Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

When you’re a stupid girl in love, it’s almost impossible to see the red flags. It’s so easy to pretend they’re not there, to pretend that everything is perfect.

You ever read a book that takes you back to your past and absolutely guts you? That’s how this book was for me. I read it over a year ago and have been thinking about it since. I’ve started this review a dozen times, but it was impossible to untangle this book from the pain of my own past.

So I won’t.

Bad Romance is about a girl named Grace who falls for a boy at school, Gavin, who changes her entire world — but for better or for worse? The book is about the abusive relationship that she finds herself in, and I’ve never read anything more true and painfully honest.

Grace is full of brightness and imagination. She’s fueled by dreams and passion that her precarious home life could never contain. Her stepfather and her mother are verbally abusive and she wants nothing more than to go far away to New York City and live the life she knows she’s destined for.

And then she meets Gavin.

Gavin, who is charming. Gavin, who is funny and understanding. Gavin, who has big emotions of his own. Grace is taken immediately. When they begin their relationship, she knows someone finally understands her. But it doesn’t take long for her to feel the squeeze of his controlling nature around her heart.

I’ll be frank. I saw so much of myself and my first relationship in this novel and that made it incredibly difficult to read at times. From the home life where Grace seemingly could do nothing right to the ways Gavin cut her down with the tiniest of remarks. But especially in Grace’s starry-eyed disposition that we see slowly dying out the longer the relationship went on. Right around the time that I’d read this novel, I found an old photo of myself just after I’d left the relationship this book was reminiscent of. I was struck by how small I looked. How delicate. How innocent. Why had I been so cruel to myself? I could see the weariness in my eyes, no doubt the result of the last few months of the relationship where I’d been told that I was worthless and that my partner should and would cheat on me.

I didn’t realize how much she’d cut me down over time.

Looking at pictures of myself at the beginning of high school compared to that moment just over a year later really reminded me how quickly and how easily our hearts can be broken without us even realizing it. Grace’s descent into pain and insecurity was all-too familiar to me. She’d gotten so caught up in Gavin that by the time she realized she was suffocating, she was trapped in Gavin’s misery.

You’re a maze, all high hedges and endless loops. I can’t find a way out, can’t see where I’ve been. It’s all running, lost in the dark of you. Trapped. Everywhere I turn is a dead end. I keep winding up back where I’ve started. 

It’s so hard when the person we care for is in pain, but even worse when you think you’re the cause of it. I truly thought I was responsible for her moods, for her anger, for her own insecurities. I was nothing more than a pawn in her game, and she adored playing. Because that’s what these relationships are about, at the end of the day: power. Gavin has survived a suicide attempt and this knowledge looms over Grace’s head when the relationship begins to turn sour. I have no doubt that Gavin did indeed suffer from depression, but I also know that he used his sadness to manipulate Grace into staying with him and doing what he wanted.

The novel is written between Grace’s accounts of the past and direct responses to Gavin as the relationship nears its end. It was so refreshing to see this format, because you’re given little snippets of Grace’s own power during her times of most pain. It’s like a reminder while reading that this is not the end. I thought it was a great way to keep the reader invested in the story while still giving the reader little breaks after being so wrapped up in Grace’s hurt.

The only complaint I had was that it seemed to go on for a bit longer than I would have liked. I understand that this is a precarious situation and things can’t be rushed, but I felt like I was in an endless cycle near the ending. On the other hand, this is also such an accurate representation of how tiring it can be when you’re trying to get out of something so horrible and are met with obstacle after obstacle.

This book was so gripping, emotional, and empowering. I found myself shaking at times and holding my breath at others. Even if you’ve never found yourself in a relationship like this one, I think Bad Romance is essential reading to understand the horrible intricacies that bring a person to their knees in the name of a blinding love. And if you have been in Grace’s shoes, I want you to know that you are worthy, and always will be, of so much more.

**Please be aware of content warnings for abuse, suicidal thoughts, and attempted suicide**

      xonikee1
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Little Moments of Clarity 🥀

Little Moments of Clarity 🥀

It happens completely out of nowhere.

You’ve been living in this horrible fog for so long, you’ve accepted it as your normal. Even when depression isn’t demanding every last bit of energy from you, dragging you down into the darkest depths until you’ve forgotten what light felt like on your face, you’ve grown accustomed to the gray that layers itself over everything.

And then, suddenly, it clears up, just for a moment. Just long enough for you to feel the ground shift and see the colors rush back.

Oh.

This is what happiness felt like.

It always happens almost too quickly for me to understand what’s happening. I hold on to every second of it before it slowly fades back into gray and I’m left with so many questions. Mostly, why? Why now?

I try to keep track of these moments, try to make sense of their patterns and purpose. Sitting in the drive-thru at the Sonic somewhere in Missouri City, Texas, halfway between a bite and a laugh attack. Standing on the seemingly endless steps that probably lead to a temple somewhere in Nara, overlooking the matsuri below me and scoping out the takoyaki stands under a sky blazing purple and pink. Feeling something dark peel away from me as I look at my boyfriend over a tiny table at Bryant Park while he holds my hand and tells me about his creative work. The peace that washes over me as we watch the sunset from the river that evening, the pinks and purples reflecting in our glasses, a New York City day dissolving into the tranquility of that moment.

