My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: To be blunt, I thought “So Much Closer” was rather mediocre in what it tried to put across, considering the heroine (Brooke) was quite insufferable for much of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I saw the aim of the novel’s thematic, and a coming of age story where the MC realizes there’s more to life than crushing over a boy and that being true to yourself is more important, but this book sent all kinds of mixed signals between that, some of which I outright did not like in their portrayal. John was pretty much one of the few saving graces with this book, and even then, like many of the other characters in the work, the development wasn’t nearly as detailed as it could’ve been.
Before I start this review, I want to make one quick note that might be a bit of a tangent, but actually relates to my experience of reading Susane Colasanti’s “So Much Closer”. You guys probably know that sometimes when I’m reading a book, my mind tends to link certain songs/themes with a particular work without really realizing it until after the fact. Well, I actually ended up having a song pop into mind while I was reading this, not only tying to the theme, but also tying to the title. It happened to be Alex Clare’s “Too Close.” It’s an awesome song and oddly fitting with the work, particularly with the lyricism in the chorus “I can’t lie no more/I can’t hide no more/Got to be true to myself.” The entire song itself is a story that cohesively puts across the feelings of the singer/speaker, the conflict he feels, and ultimately the resolution he takes.
It’s unfortunate that I have to say that Colasanti’s work isn’t so clear cut. It’s a YA chick-lit novel, sure, and rather falls firmly in that theme with some of the clumsy, klutzy actions of the heroine and her quest to get the “guy”. Yet along with that notation, it’s not only highly derivative, but sends mixed messages throughout the text. There were parts of this novel where I was laughing for quite the wrong reasons, because the flip side of that reaction coin would’ve been thumping my head against the table I sat while reading this.
So the story revolves around a senior named Brooke who’s in a bit of a rough space – her parents are divorced and with a notably strained relationship, but even further tied to the central conflict of the novel, the boy that Brooke finally gets the nerve to say she likes (Scott) is moving from New Jersey to New York.
So what does she do? She decides to uproot her whole life in her senior year, leaving her friends and mother behind to pursue the guy she’s destined to be with.
I was fine with that scenario because I figured it could go one of three ways, either she would get the guy she pined for, find another guy much more worthy of her affections or she’d have some measure of a self-discovery journey. This book was actually a combination of two of those scenarios, which was fine by me. A bit predictable, yeah, but the premise is promising just so as long as the development supports it.
The problem I had was the way it approached and eventually reached those points. If you’re familiar with some of Colasanti’s writing, she tends to touch on a lot of tough issues in a short span of time and depending on the matter, adds a fluffy kind of humor to balance it. Sometimes I think it works for the contextual focus, but other times it feels like too much crammed into one space and the emotional resonance doesn’t necessarily mesh. For “So Much Closer” – Brooke is not a likable protagonist and isn’t very smart at all, despite her proposed academic talents. She keeps alluding to the fact that in following Scott she doesn’t want to seem like a stalker, and that’s hammered in so many different measures when it’s obvious that she’s…well..stalking him. She moves to New York and then doesn’t even know if he’s attending the same school she is (which it just so happens to work out that way). At first, she seems to ignore all other relationships she could make at the new school, and neglects her old posse, all because she’s pining over Scott.
There’s quite a bit of girl on girl shaming to be had in this book as well (i.e. “I liked him first so you’re a traitor for liking him” and “He’s got a girlfriend but she doesn’t deserve him because I love him more! I’m going to show that he belongs with me” kind of scenarios.) It was so distracting, eye-roll worthy, and rage inducing. There were times I shook my head and thought “Please let Brooke invest in a clue at some point during this story.” Turns out that eventually, Brooke does have a coming of terms, and realizes her impulsive decision. She also has to come to terms (somewhat) with her parents’ divorce, which I don’t think ever had any closure to it, despite it being a heavy tie in with the thematic of the story. She also realizes she has to think about her future. If the presentation hadn’t been so haphazard, and a little more developed, this could’ve been a much better story.
As with some other Colasanti books I’ve read, the supporting cast of characters actually has more merit to them than the primary one. Scott, the guy that Brooke crushes on, isn’t actually that bad, and it’s refreshing that he actually points out to her “I can’t be who you want me to be, I have to be myself first” in so many words – which gives Brooke a good kick in the seat of the pants as far as a wake up call is concerned. John is a sweetheart, the boy that Brooke ends up tutoring and has his own share of likable quirks in the progression of the story. I also found that I liked Sadie, though I wish she had more scenetime and that Brooke hadn’t been so quick to criticize her in some parts of the story. The two characters that Brooke left behind in Jersey weren’t really developed enough for me to connect to.
In the end, I think my main problem with this book was Brooke’s dismissive, airheaded, nonsensical personality and actions, and the fact that the presentation in this is so jagged and contradictory that it was hard to get a firm grip on the ultimate thematic it was going for: being true to who you are, finding your place in the world, and realizing that the future doesn’t fall on affection for a single person.
Overall score: 2/5