My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Initial thoughts: *sighs* I think I’ll start this reflection with a few positive notes. I really like the cover of this book and how it ties into the physical portrayal of one of the main characters. It has such a beautiful, tragic, whimsical air, that I expected to actually enjoy this read and was further encouraged by quite a few positive ratings for this book on my friends list. I thought this might be the book that totally turned the NA genre on its head for me after a string of utter duds.
I have to say that I was subsequently disappointed in this novel for several reasons. It may just be some very personal ones. I usually like romantic travel stories, and I should make it a personal project to find some of the older books in my collection that I read in the past that were far better than this read overall – because they actually did a good job with the coming to terms and sexy times in them. This one was all surface, no depth, and considering the portrayals of slut shaming, completely off the mark portrayals of mental illness, and one confounding, melodramatic reveal of a nearly terminal illness that I saw coming, but was in the measure of manipulating my sentiments with regards to the relationship of the characters of the book? I was not happy. Plus this book really just wasn’t well written and had so many awkward turns of phrases that it did distract my experience in more ways than one.
I’m not sure of the final rating I’ll give this yet, because I’ll admit it did have some turns where it caught my interest, but there were too many (and very many, I may say) things that hindered this work for me. It’s probably going to be 1 star.
I think J.A. Redmerski’s “The Edge of Never” pretty much took me to the edge of my sanity with respect to New Adult books. I really did believe this would be the book that ended my slump of picking up New Adult books that just didn’t work with me, I really hoped it would be as good as others had told me, even giving this high accolades as one of the better titles in the genre to date. And I’ll admit I suffered from a bit of cover lust when I saw this – it was nice to see that the young woman on the cover bears resemblance to the physical depiction of the main character in this work. I mentioned in my prenotes that there’s a bit of a tragic air about the woman on the cover, and I think the intention of the book was to show this young woman going through a series of dark turns.
It has an interesting enough premise – a young woman (Cam Bennett) who spontaneously shocks everyone she knows by leaving Raleigh, NC after a party hop gone awry, and takes a road trip with a guy (Andrew Parrish) who seems to live carefree and shows her a love that she’s never known in her life. But Andrew has his own dark spaces to consider and Cam slowly comes to terms with the fact that Andrew, while a man who shows her so many things about her being and helps her out of her “shell”, he still has yet to emerge from his.
Digging a bit deeper into this respective work, there were just too many factors here that did not gel with me at all – the story was so overblown, forced, insincere, and pretty much follows in the footsteps of many NA titles that tackle tough subjects in completely the wrong way – to the point of offense. I don’t understand how people couldn’t be offended to the point of oblivion with this book. I really don’t. There’s no real coming to terms for the characters here, there’s no real treatment for the issues they have to face, and for the record, I am really, really tired of the NA genre’s trivialization of rape, slut-shaming, and mental health or perhaps health in general.
The blurb for this might as well say this:
Depressed woman (Cam Bennett) goes party hopping with best friend and her boyfriend, is nearly assaulted by friend’s boyfriend who claims to have loved her forever. She flees wanting nothing to do with him. Cam tells best friend what happened, best friend proceeds to call her a slut (a term frequented throughout this book) and breaks off contact. Event lends Cam to flee town and meet random stranger (Andrew) who has a penchant for classic rock and sports an almost whole body tattoo. Some odd conversations ensue, some (really weirdly written) sexy times occur. Two fall helplessly in love and the power of Andrew’s love seems to “cure” her, but then Andrew not only has one tragedy to consider in his life but a secret that turns out to be nearly fatal for him (featuring a farewell letter that was practically ruined by one of the last lines) but oh snap – he’s okay! Happy times.
It’s so problematic that I have a hard time knowing where to begin. You don’t portray people who suffer from depression as “pill-popping” people who “need serious help” – I’ll quote that from Cam’s friend Natalie in particular (who irritated me a good measure in this book). And certainly, the love of a guy is NOT “just what” a girl needs to get over it. It’s such a disservice to people who actually suffer from this and I think that roughness, alongside the very heavy use of “slut” and pop culture name dropping made me wince as I went through the first part of the story.
Then, when Cam’s talking to another guy at the bar, Natalie’s boyfriend shows up, decks the guy and sends him off, then proceeds to assault Cam, claiming he’s loved her for a long time. Of course Cam would be upset, and have a hard time telling Natalie the truth. But when Cam does, what does Natalie do? Calls her a slut and “jealous” and basically throws the book at her.
How many times are NA authors going to use this trope? Seriously, just stop if you’re going to trivialize it in such a way that it’s so darned offensive. I’m not saying that such events don’t happen, but it feels like a conflict vehicle for the sake of conflict in the story, not for the actual weight of the matter that it is. I did at least appreciate the author having Cam’s internal voice trying to rationalize the fallout and the fact that Natalie was hurt, questioning the event, among other things, but even still – I felt like this information was told, not shown, and it had far less intimacy or impact for the weight of the matter than it could’ve had.
When it comes to Cam leaving on the trip and meeting Andrew, I’ll admit, I hoped the story would get a bit better after the rough start, but it felt like the story turned toward the worse. The bad writing and odd turns of phrases (“He crinkles his lips in thought…” “My eyes grow bigger in my face.”) was most noted here, even through the dual perspectives that the novel carries forth from that point – between Cam’s and Andrew’s perspectives. I’ll admit that some interactions between them had a charming note, but at the same time – Andrew’s a real jerk, and I absolutely HATED the fact the book makes it seem like Andrew somehow “saves” Cam in so many overt ways, even to the point where he makes note of it himself:
“I de-virginized your innocence, and made you more comfortable with yourself sexually. And that is so hot to me.”
I’m pretty sure if any guy said this in the middle of an intimate moment in real life, he would likely get his bum kicked out of the door. That’s not sexy, that’s degrading because it puts the female in a passive role and champions the male as her so-called saving grace.
And then Andrew mentioning, in what was supposed to be a farewell letter that “sex is great when you’re pregnant” and “Don’t feel bad for not telling me you loved me?” What kind of patronizing, odd messaging was that? It completely fractured any kind of substantial emotional weight that scene was supposed to have (well, that and the overblown, overdramatized play through of that entire scene, including Andrew’s seizure, which made me madder than heck in its portrayal for pure drama).
I think this could’ve been the kind of story that worked more if it was written by someone who could take these emotional/mental weights on, set the characters in rounder, deeper POV sets, and really bring to fruition the heavy thematics that the story frequents. And also it would’ve been better if it didn’t milk so many problematic tropes (slut shaming, victim blaming, health stereotyping etc.) in this genre that it seems to champion them. You know, I’ll give Redmerski credit for having some cool music references and maybe even trying to develop a coming-to-terms road trip story between lovers who *find* each other. But I have to say, it felt very underdeveloped, very surface written, cliched and plotted for drama, and did not deal with any of its respective tough subjects well.
Overall score: 1/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Hachette Book Group, Grand Central Publishing/Forever.