Title: Call It What You Want
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: June 25th 2019 from Bloomsbury YA
Format: Physical ARC via the publisher
**I requested and received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no quotations will be used. A big thank you to the publisher for the ARC**
Goodreads Synopsis: When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.
Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.
When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…
This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?
With all the hype that was happening late last year and early this year for Kemmerer’s fantasy book A Curse So Dark and Lonely, I was really stoked for it like everyone else. Then, when I had the chance to request an ARC of this book, I decided to go for it. Since I’m still a novice with YA contemporary, I gave this a shot and wondered how a contemporary by her would be like, since this one and fantasy are different genres. Unfortunately, this book wasn’t completely for me. Some things frustrated me and the two character’s story arcs felt very unbalanced. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons I had with the book.
- Writing style: I do appreciate how Kemmerer creates her characters and tackles sensitive subject matter very well. She gives us these topics in a neutral way, so that the reader can explore these topics with the characters as the story goes along. Nothing really feels forced as far as dialogue and she wrote great chemistry between Rob and Meagan. I also like how the gray areas of these issues were brought up in the end and it felt very mature and well handled. Kemmerer is a very talented writer and the writing made the book at times very raw and honest.
- Rob’s story: Rob Lachlan was the best character in this story and I ended up caring for him a lot. With his dad basically a vegetable after an attempted suicide, his father’s money embezzlement and shame hangs over Rob. He feels guilty for what his dad did, but also secretly is hurting from how people treat him and his family. They lost so much in this whole scandal and Rob still isn’t sure how to handle his feelings. But his whole story arc with understanding his feelings towards his dad, forgiving himself and learning to heal was very well handled. This kid really feels a lot of pain and even puts himself down so much with saying how bad he is and it made me sad. But his anger is also very raw and justified and he doesn’t have a great way to channel that anger until things start to change. His story arc was very fulfilling and the author does a great job with offering hope at the end.
- Ending: For most the book, I’ll admit that I was frustrated with a few things that I’ll mention in a bit. But the last 75 pages or so really brought things together. The way things were revealed and handled felt a little tense at times, very emotionally charged and then all wrapped up in the end. The ending really meets these issues head on, while giving the characters time to adjust to their new circumstances.
- Connor’s development: Connor is a side character that was Rob’s best friend. His father is the one who turned Rob’s dad into the FBI, but never called Rob back after Rob found his dad. He’s mad and angry and doesn’t treat Rob right and acts like a sports jock. But with how the story developed, I really saw Connor’s own hurt and complicated feelings over the whole situation. The friendship between both boys is complicated but I like how they each grew as they learned the truth and finally tried to make up for lost time.
- Meagan’s lack of growth: Meagan’s story didn’t nearly as fleshed out as Rob’s story did. She cheated on the SAT and feels bad about it, but we don’t entirely have a reason why she did it. While she does feel guilty, it never felt fully addressed as to why. Then, I also thought she was too thin of a character. She never really grew throughout the story; she let her sister peer pressure her to do what she wanted and Meagan never tried to really help her sister be safe and try to deal with her own problems. She also never really thought about the whole situation with Rob. Her attraction to him mattered more than a major situation that happened in the book and that really bothered me. She seemed to be the same and never did a lot other than worry and assume all the time.
- Meagan and Samantha’s parents: While both their parents do care about them, it was a disappointment that their parents were missing for a good amount of the book. All the conversations with the parents were very short and didn’t dig deep enough into the problems. I really thought we could’ve gotten some real good and raw moments with the parents, especially with the father’s understandable anger. But I didn’t like that they didn’t really step up like they should have until the crap hit the fan. So while they are good people and do care for their daughters, they were missing a bit too much.
- Samantha’s character: While this may be a personal preference, I really didn’t like Meagan’s sister Samantha. She was so immature, rude and completely refused to make a decision on her situation until things hit the fan later in the book. I know that this is how some people are and how many don’t want to face their problems and also how some really have to learn the hard way, but I still didn’t like her. Her reason for basically screwing herself over felt like a thin decision and wasn’t addressed until the end of the book. I feel like she was too reckless and never seemed to love her parents, even though they care for her.
- Lack of communication and assumptions: For most of the book, I noticed a real lack of brutally honest conversations between many of the characters. I felt like the constant assumptions and miscommunications was for dramatic flair but it bothered me. Even Meagan made assumptions about Rob and refused to talk to him to learn the truth. Samantha’s situation also felt like it was ignored. People kept making assumptions and never did anything to learn the truth and help others until later in the book. I know that assumptions are normal and that we do it all the time. But with how the author was handling the sensitive matter well, I felt like the communication would’ve been better. I think it was just a high expectation that wasn’t met for me personally.
Overall: The majority of this book was a 2.5 stars for me until the end which boosted it to a final 3 star rating. I just felt like the communication could’ve been so much better and that Meagan’s character could’ve either been fleshed out more or just been Rob’s story. I do like their chemistry and he was really sweet to her, but the moment their romance strikes up seemed strange and overtook a serious situation which bothered me. But Kemmerer is a great writer and I did enjoy Rob and Connor’s character arc, but this didn’t completely win me over. I will read A Curse So Dark and Lonely for sure in the future and see how she does fantasy.
Have you read this book? Are you excited for it? What books by this author have you read and would recommend?