Friday, May 31, 2013

Stealing Harper by Molly McAdams

Synopsis: Bad boy meets good girl and acts like a lunatic. Good girl wisely dates bad boy's best friend. DRAMA all over the place. Seriously, people die and stuff.

Sometimes you wish you had never met a book. Like unseeing something horrible that is now seared on the backs of your eyelids so that you see it even with your eyes closed. This review is helping me exorcise this book from my mind, though, and I am so done with this sadistic author. I was by turns, engrossed, repelled, aghast, infuriated, and just boggled. That's a lot to go through for a novella of around 150 pages. I didn't realize this is a companion story to Molly McAdams' previous novel, Taking Chances, which tells this story from Harper's point of view (an excerpt was included in my copy). There were allusions to people and happenings that I believe are more fleshed out in that first book and made reading Stealing Harper feel like I started watching a movie from the middle. Anyway, it's not rocket science and I caught on. Who couldn't since this is hardly Romeo and Juliet. These kids make Romeo and Juliet, amazingly stupid impulsive teenagers, look like wise, dignified Nobel Peace Prize winners. I can only pray that people this neanderthalic exist only in McAdams's imagination.

Let's start with Chase, our tarnished knight. He's a senior in college in San Diego, but please don't ask me what major he is - the college setting was totally superfluous. He's also a talented tattoo artist and owns his own home that he shares with a couple other guys who share his taste in drink, surfing, and women. He's also our narrator, baring the depths of his soul in the first person throughout this book. Don't worry though, a kitten couldn't drown in these depths. Essentially, he is a commitment-phobic twenty-two-year-old who has never allowed a woman to sleep (as in slumber) with him. Not exactly Prince Charming but he's appealing in a devil-may-care bad boy way. Then, within the first few pages, he meets Harper, his sister's freshman year roommate. Her scorn of his promiscuity has him determined to impress her with his sexual prowess and then toss her aside on her perfect behind. He dubs her "Princess" for thinking she's too good for him. Then he finds out she's a virgin who's never even been kissed before and now he has to worship at her feet while flagellating himself for his previous life of debauchery. Oh, and he has also appointed himself guardian of her purity, so he warns away every male who breathes her rarified air. I think Chase is written how extremely romantic women wish a man to be - and not at all how a man actually is. Or if such a man existed, he'd be institutionalized or imprisoned for undoubtedly violating a protection from abuse order.

All this respect for her maidenhood doesn't stop Chase from touching her, otherwise manhandling her, and forcing her to accept his "protection." He thinks he doesn't deserve her (after knowing her for about five minutes of conversation) but no one else can have her either. (You know there are Law & Order episodes where people have been locked up for WAY less.) If this wasn't enough to turn my stomach, he rhapsodies that the only two qualities he sees, her "sweet and snarky" personality and her smoking body, will make her the object of every living straight man on God's green earth. But even as he denies himself this prize of womanhood, he acts in every way like he owns her, pretty much establishing this book as a modern day rape-fantasy romance. Harper will eventually realize that he is the right man for her after he emotionally beats her into submission, which he does by controlling her life as much as possible and mentally determining what tight clothes she will no longer wear in public. OMG, he is a complete psychopath. This poor girl has no idea what she's walked into. His obsession with her is overwhelming - it comes off the page like a miasma. It's actually the one area that McAdams does powerfully well. She has a knack for creating a lot of emotional tension and then jerking that chain after stringing you out. It's like literary sado-masochism to subject oneself to this kind of writing because in the end, there is no payoff of anything of value.

Maybe Chase's behavior towards women is enlightened enough for some readers, but his behavior towards his best friend and housemate, Brandon, is absolutely abhorrent. Brandon is, of course, as hot as Chase and an even better underground fighter (which Chase also does apparently - a gap from Taking Chances). Brandon also doesn't do the love 'em and leave 'em routine, he only has serious relationships and is a stand up guy - the best man Chase knows. They call each other "brother" and not in a bro-mance way. When Brandon takes up with Harper - after repeatedly asking Chase for permission since he can see Chase is already in madman/stalker mode - Chase becomes an animal with no loyalties or conscience. He tells Brandon that he won't go after Harper, thereby giving his blessing, and then does exactly that. He can't stop trying to seduce Harper and he baits Brandon into fighting with him EVERY time he sees the couple together, which is every day since Harper just about moves into Brandon's room and strolls around just in Brandon's shirts. I get crazy jealousy, but I don't get selfish stabbing-in-the-back vengeance when you created the situation. He has the impulse control of a five-year-old without a nap.

I haven't exhausted Chase, but I will move on to Harper. Her behavior makes no sense with her background - raised by scary, cold single dad in the Marines. She's doesn't go all rebellious and drunk and sleeping with everyone - no, she sticks to her values and doesn't let people push her around for, oh, half an hour or so. Then she lets Chase pull and push her to and away from him like a yo-yo because she's attracted to him. The girl lives in a perpetual state of goose bumps. I find Harper more forgivable because she is young and in love for the first time, albeit with two best friends, but given her strict upbringing, she has to know the difference between right and wrong better than this. She strings both men along while their friendship is destroyed and everyone is ultimately betrayed. The tragedy is that NONE of this is uncontrollable - the choices are in their hands, but they are too stupid, too cowardly, too immoral, too lazy, too passive, too psychotic, to do ANYTHING. Even a bad choice is better than making no choices, Harper. She's the center of this insane vortex and after asking for and getting plenty of time to figure things out, doesn't make any decision until someone has to hunt her down and demand one. Classy. Maybe even what happens to her (Is that phrase considered a spoiler? Because you so know what happens: the story is as obvious as the plot of an 90's sitcom or an 80's romance.) is understandable to a point, but her emotional range has the elevation of a Midwest plain.

So in summary, the dialogue was fun, the characters were strange aliens posing as humans, and the author likes to toy with her readers because having characters learn and hurt and evolve is too much work for her. Seriously, if there are many people like Chase and Harper in this world, humans are better off dying out as a species.

Rating: 0 (or 1, if there must be a scale)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh I loved reading this review way more than reading the book. I couldn't even get half way through. But i was curious since apparently the ending was devastating. Really? No one else found Chase and Brandon to be complete misogynists? Found Harper to be hormone-driven, with serious daddy issues, and please please stop these writers who seem to detail how self-sufficient and strong their heroine is only to have her under the thumb of the leading man/men. But seriously... the marines let teenage girls do drills with the squad?