Two Star review, originally posted here on February 1, 2015.
Holy Jeebus this book was terrible. The main thing it had going for it was that I wanted so much to be done with it so that I could move on to my next book, that I managed to plow through it pretty quickly.
As I was reading, I kept kinda swapping between deeming it a 1 star, 2 star, or 3 star book. The 3 stars came somewhat early on when I was still trying to give the book the benefit of the doubt. A major problem I had was that I’d already heard so much about the book and have seen posters and trailers for the movie, plus I knew everyone else loved it (which means I had a bias against it because I usually hate what everyone else loves), all of which means that I was coming in with preconceived expectations. I kept trying to judge the book as though I knew nothing going in. These points were when my rating jumped to 3 stars, which to me is just-kinda-meh territory. But even these momentary 3 star ratings disappeared as the book went on because it was just plain shitty.
There was some stuff I liked; Amy’s diary was alright. I thought those sections combined with a handful of flashes to Nick’s narrative did a decent job of dissecting a pretty standard disintegration of romance over time. I think plenty of people, myself included, could relate to what appeared to be happening. And I liked that Amy was a smart strong lead. I mean, after that she just turns into a psycho bitch, which is a pretty cliché trope, but whatever, at least she (and Go too, I guess) were more than female window dressing.
But that’s about it. I think my main takeaway here is that this book felt like a NaNoWriMo book. Someone clearly put thought and effort into crafting the somewhat intricate plot and the whole he-said she-said storytelling device, and at the beginning they were giving the writing their full attention. Let’s overwrite Nick’s part with mega-flowery language! Let’s make sure Amy’s diary voice is as different as possible! Let’s really lay down these (excruciatingly obvious) clues! I could practically hear the author squeal with glee when we hit the BIG TWIST at the start of plot two. “Squee! I am so clever! I have a big plot twist!” And then the book runs out of steam. Okay, author, congrats, you masterminded the crime. Amy is super brilliant and twisted and meticulous and above all else careful. But then she goes to some cabins which are not actually secluded and she hangs out with a couple of complete strangers and is suddenly too stupid to realize that she should not give conflicting stories. And from there it feels like the author is winging it as she goes. “I dunno, I guess she can go live in a lake house or something? Sure, why not.” And then Amy is back, and the author realizes she’s come to the end of her plot but she still needs to write 10,000 words in 2 days, and suddenly I’m reading the most random steam-of-consciousness, make-it-up-as-you-go-along shit imaginable. The carefully crafted crumbling Midwestern setting fades away, and we are on the set of a soap opera. The side characters all disappear. The main characters change their feelings every couple seconds. Randomness ensures for several painful chapters. Motives are paper thin. Ugh.
Big problem number two is the above-mentioned BIG TWIST! I knew the BIG TWIST from maybe the 2nd or 3rd chapter. It was so incredibly obvious that to me the big mystery was trying to figure out whether or not we were SUPPOSED to expect it. Come on, people, Nick spends the entire beginning of the book being like “AMY LEAVES ME TREASURE HUNTS!” and “AMY HAS DEGREES IN PSYCHOLOGY!” and “AMY IS EXTREMELY CLEVER AND SMART!” and “YOU CAN NEVER TELL WHAT AMY IS THINKING!” and “AMY HAS SO MANY LAYERS!” and “DID I MENTION THAT AMY CRAFT PUZZLES FOR A LIVING AND THIS EXACT DAY SHE HAS CRAFTED ME A TREASURE HUNT?!” OF course Amy faked the whole thing. Jeebus. And of course Nick didn’t do it, but is still presumably a jerk because otherwise why would super-sweet Amy be framing him? I definitely didn’t help that the tagline I saw somewhere (movie poster maybe?) was something like “There are 3 sides to every story: his, hers, and the truth.” With the big twist being so obvious, but with so many people raving about how good this book was, I was holding out hope that maybe there was yet another layer to peel back. But nope. Just zany randomness. And BORING zany randomness. The first half was at least somewhat engaging, but the second half was boring.
tl;dr: Overrated. Predictable. Boring. Poorly-crafted.