Friday, October 12, 2012

A nice effort, but Andy Squared dropped the ball

Andy Squared
By: Jennifer Lavoie
Genre: YA (Coming of Age, LGBT)
Rating: Strong PG-13 for closed door sex scene
Spoilers: Heck to the yes. I have to in order to show you why this book failed for me
Coffee Beans: 1 (for the cover)
Cover: Awesome Sauce (if it were a book set on the coast)
Instalove Factor: Not present
My Personal Recommendation: Skip, please
Opening Line: “The neon yellow ball rolled to a stop in front of Andrew.”
Favorite Line: “Andrew left to make the call, standing outside of the living room but close enough for help should his father, say, climb through the phone to kill him.” (Pg 142 of ereader)
Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this honest review. Also, I'm pretty honest and at times harsh. You have been warned. 

Publisher’s Summary
Seventeen-year-old twins, Andrew and Andrea Morris, have always been close. They share everything—from their friends to a room—and they both enjoy star positions on their high school’s soccer teams. All’s right with the twins...or is it?

When new student Ryder Coltrane moves from Texas to their small New York town, he spins Andrew’s world upside down. All of Andrew’s past relationship troubles begin to make sense and his true feelings start to click into place after Ryder comes out to him. His friendship with Ryder turns secretively romantic, but secrets, they soon find out, are hard to keep. Once rumors start to fly, so-called friends turn on them, and the boys’ relationship turns into a bomb about to explode. But Andrew never expected it would be his own twin, Andrea, holding a lighter to ignite it.

My Review
I’m giving you all fair warning now: I did not like this book (although there are many others out there who’ve given it 4/5 star reviews who would vehemently disagree with me). In order to show you why I feel this way, there will be spoilers in this review. Which, to me, doesn’t matter as I won’t be recommending it to anybody.

So, if you really liked this book and you don’t want to get upset by what I have to say, or if you’re a sensitive person and don’t want your feelers hurt, I wouldn’t blame you for turning away, but if you’re sticking it out, good for you.

Oh, where do I begin?

How about my first impressions? Those were positive. I read the description and coupled with the cover, I thought this was going to be a pretty cool book. Here’s why:

  • ·         The cover’s sweet (although it looks like it belongs more on a book about a beach than upstate, small-town New York)

  • ·         There are twins involved. I’m a twin. I write books about twins. I. Love. Twins. As well as the whole family dynamic and how different it can be

  • ·         The premise sounded really promising and had the potential to grab a very specific audience

  • ·         I thought this could really be a splash in the book-reading world and could maybe be one of those “Well, Andy had the strength to do it, so maybe I can too” kind of experiences for any kid struggling with a situation similar to the MC’s

  • It was a short read; on my Nook, only 180 pages

Okay, now down to the nitty-gritty of where my problems were:

The family factor: I thought the dynamic was unrealistic and it really kind of got under my skin. Mom and Dad are there but not, but when they are there, they’re kind of portrayed as being the perfect parents. 
Andrea is forceful, belligerent, controlling, and overall a horrible human being. Andrew always mention that he and his twin are BEST FRIENDS but I don’t understand why based on the information I was given in the book. IMO, she’s someone that needed to be ditched at the curb.

The meh factor: This is the most unacceptable of the short comings, especially when dealing with this kind of topic. It’s an important issue. A real issue that carries a heavy impact and to not give it everything it deserves—in the plot, the “lesson” at the end, the writing—is inexcusable. The writing was just meh. The plot was okay, the lesson wasn’t anything powerful, and nothing grabbed me the way I felt it should. Bottom line. The only character I really felt anything for was Andrea and that’s because hate is a strong emotion.

The execution factor: I have noted in my Nook, over and over again: telling. I was told the story, not shown. I wasn’t there. There was far too much narrative that propelled it along. Not enough dialogue (both internal and external) to give me the connection I needed to be invested in Andy’s story. It felt overworked while at the same time, not doing very much. The writing feels “simple”, like it was written for middle-grade readers instead of the high school readers the 17yo characters would attract. Also, I felt like the author was summarizing the scene for us before hand and then telling it to us again through the characters and at times it felt like I was reading a screenplay.

The horse factor: This one’s small, but it’s mine, dang it. I’m a big horse person. Have been since I was about seven. I know a thing or two. Not sure if the author does or not, but when love interest (See, I can’t even remember his name. Oh! Ryder), when Ryder puts Andy in an English saddle THE FIRST TIME HE’S EVER BEEN ON A HORSE, I almost threw my Nook across the room. If you want to know the specifics as to why, let me know and I’ll tell you. But let’s just suffice to say I’ve never seen a first time rider get acquainted with a horse in an English saddle.

