waters outside your inner circle.
I think that this book both succeeded in that, but that at times it also failed. On one hand, there were times when Sophie’s voice made me feel like this was a progressive book, pushing the idea’s of immigration and acceptance and at other times I felt like she consistently took two or three steps backwards. The ideals that Sophie had developed, nearly on her own, were admirable, but her actual character development just wasn’t there… until the ending when it was like a switch was flipped and suddenly she was telling everyone off. I just didn’t feel as though we saw the emotional and mental steps she took to get where she wanted to be.
I also have to mention that I really can’t stand irrational female characters. I have an aversion to exaggerated reactions to situations that I think are more simplified than they’re allowing it to be. Those who have continually been proven to be ‘bad’ or liars should not be trusted. Period. Anything they say should be suspect, and your first reaction shouldn’t be that the world is ending and life as you know it has been destroyed. It should be that you should discuss the problem with the people involved and get to the truth. So, sadly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Sophie’s at all.
I’m going to end on a high note, what I love about reading authors from Australia or the UK, like Hate is Such a Strong Word, is that their ideas of teenage books are more responsible than what I see taking up the shelves of my bookstores. (I’m not saying that there aren’t any US authors who do this. Just that I personally feel they’re are harder to come across.) Instead of having heroines whose existence is defined by the love of a boy and the sacrifices that must be made to be with that boy, they show us how life should really be handled. That it’s okay to put yourself, or your family, or school, ahead of a relationship. It’s alright to choose to go for that year of school abroad and hope that that boy will still be there when you get back. And it’s okay if he’s not. Because the future is a big wide beautiful thing full of amazing surprises. I wish there were more of these books.
Well, that book completely consumed me. Up till 2am, until 'just one more chapter' became 'omg, I have to finish this!'
Contemporary RomanWell, that book completely consumed me. Up till 2am, until 'just one more chapter' became 'omg, I have to finish this!'
Contemporary Romance is not my favorite genre. NA is not my favorite classification. Luckily The Understatement of the Year came very highly recommended. Also, being an M/M story, there wasn’t a heroine that would drive me absolutely insane. You see, in both Contemporary Romance and in NA it’s usually the female lead of the story that brings all the drama and angst and I just find myself getting really annoyed! Two male leads, only female secondary characters, and I didn’t have to read the other books! This book was the perfect NA contemp for me!
Starting this book was a little bit rough. For about the first 40-50 pages I felt myself dragging a little bit. It just didn’t feel like a lot was happening. BUT, when it got going it whipped me into a reading frenzy! I reached a certain spot and I was held hostage. I’m not exaggerating. The Understatement of the Year kidnapped all of my attention. I read nonstop from about 6pm to 2am. I was laying in bed and telling myself how tired I was, how the book would still be there in the morning, but I also knew that if I put it down I wouldn’t sleep anyway because I would be thinking about Rik and Graham. And so, I kept reading.
There were a few things that stood about about The Understatement of the Year, in terms of M/M. When, in the story, one of the characters is still ‘in the closet’ they usually go the route of the ‘out’ character drawing a line in the sand. They respond to the other MC with how if they can’t admit who they are then they can’t be with them. I’m not taking away from this. I don’t believe anyone should be in a relationship that makes them uncomfortable. Still, what I found refreshing about this story was that there was an acceptance with Rik and Graham. When I got those recommendations to read this book one of the things they told me that it doesn’t have the angst a NA normally has. Guys, it really didn’t. When time was needed, time was given. Lovingly. It was beautiful and romantic. And it was unexpected.
So yeah, I was consumed. Completely. I was so very happy with this. So happy I read it. What held me back from giving The Understatement of the Year the full 5 stars, despite reading most of the book in a few hours, was simply the slow start and the lack of that extra little spark. For instance, Too Stupid to Live by Anne Tenino was absolutely amazing. What I believe put that book ahead of this one lay specifically with the development of the characters. Rik and Graham were perfectly adequate. I didn’t dislike either of them, but neither of them really popped for me either. In TSTL, Sam was a really unique and fun character. And humor. I think humor is important in a book. (Granted, this was NA and that is adult… I don’t think that matters.)
So that’s my two cents. I really really really liked it, but there was just a liiiittle room for improvement. But still, a solid 4 stars. Definitely worth passing on to others.