My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Pre-read: Holy crud, that blurb! I have no qualms saying that I’m intrigued to see where this goes. It has the potential to turn out towards something interesting if handled well.
*moves up on reading list*
Post-read: I’m only giving this book a single star as a formality. Zero stars would be too high of a rating for this utterly offensive, inaccurate, violence glorified, implausible horrible novel. I would rage quit New Adult after this if my patience wasn’t so firm, and if I didn’t have hope that there are far, far better authors writing in this genre than Ms. Workman. What on earth would make anyone think a novel like this was okay?
I’m going to start the discussion on “Touching Melody” for what it means to have false promises in the book you’re marketing. Whoever wrote the blurb for “Touching Melody” ought to be thanked for selling what probably should’ve been an interesting premise, if treated within any realm of responsibility. Granted, I understand others might think “Ehh, I could tell this was going to be problematic before even going into the novel – a girl falling in love with a guy whose father killed her parents? That’s not likely to end well.”
I’ll make an argument on Workman’s behalf for that, and it’s probably the major, if not only point of defense I’ll make about this book. An idea in itself depends on the way you carry it, develop it, nurture it for the conflicts that arise and the people involved at its core. This actually could’ve been a fine coming of age/contemporary romance as it was advertised on NetGalley. It helps that it has an uber pretty cover to complement it to draw people in, in addition to it’s premise. It deals with several tough subjects, and I expected it to carry the weight of its contexts with perhaps a statement on forgiveness, on morality lines, maybe even have a bit of a suspenseful/thrilling element that was plausible, mature, and kept my attention until the very last page. I had the expectation that there would be *some* sex or some violent aspects to it, but I thought it might actually go against the grain of what I’ve seen in this genre and actually handle it with good development. I also liked the suggestion that this would delve into the interests of the leads with regards to music and their college experiences. If anyone knows about how much I love anime series like Nodame Cantabile where it revolves around the characters as well as the music thematic, you’ll know what I was expecting out of this particular story.
This book did not provide any of what it promised, understatement. Matter in point, this book upset me so badly I seriously considered stopping reading New Adult all together. Almost to the point of saying “Look, I’m sorry, I can’t review this age group anymore – it offends me that people think they have to sell graphic, no bars held erotic sex with minors and advocate violence, including sexual violence with no consequence, development, or responsibility at all. I’m tired of it, I don’t see why other people aren’t tired or offended by it, and it’s not messaging that I want to support with my time, my money, or my resources. And I’m not buying the B.S. that comes with it being ‘just a story.’ It’s a milking of people’s suffering and it’s not a good marketing offshoot when so many strides have been attempted in YA and younger categorical groups to note that these measures are wrong. Even further, these aren’t things that even adult or erotic books would do, because at least they know the audience they’re writing for, and approach it with varying degrees of responsibility. That’s not the case here.”
But I’m not doing that. I recognize that even in the spectra of this age group trying to find its wings and with its quickly budding popularity, RaShelle Workman’s individual story, in itself, is not representative of the whole of the New Adult age group, and while people have the right to write about whatever topic floats their boat, I can simply put the book down, leave the author’s work by the wayside and seek better stories out there (or write them myself). I’m still searching for a story that I love in New Adult, and I’m not giving up on it. There have been stories that have come close to piquing my interest, but haven’t gotten over the hump because of flaws that I’ve seen within them and had problems with. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experiences, though.
In the meantime, Workman’s managed to convince me in one story – with it’s poorly surface developed characters, with its over the top glorification of sex, sexual and physical violence, implausible progressions and lackluster writing that I will never pick up another book of hers again, not even the other one I own by her (“Exile”). This book was that bad for me.
It’s interesting in the “Afterword” part of the e-galley copy I had, the author specifically mentions that this is an account of “fictional characters based in a fictional world.” Just because your characters are fictitious, it doesn’t absolve you from considering the real world implications that you establish in the story you write. Even fantasy, the genre, has ties to the real world that make it recognizable enough for readers to have something to identify with it. I felt no true love or coming to terms for ANY of the characters in this book, it was straight up, manufactured, appropriation of dramatic context and real world struggles that were used as manipulative vehicles for the sake of drama. I can’t even begin to say how bad these measures were handled. I thought about writing this review about a hundred different ways – rage mode (though I think I did that enough in my status updates on Goodreads), creative mode, or reflective mode. I ultimately chose the latter. I’m not even upset about this anymore, I’m just completely and utterly disappointed.
The author also mentions if I had a problem with the content that I should talk about it. Well, let’s talk all. I’m opening the floor.
“Touching Melody” is a dual perspective novel that heavily leans toward the narration of the female perspective character, Maddie. Maddie is a damaged young woman, and you can tell that in the narrative from the get go. She’s gotten tattoos over her body since she was only fourteen years old, and she suffers in the aftermath of the murders of both her parents. I’ll admit I was intrigued with her biting tone in the first chapter of this novel. The catch is that Maddie was a witness to her parents deaths and based on her observances and interactions, her best friend’s father was the one who committed the crime.
Kyle, the other perspective in this novel and Maddie’s best friend, is completely oblivious to this fact. They grow apart after Maddie goes to live with her aunt and uncle, despite Kyle’s letters trying to reach Maddie up to a point. Maddie’s aunt is quick to drill into her mind that since Kyle was a “murderer’s son” that he was no company to be around. Fast forward years later, and Maddie’s at college with no lick of seeing Kyle.
