And now for book #2 from last summer’s reading club! *trumpets sound* (This one is a long one – sorry!)
Blurb: Secrets. Alison Prescott has collected a boatload of them in her short lifetime. Moving to a new school in a new town was supposed to fix everything; however, when she meets a new set of friends, keeping those secrets might just ruin everything.
Chad Dourozette has the world by the tail as his crazy T-shirts proclaim every day, but Chad has deeply held secrets of his own. When Chad meets Alison whose life looks absolutely perfect from the outside, will he have the courage to try to win her heart, or will the secrets they both carry keep them apart forever?
Whisper If You Have To by Staci Stallings hit all my favorite YA romance tropes. I’m a sucker for the beginning stages of romances – where each side is uncertain how the other feels and that part was written perfectly. If I had any complaint, it would be that they got together too early so all the romantic tension was diffused for the rest of the story.
I loved the characters – especially Alison at the beginning. Alison reminded me *exactly* of myself as a teen – withdrawn and terrified of showing her true self to anyone. It made me think about how in fiction, characters often need big, cataclysmic reasons behind things but in real life it’s often the accumulation of tiny, small things. I also think it’s important to note (the book handled this well) that she found her self-worth through the influence of her friends but not through them themselves.
Chad, however, was a bit too perfect. (Which I’ll take any day over the recent trend in YA with bad boys as love interests!) I read my husband a couple snippets from the book and he was groaning at the perfectly sensitive guy, especially when it came to the physical turmoil. I noticed exactly one spot where the book slightly hinted at it for Chad (his eyes straying below her neck for half a second before he corrects his gaze) and I reread it to make sure it really was there at all. There was a brief scene where Alison climbed onto his lap in the car which surprised me but even that was treated much more innocently than I think was realistic.
The spiritual aspect of the book surprised me but I really liked it. It was similar to the warfare from Entertaining Angels (another book I reviewed previously), only up a few notches. I hesitate to say too much about the plot or risk spoiling the story but the characters deal with some tough issues and, overall, I liked the way they were handled. Plus when was the last time you read a book were teens actually turned to adults for help? That was refreshing, for sure. Although I was a little uncomfortable with Alison’s friend’s parents being okay with her changing clothes at their house all the time. Despite how they may feel about her conservative wardrobe, I would expect them to not support her sneaking around behind her parents’ back like that. Unless they were somehow unaware but I didn’t feel like they were?
There were a few flaws about the book that I felt are probably due to it being self-published. For one, the character descriptions: There are full descriptions of side characters long before a hint at Chad and then another 10 pages later finally a description of Alison. It really irritated me as I had one image planted firmly in my mind and then I abruptly had to change it. Especially since their being an interracial couple got a lot of focus later in the story. A few of the POV shifts were difficult to follow and there were several instances I had to reread a sentence due to odd wording. The book also felt a little dated to me – no mention of cell phones until a hike at the end, Chad pulled up Yahoo to internet search (I’m sorry but who uses Yahoo anymore? lol), Alison called herself square (how many kids nowadays even know that reference?), etc. I also felt like the book took a long time to end. I blew through the first half or 3/4 of the book in a heartbeat but then the story just kept going. I kept looking at the percentage on the bottom of my ereader and thinking what else is there? I liked wrapping up loose ends but it could have been done quicker.
One last thing & I’ll be done with my verbose review. I almost hesitate to mention this because it heavily tinged my enjoyment of the story and I hate to affect anyone else’s perception. But I can’t believe no other review has noticed this. See – I was happily reading and then got to the first partial description of Chad: “Chad ducked his head, sending his kink-curled dark black-and-bronze afro into his eyes.” I was trying to visualize each character so I racked my brain and came up with Corbin Bleu from the High School Musical movies. Then at about 30% through the book it suddenly hit me that Chad plays basketball, is best friends with the other lead player (Kyle), they are both the most popular guys in school, and he wears t-shirts with wacky sayings (which were referred to constantly). These all happen to exactly match Corbin Bleu’s character in HSM so the book suddenly felt like it might be loose High School Musical fanfiction and I couldn’t shake that idea from my head. And then I noticed that Vanessa, Kyle’s girlfriend, had “deep ebony hair and soft brown skin” just like Vanessa Hudgens from HSM. Even after I finished the book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and finally had to look up the names of the characters in HSM since I couldn’t remember them all. And Corbin Bleu’s character was Chad Danforth. *headdesk* I like fanfiction, don’t get me wrong – I just like to know when that’s what I’m reading. So my enjoyment of Whisper was tinged by my brain waffling between fanfiction/not instead of being able to focus solely on the story.
How do you feel about fanfiction?
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