I recently received a free copy of this novel, and I did not like this book at all. Although the first few chapters of this book started of nicely enough, it quickly began its downhill decent not long afterward. But, before I get into what made it so bad, let me start with a synopsis so you know what it’s all about.
Clem, short for Clementine, has recently lost her father to a heart attack. But, her father was not any normal father; he was the lead singer of the band Condor, Tommy Jasper. Tommy ends up leaving possessions to his son Simon and daughter Dena but leaves only a set of letters to, what has to be his favorite offspring the way he talks about her, Clem that will lead her on a road trip around California to discover more about herself and her father. Clem must take this journey to find out who her father really was and maybe give her a chance to feel the emotions she’s been void of most her life. She is instructed by her father to open his letters one by one after she has completed what the previous letter had commanded her to do, so as not to ruin anything for her. She receives eight letters to lead her on her road trip of discovery.
So, now, before I really start to get into everything I disliked about this book, I’m going to put a big fat warning right here: I WILL RUIN THIS ENTIRE BOOK FOR YOU – MAJOR SPOILER ALERT! Thus, if you want to actually read this novel, then stop reading this review right this second. But, if you want to save yourself the time, boredom and effort of actually reading it but still want to know what happens, please continue my friend.
First things first: character development. There really isn’t any to be found. Clem starts out as an unlikable character and finishes as an unlikeable character. There is nothing about her that I can say encouraged me to like her. She is a Rich California Girl who is unemployed because she just doesn’t know who she is or what she wants to do with her life…Blah Blah Blah…her dad’s money pays for her house and all her expenses…Blah Blah Blah…all she does is go to parties because she has nothing better to do…Blah Blah Blah…and she complains about every, single, little, tiny, miniscule problem she has in her life – literally all she does this entire novel is complain…Blah Blah Blah…and her best friend is just as rich and even more unlikable than she is.
Clem is a girl in her upper twenties that can’t decide anything she would want to do and also is void of all emotions because she’s never really felt unhappiness and sorrow, so, clearly, she’s never felt incandescent happiness or joy either. Because that’s how things work, you know. But, but the end of this novel, Clem can feel emotion and even, maybe, falls in love? It’s not really specified on, just hinted at in the epilogue. But, Clem finds all these emotions she’s never felt because her father sent her on some crazy road trip that really doesn’t turn out to be that crazy at all. Ultimately, she only spends a meager five days travelling to four towns. Not as exciting as the blurb made it sound. And, just to make things a little shorter, every other character is as unlikable as Clem. Every. Single. One. I couldn’t relate or connect to anyone Dutton created.
Next topic, the writing was not necessarily horrible, but it was mediocre at best. I found Dutton’s words lacking on many occasions throughout this entire. Everything that she puts down on paper was over-sentimentalized, not making anything resonate and created no opportunity for shock value. The things that unfolded in this story should have had me floored, but because the writing was so lacking and excessively romanticized, I found nothing that made me stop and think. All I can say is thank god the print is huge because it’s the only reason I was able to finish this book.
The story, like the writing, was mediocre and lacking around every turn. Ideas that Dutton was trying to construe didn’t always line up with the story, and occasionally she would write the same thing that happened twice. She would explain a scene on one page and then explain the same scene ten pages later. This also brought up the problem of repetition. She repeated the ideas and sometimes scenes so frequently that I stopped caring about anything that happened. I can only listen to Clem tell me about her lack of direction and lack of ability to feel emotions so many times.
Some of the other things that happened were hazy at best. For instance, Tommy Jasper’s death. On the blurb, it says that Tommy died playing Ping-Pong with the drummer of his band, but it’s merely alluded to in the book, never outright explained. Dutton spent too much time trying to give Clem a personality and not enough time writing an actual story. The result of this lack of storytelling makes the entire novel not believable. I was so frustrated with so many things that Dutton tried, and failed, to do in this novel.
One major part of this story that Dutton tried to throw in to create shock value and sentimental value was a crazy accident that Clem and Casey (Oh I just noticed the C & C names here – vomit.) witness on their way back to LA. I’m talking this was a brutal, violent, bloody accident, and it absolutely came out of nowhere. I understand that’s how accidents happen, but the whole thing was glossed over after it initially happened, and I can’t honestly tell you what purpose it served to the story. This was the point, for me, that the novel went from a generous two stars to an absolutely 100% one star rating. Dutton tried to throw in some ultimate shock value, but it just came out more twisted and unsettling than a positive to put things in perspective. This scene was horrific and completely unnecessary.
Now, to get to the final point that really, really ruined this story for me. Clem finally reads the last letter from her dad, and, let me tell you, you will not be ready for what she finds in that letter. So, through the course of her letter reading, she finds out how her dad got started singing, his tragic backstory of a motherless, abusive home, and how he met Clem’s mom, but in this final letter, Clem finds out his biggest secret yet. Let me just say before I reveal the big twist at the end, Clem’s dad is as unlikable, if not more so, than Clem. I could not handle his personality and the way he was writing his letters. Dutton tries WAY too hard to make him a “cool guy.” And also, look at the way ends his first letter: “I love you, Clementine. I love you with all the stars and planets and rainbows and sunshine and flowers and ocean waves in the world. Xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo Dad” (53). I mean, get real. So anyway, are you ready for the big shocker? The really big one? I don’t know if you are. Here goes anyway. Clem’s father got really drunk one night after he left his abusive home and accidentally killed a man. The cops attributed it to the man who was killed being excessively intoxicated, and they couldn’t find any relatives, so they blew over this murder in the papers and never tried to get any more information. Want to know what this guy’s name was? Tommy Jasper. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Well, let me tell you a little something about Tommy Jasper. Tommy was a great guy. He was a happy guy. He wanted nothing more than to work an honest job and make an honest living. Clem’s dad says he was excited about absolutely everyone, was super friendly, and just wanted to joke and laugh. And Clem’s dad shoved him to the ground causing him to die from hitting his head on the sidewalk. And then he just left him there on the sidewalk dead and went home. He read about it in the paper the next day and never came forward or said anything.
But what was it that Clem’s dad did do? He went to this guy’s room, they were both staying at the YMCA – neighbors actually, and found his birth certificate. He thought that the best thing to do to honor this guy that he killed was to steal his identity and become him. So that’s what the new Tommy Jasper did. He killed this happy-go-lucky guy, stole his identity, and then become famous, travelled the world, and raised a wonderful family. Seems fair, right? But this doesn’t faze Clem at all. She accepts this new information immediately after she reads it. I get that you gloss over things your loved ones have done, but she literally gave it no thought. Clem finds her calling, emotions, and love, so everything literally works out perfectly. Too perfectly, in my opinion.
So, sorry this review was so long; it was a bit of a venting excuse for me. All in all, don’t read this train wreck of a book. It’s not worth the time. Besides, I just told you everything that happens, if you’ve stuck with me this far. If you have, thanks for listening; I needed to let these emotions out, because, unlike Clem, I actually have them.
Okay, one final complaint before I seal this up. This book doesn’t specify what year this novel takes place, but it was published in 2014, so that’s what year I would assume it would take place, or maybe a few prior, but still recent. Well, for this being a modern-day novel, Clem looks up all the directions she needs to get around Cali online, apparently doesn’t own any sort of GPS (even though she’s excessively wealthy), and uses an atlas to navigate while on the road. What? Just what? Also, she communicates with EVERYONE by email. Her mom, her sister, her best friend, everyone, except maybe her brother, who calls her for no purpose every day. Makes sense. But seriously, who communicates to close family and friends by email every day? What even?
My rant is officially over.
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