At least until they end up going to college in the same music program. But no, don’t grow too attached to the fact that this is a college environment or even with the backdrop of music prodigies. I’m here to tell you that the music backdrop was pretty much a non-entity except for some spot mentions that weren’t fleshed out. And considering Maddie refers to her teacher as “Bitchy Spears” – it’s more of a high school evocative environment than college.
Kyle’s introduction in the novel is made within the realm of engaging in a menage a troi. The sexual depictions, the drug use, and the drinking are all graphically shown in this work, almost to the point of glorification in points. But even with the offending content, I think the biggest factor in this that made it telling for the mediocrity of the story were that neither of the characters were fleshed out well. Practically every couple of pages after a certain point had Maddie instacrushing on Kyle, and debating in her mind “I can’t fall in love with him, his father killed my parents.” This fact was repeated SO MANY TIMES, to the point where it was overkill. I expected Maddie to be bitter and standoffish among other emotional turns, but there was no range to be shown in that other than the constant affirmations of “His father killed my parents, but I LOVE HIM.” Her body says go, her mind and heart say “no.” Meh.
Kyle’s pretty much the clueless friend who, while sleeping with his menage, insta-obsesses over Maddie. He also has a petname for her – ready for it?
“Freckles.” It’s pretty much used in the same frequency as “Pigeon” was in Jamie McGuire’s “Beautiful Disaster”. It’s a childhood nickname, and personally speaking, I was appalled at the levels this book went when examining the childhood relationship between Kyle and Maddie. From the fact that they made a pact to have sex with each other when they were only 10 or 11 years old to the lost letters that Maddie later finds that has a 14 year old Kyle objectifying her body to the point of visualizing her legs among other aspects of her body. I felt sick reading those parts.
I could also note how this book delves into just about every New Adult cliche there is, almost to the point of it being a checklist, but I’ll defer that comparison to touch on a few other things first.
I’m going to quote a telling passage on the level of what thematically this work sells in its messaging; this is from Maddie’s perspective:
“When teachers prepare you for college, they never mention the dark underbelly. They talk about the classes, finding a major, living on your own, socializing with peers your own age, and getting a degree. They don’t say anything about the parties, the drinking, the drugs. They leave out the boys, and the way our bodies thrum for more than books, studying and tests. They don’t tell us what happens at night, when classes end and real life begins.”
A more mature narrative could’ve carried some ideas in that, but at the same time, there’s a heck of a lot of generalizations there that I found to be perturbing. This passage came shortly after Maddie’s roommate, Gina, was (insinuated, repeatedly) raped/sexually assaulted and the idea was that if Maddie hadn’t been picked up by Kyle, she probably would’ve been raped by someone willy nilly. As for Gina, she doesn’t even tell anyone that she was raped, and while she tries to justify not telling anyone with generalizations that are noted in larger rape culture, the plot point is dropped faster than a hot potato, with no repercussions for the character or the parties involved with the rape/sexual assault. It’s like it never happened.
This book virgin shames, slut shames, and delves into familiar offenses in some measures of NA, probably even going one step further in some cases. There’s visions that Maddie has of Kyle dominating her – some graphic to the point of overemphasizing (and demonizing) “kink” and in the measure of being tied to a bed, spreading her legs, “nothing but bare air caressing the places [she] didn’t dare to touch”, all the while noting that Kyle might be a violent person who may still be bent on killing her.
Mental illness is also horribly portrayed in this with generalizations about Maddie’s therapist even knowing that Kyle’s father might’ve been involved in Maddie’s parents’s deaths. At which point I couldn’t help but ask “She’s a professional, why the heck isn’t she getting someone in law enforcement involved?” This whole narrative emphasized all of these horrible things happening to the characters, but no one says a darned thing about them or rises up to the oppression, hurt, or shame.
It gets worse when the narrative approaches its end and the facts are revealed revolving around the truth of Maddie’s parents’ deaths. If my suspension of disbelief wasn’t gone before that point, it certainly flew out the window afterward, considering that Kyle’s cousin Evan not only verbally threatened Maddie, but he also beat her senseless and left her standing in the middle of an alley where all of her stuff was left by the wayside.
WTH?!!!! Evan also threatens to kill Maddie, her remaining family, and even Kyle if she tells anyone who beat her and what she knows.
And to add insult to injury, in one scene where Maddie confronts Evan and Kyle with fear following the aforementioned scene, Kyle thinks that Maddie’s being “hot and cold” and dismisses her feelings DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE KNOWS SHE THINKS HIS FATHER KILLED HER PARENTS. He thinks that she should *get over it* and that bad stuff happens to anybody.
I couldn’t at that point. I was so upset and pretty much had every mental thought oriented for him to screw himself. But things delve into the more implausible after that point, and with haphazard scenes of peril, violence, and instaloving, the story progresses to a somewhat happy ending when it’s all said and done.
Nothing about this respective story was realistic. Nothing about this story convinced me of a love story that I could root for, and the overglorification of so many problematic elements in NA in addition to the violence and sex with no repercussions or realism made me close my digital book with utter disgust.
I would not recommend this story to anyone, and I’ll leave it at that.
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher All Night Reads.