This one was hard to get into. It’s the second book I’ve read by this author and I couldn’t finish this one. It has a lot of the same issues as the first one. The characters didn’t really develop and even though the book has teen main characters there was something even a bit too juvenile for the characters even with them being teens. I eye-roll every time I think about all the conversations I had as a teen because well, let’s not revisit my unenlightened past, but, considering the age of these characters and how they interact this seems even more juvenile than it should be. It’s only four years from 14 to 18, still, you definitely talk about the same things at 17 much differently than you would when you first started as a teen. Something about this feels like it hasn’t crossed the gap from freshmen to senior year.
That aside, if they are friends and go to the same school and live close enough for Jay to walk to meet Rocco then the questions Jay asks are odd. Like when he asks how Rocco is doing in school. They are sharing joints together and Jay even makes a comment they have the same history paper due, and how Rocco always waits till the last minute to do things. How could he know all this and not know how he’s doing in school if they are close enough friends to be sharing a joint on top of a roof. Also, his Nan’s caretaker says she didn’t know where he was but he was smoking on a garage-top on his nan’s property. Not the best of hiding places.
The entire roof conversation was odd. At one point Rocco chuckles when he says how did the weekend go with Jay’s nan, and Jay responds with don’t joke about it. So I’m waiting for some sort of insensitivity to follow but all we got was this chuckle and another chuckle, for all I know Rocco is well aware of how feisty his Nan is and finds it amusing which is a totally acceptable response but this one-off from Jay about not joking is not dealt with. So much in this opening chapter isn’t really dealt with. Like the inconsistency of it being the weekend and the caretaker only showing up five days a week so why is she there on a Sunday, and more importantly, who takes care of her on the weekends. Is it Jay and if that’s the case him being off on a rooftop getting high seems negligible.
There were other odd things like how the caretaker asked Jay all the right questions when he was about to leave later on. She was genuinely concerned about him and his Nan, and didn’t say or do anything inappropriate yet Jay was acting like she was weird and pushy and making him uncomfortable when he was the one being weird and then bolting from the house like she had actually done something off, which she hadn’t. Before this, his gran is snarky and this is acceptable considering she’s lived long enough to be this snarky, however, after all these jokes and conversation there’s one sentence along the lines of Jay being so good to her. She immediately sniffles, he hands her a tissue and then, in the same paragraph, she’s joking about her caretaker, whom she has many nicknames for, going to the kitchen for a snack. After all the humour one sentence makes her weepy and she barely has time to be sad before she’s cracking jokes again. Sigh. Just like with the first book I read things just seem to happen but there’s no real connection or reason to how, when or why they are happening.
Then he has a best friend who is just awful, and he doesn’t have anything nice to say about her yet she’s his best friend. I don’t even know where to begin with this relationship but he’s not that likeable either in the way he talks about her so I won’t even touch this confusing friendship.
When he comes home this same night after leaving his Nan and his parents are doing what adults do, he seems so weirded out yet gives off an impression like this has happened before. Honestly, I would’ve respected him more if he walked boldly to his room unconcerned and let them be embarrassed. Not his problem. It would’ve sold the awkward breakfast the next day much more if we knew they knew he heard and all three parties were conveniently not talking about the previous night. It would’ve been stupidly funny and a nice scene. As it was, the whole trying to sneak in and seeing his dad naked and so on just felt awkward instead of interesting.
Then, after the awkward sneak by, Rocco comes over. Which begs the question again if they are on friendly enough terms that he’s climbing up to his window and then complaining about how they should spend more time together, how does Jay not know simple things about how he’s doing in school. How was he telling Rocco that Rocco doesn’t really know him when they are friends enough for Rocco to talk about Jay’s boyfriend, no clue if they are still dating but Jay says he was the best thing to happen to him yet this guy, I read 66 percent of this book, does not make an appearance once so he feels like a thing just thrown into the conversation rather than a significant part of the story. Also, this conversation is weird too.
Rocco is obviously distressed which is why he’s out running and climbing buildings at 1AM, or 2, not really sure. Jay’s original anger is fine like ‘yo I’m trying to sleep what are you here for’ but instead of this panning out into something he’s just moody, Rocco is why are you moody, then he tries to leave and the conversation ends up being about Jay’s Nan instead and I’m like how did we even get here from Jay being angry that Rocco is here to a deep dive into his Nan’s health. Then it shifts completely into him being concerned about his friend being hot and sweaty and wanting him to lie down like he wasn’t angry and moody when he let Rocco in the window. Then, randomly, Rocco is all I want to spend more time together. He says this during or after a fist bump and they are locking fingers together like, you know, a couple. Odd after Rocco got so defensive about being accused of liking boys on the rooftop.