Oh. I’m alive.

I think depression makes you painfully aware of the feeling of barely being alive, but it’s not so obvious as the moment you realize you’re here. I still don’t know what to do with those moments. I absolutely despise the sensation of falling back into that gray, slowly, slowly, after finally being able to breathe just for a minute. It feels like cruelty to have normalcy dangled in front of my face only to be yanked away the second my fingers graze it.

But I’m also so thankful for those times. Not only because they’re a much-needed break, but because it’s proof that there is more than this. That horrible place where mental illness reigns is not my only destination. I’ve seen and felt that clarity before; it’s only a matter of time before I claim it.

xo,
nikkee💌

September Wrap Up (or: how I managed to firmly avoid my reading plans)

September Wrap Up (or: how I managed to firmly avoid my reading plans)

You know those months where it feels like you haven’t read many books, but then you look back and you’ve read at least 10? Yeah, that was this month for me, with a total of 11 books. Normally, I’d think that says something about the quality if the books I finished. But overall, I did have a pretty good reading month!

heartstopper vol 2

I started this month with volume 2 of Heartstopper by Alice Oseman. To be honest, I should start every month with a read of one of these books. This was a little buddy read with my boyfriend (it’s becoming like tradition now to read these books when we’re together!) and just like the first book, it left us smiling super hard! This is a continuation of Nick and Charlie’s story. We get to see their relationship grow in this volume, as well as explore what they want from each other and themselves. I particularly liked the parts with Nick understanding his bisexuality and what that means for him. Nick Nelson, why do you always make me cry?? This was definitely my favorite book of the month! 🌈✨

the last time i lied

I continued my binge of Riley Sager’s books with The Last Time I Lied next on my reading list. My library had the audiobook readily available, so I listened to it on my commute home one night and finished it sometime the next day. What a fast-paced book! It follows a woman who is invited back to the camp where her cabinmates went missing 15 years prior, an event that has haunted her since and resurfaces in her paintings of the girls.

This was much more fun than Final Girls was to me. There were more characters to analyze and the setting allowed for more scares than the previous one did. Unfortunately, this did eventually lead to me feeling a but overwhelmed with the sheer amount of “twists” that came by way of accusations. Some leads were focused on for what I felt was too long, and I found myself feeling a little bit like I was being dragged along. One part of the ending felt like too much of an easy answer, but the very ending? I can’t say I expected that! The Last Time I Lied was fun step up from Final Girls, but not my favorite book of Riley Sager’s. Not like…

lock every door

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager! There’s something addicting about his books. I picked up his latest novel almost immediately via audiobook. Jules, our main character, has lost her job, boyfriend, and home within the last two weeks. With no family to turn to, she’s staying with her best friend when she sees the ad for a job apartment sitting in Manhattan’s most infamous building, The Bartholomew. There are certain strange conditions to living there, though, and with the building’s dark history, Jules may be in for more than she’s bargained for…

This book felt so different from the previous two! The chills felt more prominent and real. I was hitting pause on my audiobook every what felt like two minutes, trying to decide if I’d heard someone else in the apartment with me. I’d heard a few people say that this one felt more supernatural than the rest, and I completely agree! A good chunk of my reading experience was spent wondering “Is this… ghosts? This is the work of ghosts, isn’t it?”

The characters were all interesting, the plot kept me intrigued, and even though this was set mostly in one place just like Final Girls, it felt like more was happening than in the first book! Watching the mystery unravel was such a pleasant (and creepy!) experience and I recommend this book the most of all of Riley Sager’s work.

i'm not dying with you tonight

The Barnes & Noble YA Book Club pick for this month was I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal. Since I was hosting the club at my branch, I read this book in a combo of audiobook and physically. Since the story is about two girls who don’t see eye-to-eye caught up in the aftermath of violence, I was expecting an intense ride that left me gasping for air in the best way possible.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this book. While it was fast-paced, I always felt like I was stumbling behind and not given enough time to actually care about the characters and what happened to them. Conversations about things like racism were sort of rushed — which I can forgive, given the novel takes place over one night and there’s not a ton of room for talking — and we can only rely on the thoughts of the characters to lead our discussions. While this is fine, I would have loved to see the characters challenging each other more (don’t get me wrong, they did! But it still felt rushed and I think bigger & more nuanced issues need more page-time to really get a discussion going in the outside world). The book also ended so abruptly! I was turning the last page thinking “That’s it???”

The audiobook was the biggest reason this book didn’t work for me. The narrator for Lena was so over-the-top; it reminded me of a mom reading a picture book to a group of four-year-olds. While I’d definitely attend one of her storytimes, it doesn’t work for this book at all. The narrator for Campbell, in contrast, read with almost no emotion whatsoever. I might as well have been listening to a robot.

