Published by Carolrhoda Books on October 1st, 2014
Genres: contemporary, young adult
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Sean Norwhalt can read between the lines.
"You never know where we'll end up. There's so much possibility in life, you know?" Hallie said.
He knows she just dumped him. He was a perfectly good summer boyfriend, but now she's off to college, and he's still got another year to go. Her pep talk about futures and "possibilities" isn't exactly comforting. Sean's pretty sure he's seen his future and its "possibilities" and they all look disposable.
Like the crappy rental his family moved into when his dad left.
Like all the unwanted filthy old clothes he stuffs into the rag baler at his thrift store job.
Like everything good he's ever known.
The only hopeful possibilities in Sean's life are the Marine Corps, where no one expected he'd go, and Neecie Albertson, whom he never expected to care about.
"We're something else. Some other thing. I don't know what you'd call it. Maybe there's a word, though. Maybe I'll think of it tomorrow, when it won't matter," Neecie said.
Sometimes I have trouble articulating how I felt about a book, particularly when it leaves me with mixed feelings. It’s no secret that I loved Sex and Violence, Carrie Mesrobian’s debut novel. I rave about it to my co-bloggers all the time; we actually have a planned reread of it coming up for one of our Forgotten Friday’s dates. Obviously I was very much looking forward to her follow-up effort even though the blurb didn’t really interest me all that much. I loved her writing though, and that was enough for me.
Here’s the thing.
Usually, I am a blurb reader, which means I choose books based on whether they appeal to me or not. Blurbs can be horribly misleading sometimes and that has led me astray more than once, but usually it works. So more often than not, I won’t read every book from a favorite author like most people will. The only other author I have done this with is Sarah Addison Allen and it’s worked out, so I figured since I really loved Mesrobian’s writing, I should give her second book a shot.
I should not do that anymore.
Perfectly Good White Boy was not a bad book. Mesrobian’s writing was strong, even if it didn’t speak to me the way it did in Sex & Violence. It’s just that I have absolutely zero interest in the military and stories that revolve around it. Thankfully there was a bit more to this one and it made me enjoy the book more.
I didn’t particularly like the protagonist either. He thought he was never wrong, but everyone around him was just out to screw him and mess up his life. It’s pretty much impossible for me to root for someone like that. He showed lack of empathy and understanding for others. But I DID like Hallie and Neecie, Sean’s romantic partners.
That’s the one thing I Can definitely say about the author’s characters. Whether you like them or not, they are well developed. She plans out the details, makes them realistic, gives them a background, all of which I appreciate because it can be fairly rare to find characters that actually feel like real people with individual voices and feelings of their own.
To be perfectly honest, this is a pretty boring book. What IS the plot exactly? I’m still not sure that there was one. It was about this boy who thinks and has a lot of sex but is unhappy with his life and doesn’t know what to do after high school, so he enlists in the marines and hides it from his family because he doesn’t want his mom to freak out. I’m just not sure what the point of it all was. If it wasn’t for the writing, I am not sure I would have finished it.
And then you have the absolutely atrocious copy editing. I have never seen so many typos and grammatical errors in a traditionally published book before. There are like 5 in the first 20 pages. It was absurd. This book needed a proofread (at the very least) badly. I am truly disappointed about that as I know that a lot of publishing houses have cut down on editing costs, and as an editor, I hate to see stuff like this.
In the end, I just couldn’t understand Sean and why he did the things he did. I loved Neecie but then I was left wondering why she valued her friendship with Sean so much when I had a tough time finding redeeming qualities in him. I read all of the book and I enjoyed my experience but it wasn’t particularly memorable, and I don’t think I will reread this book like I will reread Sex & Violence.