Friday, April 15, 2016

No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista

No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista
Available April 19, 2016
Swoon Reads
Received E-ARC from NetGalley for review

Synopsis from Goodreads- It's all fun and parties until someone falls in love in this modern fairy tale from author Kate Evangelista.

Caleb desperately needs a fake girlfriend. Either he attends a series of parties for his father’s law firm with a pretty girl on his arm, or he gets shipped off to Yale to start a future he’s not ready for and isn’t sure he wants. And sadly, the last unattached girl in his social circle has just made the grievous mistake of falling in love with him. Fortunately, Didi, recently fired waitress and aspiring painter, is open to new experiences. As the summer ticks by in a whirl of lavish parties, there’s only one rule: They must not fall in love!

I feel like I have to find something good to say about the story before I take it apart. So I'll say I liked the ending. It wasn't completely expected or surprising but for a romance it was nice. Nice to see that Caleb wasn't scared of Didi's bipolar disorder. And that he arranged for their first date to be something that was so completely her interests even if it was unbelievably over the top. The divide in status between Caleb and Didi never seems to come up or make a difference which seems hard to believe when Caleb's house is described as being like the "Versailles" of the United States. And Didi and her mother choose between filling her prescriptions and paying the light bill. Tell me which fork to use and title don't come up at the parties she goes to, right? But, if this had been just a fluff book, I would have bought into it all. I could have let all of that slide.

So, stop reading from here on if you don't want to read me rant because I've had enough and I'm going to let loose this time. I have edited and edited and read it out loud and to others and I hate if I sound mean, I don't mean to be, but I'm drawing the line today.

I'll get right to the point with this story. It missed the mark. I think from the premise it could have been really good. A light fluffy summer romance. But then the author tried to throw in some issues, very weirdly. I don't know which pissed me off more as they both hit close to home. Mental illness is a disease. If a person has cancer you don't say they are cancer, you say they HAVE cancer. You see the difference in meaning? ! So Didi IS NOT bipolar, she HAS bipolar disorder. Everyone does it, I know, but it doesn't make it right. "I'm bipolar", she says as if that explains what? She is lesser than him? Let's get this straight once and for all- I HAVE BIPOLAR DISORDER,  or I HAVE SCHIZOPHRENIA, or I HAVE ADHD. People are not a disease. Give them the decency, even in books, especially in books, to call them by their name and not their disease.

Okay lets put the label aside. There is the stereotypical behavior that she gives Didi. I bet all of you think that people with bipolar disorder are awesomely creative and can only be so if they are off their medications.  I have yet to read a YA book that has written it any other way. Kate Evangelista certainly thinks so. But the writing is so all over the place that I couldn't tell if Didi was just effervescent on her own or if she was supposed to be manic. And when I knew Didi was off her meds and supposed to be manic, it wasn't her behavior that led to a problem, yet she is put in a psychiatric ward and drugged. I also question the drugs she was given in the psych ward, most people suffering from mania are not given antidepressants but Didi says she was pumped full of antipsychotics and antidepressants. Maybe I just have way too much firsthand knowledge of this stuff, but facts should be checked, STIGMAS should be erased and stereotyping should be replaced with something more creative! And making Van Gogh her favorite artist, please, could you get any more heavy handed??? Can Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf be her favorite poet and writer?

And that leads to my second issue, the gay friend/cousin, Nathan, who is so stereotyped it's offensive! He reads as if he is a prissy girl, always fussing with his clothes and not wanting to be mussed.  He is so good at planning parties, going way over the top, that Caleb's cold hard father jokes he should have Nathan plan his parties. He is also good at planning the Gap Year trip that promises to be epic with opulent hotels and side trips, details that take hours to discuss.  Why wouldn't he be? And, of course, when there is no time for Nathan to get Didi to his stylist, Reynaldo, Nathan can suddenly cut her hair, apply makeup and dress her, all after having just met her five minutes ago. He is also in charge of doing all the shopping for Didi's clothes for the events (with no input from Didi. As far as I can tell she wasn't even there) and is an impeccable dresser himself. And he talks feelings with Caleb, big tough, don't fall in love Caleb. He's pals with Didi even when she won't talk to Caleb, in a girlfriend kind of way. He wasn't a token character, at least. He was important to the story, but did Evangelista have to make him so stereotyped?

And I haven't even gotten into the story, I know! So, the story is okay until, Didi, who is beyond needing money, gets angry at Caleb when he buys her a prepaid cell phone so he can stay in touch with her during the summer for the parties. Sounds reasonable to me. She gets irate. Throws the box at him. Leaves him after having had an awesome day! It's like a slap in the face. And it isn't because of mood swings or anything, everyone else thinks she was right to be offended. I didn't get it. Why was she so mad? She accepts a basket full of art supplies from him by way of Jordan, the next day that I'm sure cost more than the cell phone. I never could figure it out.

The book suffered from an identity crisis, it was either an issue book or a fluffy romance but it couldn't be both and it fell flat trying to do just that. I think it would have done well as a fluffy romance leaving out the mental illness or just letting Didi have a mental illness and coping well with it. There's an idea!! Did you know some people actually take their meds and are creative? Did you know there are a lot of creative people that don't have a mental health issue at all??? Imagine that!! Yes, I'm being snarky. But I'm tired of seeing people with bipolar disorder portrayed as needing to go off their medication, life saving, life time medication as there is NO CURE for bipolar disorder, that people have to go off their medication in order to be creative. It isn't true. Stop telling kids it is true! Stop making mental health issues scary so kids are afraid to get help and are afraid of people with mental health issues. DON'T YOU GET WHO IS READING YOUR BOOKS??? YOU ARE WRITING FOR YA! THEY ARE SEARCHING FOR THEMSELVES IN THESE BOOKS. WHAT ARE YOU SHOWING THEM???

Ok, that wasn't just to Kate Evangelista but to every author that decides it would be fun to just through some mental illness in their book and make them the villain. This is MY blog and MY platform to finally say what I've been holding back. Get it right. Provide resources in your book. I'm calling you out on this shit from now on. You continue to stigmatize mental illness with the way you portray it in your books and for myself, my kids, and friends with mental health issues, I'm not going to take it quietly anymore.

Oh, and just do round out all the stereotyping,  did I mention that Caleb is extremely sexist when it comes to women. Not just the one's in his past. Of course, those he treats very poorly, like play things. He has rules and if they break them, he breaks up with them. No looking back and he really doesn't care about them. At all. He treats Didi in a very sexist way, too. He's jealous of his gay cousin! He thinks about her body all the time. It's kind of like being in the mind of a teenage boy, not that I've been there, but I don't want to be  He alternately blushes and then thinks about where he wants to put his hands (everywhere) the first time he picks her up for a social function. But he calls the older women of his social circle "biddies" and "sharks" and I just wonder if he ever looked in a mirror at himself.

So this book was a fail for me. Not for one reason but for many. I started out trying to be generous, but I couldn't find my way past the negatives. I will say that this is an ARC and the final book may be a little different, but I don't plan to check it out.



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