Overall, this book felt like the start of an important conversation that was rushed and got cut off. There was so much more to be explored, and it just missed the mark for me.

the babysitters coven

Thankfully, I was saved by The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams next! I’ve already written a mini review for this book which you can read here, so we can move on to the next book~

one true loves

Sometime during the month, Libby decided I was ready for pain. I had put some Taylor Jenkins Reid audiobooks on hold and forgotten about them, and they came in at the same time. I started with One True Loves, a book about a woman about to get married when she finds out that the fiancé she thought was dead after a helicopter crash is actually alive and coming back to her.

The first thing I noticed about this book is how straightforward and easy to read it was. It only took me a few minutes before I was completely wrapped up in the story and its characters. What I loved most about this book, though, was its exploration of true love and all of its forms. I could go on and on about how many types of love there are in this world plus their varying uses. It’s a conversation that a lot of people aren’t exactly ready for, or don’t see exactly eye-to-eye with me on because we’ve been so conditioned to believe that love is this one set thing. I’m glad TJR was able to explore this a bit in this novel! Also, I cried. But what else did we expect?

after i do

I started After I Do within minutes of finishing One True Loves. You know, the more I think about this book, the less I feel about it. It’s about a couple whose marriage has fallen apart, and they decide to take a year apart to figure out what their final decision will be.

If there’s one thing Taylor Jenkins Reid does flawlessly, it’s characters. I loved them all, even when I didn’t, and they all felt so human and real to me. I’ve heard a lot of people say they experienced this while reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (and I did too! 🙋🏽‍♀️) but I was happy to see that it extended to her characters who weren’t stars with explosive personalities. They made questionable choices (her main character in particular!) and mistakes, just like real people doIt was this humanity that made me cry during the end of this novel.

But as for the rest of it? Well. I sort of wished it would be over sooner. I was waiting for something to happen, but, it felt different. I usually love slow stories with characters as the main focus (my favorite author is Sarah Dessen, for goodness sake), but this was hinging on things that I felt could have been fixed so much more easily. Something just felt missing to me.

But…. I still cried, so…. 😅

a lesson in thorns

Oh boy. This book. Somewhat on a whim, I picked up A Lesson in Thorns by Sierra Simone. I can’t recall now what made me want to start reading it right that second, but when do I not want to read about a bunch of bi people who want each other?

I’ve seen almost everybody rate this book highly. I’ve heard a lot about the sex scenes in it, about the variety in couples and amount of people participating in each one. Color me intrigued. I was expecting it to be quite sexy and explicit, but what I wasn’t expecting was for it to be written so beautifully. Am I the asshole here? It’s not that I expected it to be written poorly; I’m just used to smutty romances being more relaxed and more of an easy-reading experience. This book, though… it wrapped me in mystery and a sense of magic right from the start. I think that might have kept me intrigued more than the impending sex scenes! (I said “might”. I know what I’m about).

anna dressed in blood

Sometime after that, I got an urge to read a creepy story. A ghost story would be the best choice. I adore books about ghosts! Somehow they’re scarier to me than the idea of a serial killer. I decided to listen to Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake all in one afternoon while I did some clothes shopping.

I wish I could say more about this book, but it ended up being the kind of book you read once and enjoy but then eventually forget about. The narrator for the audiobook paused in the strangest places in the middle of sentences. Also, the voice for one of the characters made it so difficult to take the whole book seriously! Not that it was a super serious book, though: despite the premise of a ghost that mercilessly kills anyone that enters her home, the book is surprisingly light-hearted. I think we owe that to our protagonist, a boy who has a good sense of humor and hunts ghosts in his spare time. The dynamic of the friend group that comes together as the novel progresses was interesting and fun, and I felt my heart break the most for a certain character whose backstory we see, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to have me requesting the next book in the series.

The last two books I read were both thrillers, and I wrote reviews for each of them! You can read my post for The Liar’s Daughter here, and for I’ll Never Tell here; these were both very quick reads that I’d recommend for this time of year!

»»————- ♡ ————-««

That’s all for today! What books did you read in September? If you’ve read any of the books I’ve listed, let me know your thoughts!

    xonikee1

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Top Ten Tuesday: Character Traits I Love!

Top Ten Tuesday: Character Traits I Love!

TTT-NEW

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. As I feel most comfortable with smaller numbers, I’ll be making a top 5 instead.

Today we’ll be covering 5 character traits I adore in books! Continue reading “Top Ten Tuesday: Character Traits I Love!”

Review: I’ll Never Tell by Abigail Haas

Review: I’ll Never Tell by Abigail Haas

“One moment. One picture. One glimpse — that’s all it takes to make someone think they know the truth.”

Spring Break is supposed to be the time of Anna’s life — until it’s the end of her best friends’. After Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself accused of the crime. Alone in Aruba, she must fight against everyone who believes her to be guilty, from the media to even her closest friends…

It’s been a while since a book sucked me in this way. It was a quiet sort of addiction; I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started. But let me go back to the beginning. Continue reading “Review: I’ll Never Tell by Abigail Haas”