Then after a brief thought about how his parents don’t like Rocco, who they refer to as a friend he shouldn’t be with so even they recognise a real friendship is there which makes me think they do spend a lot of time together which again makes all their interactions up to here odd, he turns back to him and says they can catch a movie. This was confusing. When we left them they were interlocking fingers. I don’t remember them separating or being in a situation that required a turnback. Then the most confusing bit is Rocco saying ‘thanks for listening,’. Sigh. He didn’t say anything. Jay did most of the talking. What was he actually thanking him for listening to? Was there some big reveal that I missed?
Then, when you find out the next day that something might’ve happened he stalks Rocco’s social media because he is acting odd and texts him. Rocco ignores him. So we still aren’t talking about the thing he thanked him for listening to which he never said. Okay I reread it after this sentence to make sure I was right and I’m more confused. Assuming Jay goes to see his Nan at weekends, and school is the next day, it should be Monday. However, after the whole incident a full day of school happens, Jay goes home and another scene happens, and then, after this it’s Monday and another school day happens. This timeline is off somewhere and I couldn’t find where I missed something.
To break it down again, Jay goes to school with his dad driving, then he comes home and gets interrogated about ruined flowerbeds, throws a ball at his closed room door then goes to school in the very next scene and it’s Monday. These events, coming home at night with Rocco coming into his window, going to school with his dad literally the next day, and then coming home to interrogation and going to school in the next scene and it’s Monday seem off when you add in that during this he visits his Nan on weekends so was it not Sunday night before the first day of school? Was it really Thursday? And if so how is it Monday now where did the weekend go?
And, is the guy he meets in the bathroom twice stalking him? What are the odds that he happens to always be in the bathroom at the exact moment Jay is trying to check on his ‘friend’ Rocco. That and during the interrogation about the flowerbeds with his mother his mom says she doesn’t like him hanging out with Rocco, and he argues they are friends. If they are that close why is Rocco asking to spend more time together?
This review is long and I’ve missed a lot of odd incidents and plot inconsistencies, but when he says to his friend, I’m still not sure on this point, that if he doesn’t go to the police about the incident it means their friendship is over I had to bow out. Firstly, the friendship itself is questionable in its validity. Lastly, if it is strong enough that Jay can make this kind of admonition evidence of this isn’t shown or dealt with in the previous half of the book. Also, it’s way too melodramatic and insensitive to make this kind of ultimatum even if the friendship had been dug into and solidified. A lot about how Jay behaves just felt odd and I didn’t really like him much. The only one who was consistent was his actual bestie. She made sense and the poem she wrote was fairly decent, Jay of course hated it. And I didn’t really like her so it’s saying something she’s the best thing in this book.
Ultimately, there are a lot of inconsistencies and things that don’t fit. And, as with the first book I read by this author, I got the impression that things just happen and connecting them in a fluid way wasn’t the goal. The things the characters said or did were random and sometimes sentences were said and nothing around the sentence before or after explained or dug into why they were happening. And, as for the friendship, other than the first chapter, I use this term loosely cause it’s all page breaks and no real chapters just one long story, Rocco and Jay spend no time together to make the friendship or the romance I’m expecting to come, that hasn’t started yet in 66 percent of story, believable. I still don’t know if they have a real connection cause other than his parents not wanting them to be friends, him stating that they are friends, and his obviously real best friend who he doesn’t like saying it, and even the random bathroom guy accusing them, or at least Rocco, of actually being his friend and gay, there’s nothing in over half a book to physically and without all doubt confirm this friendship exists. It’s all hearsay. And then, after all of that their next on page encounter is a friendship breakup because Jay does one final thing that makes no sense to end the questionable friendship.
And, it just occurred to me, because of the timeline issues I’m wondering how the incident happened because, plot spoiler, if Rocco murdered his boss and that was why he was late meeting for their smoke, when exactly did the police pull him aside to investigate considering he was in school on the first day I assumed was Monday and the second day I know was Monday. Wouldn’t they have come to get him for questioning the moment they found the body? There’s no way especially with his gossipy friend and news in general that Jay wouldn’t have known this. Especially if they found the body Monday morning and had to come get Rocco from school or pick him up early at his home. Another part of the story that needed to be dug into to make this work that gets washed over.
When it comes to developing characters, having a streamlined approach to the growth and connection of them from where they are on page one to the final page, this book didn’t quite do it for me. It just felt like a bunch of events that were put together without digging into it or making sure that as each ‘chapter’ happened they stacked up to the previous one and led into the next. Or making sure that the things that happened inside the chapters made sense within themselves. All of this led to me being confused and constantly rereading things to see if I’d missed something and trying to make the pieces I had fit and connect and it didn’t lead to an overall good reading experience.
I’m just going to have to bow out from reading more from this author. It’s clear their books are just not for me which is an unfortunate case I went into this one with such high hopes, romance, murder, intrigue, it should’ve been a win. Unfortunately, it was a miss for me.