(Somewhat connected, I’m a little disappointed that the gay love interest is a cowboy. Is that all anyone can think of because of Brokeback Mountain?)

The coming out factor: Here’s my confession: this is the first book I’ve ever read that had gay characters that weren’t the token “stereotypical” gay guys. So, that being said, I know next to nothing about this genre or what I should expect or what the standard is. So, my following comments may be rendered null and void in light of that confession. For the most part, being gay isn’t taboo anymore, but because my brain isn’t wanting to function fully right now, I’m going to use that word because that’s the closest thing I can think of to get my point across.

These kinds of books frustrate me deeply. It almost seems like quality writing is forsaken because the topic that’s being written about is taboo or “shocking” and therefore it’s okay. It’s not. I think with controversial books, quality is in even higher demand; otherwise it’s just another reason to write it off.

The lack of proper punishment factor: There may be a few of you who don’t agree on this next part, and that’s totally a-okay with me. But I’m gonna say it and say it loud. (If you don’t want spoilers, I suggest you stop reading now).


Here’s why. New Year’s Eve rolls around and everyone goes to a party in the park. Andrew and Ryder sneak off and share a kiss. Andrea sees them and freaks out. I don’t have a problem with that. I’d probably freak out seeing that, too. She demands to be taken home, refuses to sit next to Ryder in the truck (the three of them rode together). Andrew does the right thing and tells her to suck it up and takes Ryder home. All of that is okay.

When Andrea and Andrew get home, Andrea’s pissed and tells their parents everything. Proceeds to badger and verbally abuse her brother, in front of her parents. The mom starts crying, the dad is in shock, Andrea keeps beating the dead horse and Andrew runs away to Ryder’s house to get away from everything.
His parents end up handling everything pretty well , but Andrea refuses to talk to her brother about it, only sparing enough words to notify him that she’s not keeping his dirty little secret and says that everyone has the right to know about him and Ryder and she’s going to tell them.

Witch that rhymes with a B.

I don’t know of any sibling who loves the other that would cause that kind of hurt and spew that kind of hatred. I just don’t. The author did one thing right here: she invoked such a strong emotion from me, I wished Andrea were a real person so I could practice my right hook and upper cuts on her face. (ßWow, see! This is bringing it all the emotion back!)

So, until Andrew’s room can finish getting remodeled (he had been bunking with Andrea), he’s staying at Ryder’s. The first day of school comes and both boys are teased, bullied, and whispered about by classmates and friends. Andrew’s pushed around a bit, but other than that, the first day isn’t as bad as they thought it would be.
The second day, though, takes the cake. Apparently, Andrea had gone up to Andrew’s old best friend (I want to call him Peter, but I don’t think that’s right) and tells him her brother’s secret, that he’s gay and sleeping with Ryder, and to give her brother a hard time and teach him a lesson.


Seriously? You’re calling a hit on your brother because you don’t like who he is and you feel that he lied to you and betrayed to you because he didn’t tell you the minute he maybe kinda thought he could be gay?????

So, it’s lunch. Peter comes over to the table where Ryder and Andy are sitting. Andrea watches with a grin from another table. And Peter and some other goon start to pick a fight. It’s going down Ugly Ass Shite Road and who steps in? Andrea? Hell no. It’s some other girl, a friend that knows what’s happening is wrong. It’s only after that that Andrea freaks out and says, “Stop it! I only told you to give him a bad time and teach him a lesson!” (And yes, I wrote that in a whiny, annoying voice).

Okay, at this point, any logical and normal human being would be pissed at Andrea tell her to “Get the &%@$ off, you told him to do this. You’re my sister and you told him to hurt me.” Then I’d push past her, tell her she’s as bad as they are and proceed to give her the tongue lashing of a century that she’s due.
But I like to hold grudges. And I still think she deserves it.

And what really makes me mad is that Andrew doesn’t hold his sister accountable for her actions AT ALL. No, I’m sorry. She doesn’t get a free ride because she’s your sister. That fact alone makes her betrayal all the worse. She doesn’t get to say “sorry” and then the two of you get to skip through the snow holding hands singing “tra-la-la-la-la” through fluffy white flakes.


Okay, rant over. But I hope I got my point across. Anyway, my standard farewell applies here as well as to all other books: pick it up and read it for yourself. You may feel differently than I did.
But I’m not going to recommend this book to anyone. Ever.


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