Only fools fall in love…
After her senior year of high school leaves behind nothing but heartache, Olivia Beaumont is sure of this: She’s no stupid girl. She sets out for Winston College, promising herself that she will remain focused on her first and only love – astronomy. But all it takes is cocky sophomore Brax Jenkins and an accidental collision with a football, to throw her entire year off course.
A quick-tempered Southie who escaped the inner city streets of Boston to pitch for Winston, Brax is known to play way more fields than just the baseball diamond. So, when his name is drawn to take part in his fraternity’s hazing dare, Brax eagerly accepts the mission to take Olivia’s virginity. But he doesn’t plan on falling hard for the sweet and sassy Texas girl who sees right through his bad-boy persona.
As Olivia and Brax battle their feelings for each other, echoes of the past year begin to surface. A boy who once turned Olivia’s whole world upside down reappears, and “harmless” pranks wreak havoc. Pretty soon the aspiring astronomer is on the verge of revealing her most difficult, heartbreaking secret. All the while, Brax must wrestle with the irrevocable dare, and Olivia struggles against all logic as she does the one thing only a stupid girl would do: fall in love.
Stupid Girl has all the elements of New Adult fiction that cause readers to look on the genre negatively. For some reason I’d expected more from this one; despite the title, I thought the premise gave the story room to turn all the misogynistic clichés on their head, but unfortunately it was not so.
I don’t really want to bring reader immaturity into things, but I can see how some younger readers would be incapable of noticing all the problematic themes in this book and get swept up in the romance, and it’s a little worrying. Ever since Twilight, fiction for young women has been revelling in misogynistic glee, and if anything it’s only getting worse.
The story begins with our narrator being drugged and raped by her boyfriend. I thought it could have been handled sensitively, but instead the author immediately introduced our heroine’s two brothers, who storm the scene and do the ‘manly’ thing of beating the crap out of her boyfriend before carrying her away (while using endearments like honey). It immediately started that overtone of young women needing to be surrounded by ‘strong’ men, because they’re incapable of being strong on their own.
And then – after she is raped – her brothers give her a purity ring. It was so paternalistic and creepy I felt quite sick.
We jump ahead a year, and Olivia is moving into her university dorm. As soon as she steps out of her car, she’s knocked down by none other than our (‘hot’, heavily-tattooed) ‘hero’, Brax. He takes one look at her on the ground and starts kissing her.
This is sexual assault.
It’s implied that if he’d known she was a rape victim, he wouldn’t have done it. If someone could explain why it’s okay to assault non-rape victims, I’d like to hear it!
Soon after – and after kicking him in the balls and then realising maybe the assault wasn’t so bad because his tattoos are sexy – she asks him why he did it. Here are a few of the ‘excuses’ he makes:
“Well, I just couldn’t fuckin’ help myself.”
“And I’m not fuckin’ apologising for that kiss. It was a natural hot-blooded male gut instinct.” He shrugged. “Couldn’t help it.”
By this point all the other trademark NA clichés have already begun to appear. Our heroine has a magnetic pull, despite doing nothing to care for her appearance, and looking down on women who wear makeup and like fashion. She’s also a science genius (aren’t they all?).
When groups of other female students see her with Brax, they all glare at her and act mean – it’s standard for secondary women in these books to all be portrayed as ‘jealous sluts’. Apparently somehow that makes the self-insert lead female character all the better. Or something.
It was always so noticeable when girls flirted, and it always looked and sounded stupid and immature.
“Ladies,” he said. They all walked away, giggling and whispering.
“It was quite apparent I was having a good time, hanging all over Kelsy and acting like…” I shrugged. “Like so many other girls do at parties. Like a complete fool.”
“I know I’m atypical, Brax. Most girls my age are having casual sex like there’s no tomorrow.”
I’d like to remind you here that #1 A woman wrote this book. And #2 the narrator of this book is female. What’s with all the misogyny?!
And another NA cliché: right from the outset Brax has come up with a cutesy name for her that only he will use.
I had been thinking I might enjoy this book, so all this standard fare was a disappointment to me. However, the final straw for me was the way Brax’s accent was approached. I don’t know why someone from rural Texas would think they didn’t have an accent, but Brax is from Boston, and Every Time he spoke, Olivia repeated the words in her head, essentially making fun of his accent. It was represented on the page by the author writing the words phonetically, in italics. For example:
The way he said sweetheart came out like sweethaht. Pardon, pahdon.
The way Brax said fahkin’ yahd was kinda funny.
It went on like this nonstop to the point I was actually starting to feel violently annoyed. It was when Olivia (or Sunshine or Gracie, depending who is talking to her) mocked the way he pronounced Lagers (Lahgas) that I had to admit defeat. It was either finish the book or keep my sanity.
I wish I could say Stupid Girl isn’t representative of books in the New Adult genre. Unfortunately I can’t. This is almost entirely what NA is about, which is one of the many reasons I’d like to see the labelling dumped, and Young Adult and Adult returned to being the dividing names. All NA is doing is introducing a huge amount of stereotyping and misogyny into a genre that already has more than its fair share.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.