My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: I think the biggest problem with this book was not simply the contrived situations for drama, but also the fact that Will’s narrative voice never seemed like a man would think, react, or deal with the situations thrown at him. The latter really threw me out of the novel more times than not, in addition to the manufactured drama.
So I think most of you know that I wasn’t enamored with Colleen Hoover’s “Slammed”, but I was at least able to appreciate certain elements of what it offered, such as the slam poetry sessions, the palpable background struggles of the characters in some considerations, and maybe parts of where Will and Lake’s relationship began, even if it felt overblown for the drama. I actually understood why people liked it, and could chalk it up to the book rubbing me the wrong way for several measures – personal opinion.
On the contrary, “Point of Retreat” was worse for wear and I couldn’t see many, if any, redeeming points to it. This narrative seemed long and contrived for conflict, and lacked some of the finer points of intimacy that I’ve read from Hoover thus far. What was worst of all with it though: having a male narrator who really wasn’t written like a male, but rather a clear Gary Stu projection by a female narrator. It threw me out of the book so many times. The stilted, static nature of the prose, especially in its transitions, made matters that much worse. I couldn’t pinpoint what the problem was at first, but after spending some time reading through it – I realized that was the major problem with the novel, among other parts of it. Male protagonists can be difficult to write, but I’ve read many that were far better written than Will’s narrative here (though to Will’s credit, he’s better written than Travis was in “Walking Disaster”. That’s not much of a compliment, sadly.)
To begin this review, “Point of Retreat” is told from Will’s POV. While I was actually looking forward to hearing his side of the story, his narrative – as it was presented, the result made me loathe the character that much more. There are the barest hints of his experiences with college life (graduate school) peppered into the narrative, but mostly this work hinges on the rocky relationship between him and Lake. I couldn’t believe how utterly insufferable some of the plot points were in this book, especially at the beginning. While their younger siblings remained cute (and I enjoyed their interactions), watching Will and Lake felt like hearing a thousand nails running across a chalkboard. Their intimate moments felt like a play-by-play instead of something meaningful in spurts, and in others, it was overblown in resonance. When they fought, it was mostly for stupid reasons. Nota bene: I’m not saying that couples don’t fight over things that may seem insignificant or may be the product of misinterpretation, but when you have a guy CUT HIS GIRLFRIEND’S CAR ENGINE just to manipulate the situation to his favor in order to talk to her, you have issues. MAJOR issues.
The aforementioned scenario occurs when Will’s former girlfriend comes back into the picture when they see each other at school. Will’s girlfriend made me want to throw my ereader because it was clear that she was a plot device meant to drive a wedge between the two of them. I saw it coming from a mile away and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at it. It was just so…silly. And then when Lake gets jealous over the measure, her reaction might’ve been palpable if it were more understated, but I guess the only consistent thing about it with her character is that it showed her immaturity (not very different from the last book). But Will’s reactions were not cute. I think on some levels it was supposed to be seen as funny in a chick-lit kind of way, but the way he reacts is more creepy and at odds than anything else. He keeps trying to force his hand to resolve the situation with Lake for a good while throughout the book. I would’ve appreciated more if it’d been more natural and he’d realized that she needed a cooling off period. But no, he cuts her car engine in one part of the work, and even gets the kids involved in deceiving Lake in order to get her to forgive him. I didn’t like the implications at all.
I also didn’t like the fact that they had a countdown for sex in this book. The whole idea around “Point of Retreat” was reaching a measure of intimacy and having one of them stop before it went too far. If these two are adults, why the aversion to having sex, why the build-up? Why was their relationship pushed so fervently in points (and I hated the fact that Lake’s mother’s memory was used as a vehicle to affirm their relationship, it wasn’t endearing to me at all)? A better narrative would’ve found a way to balance the emotional resonance and have the relationship develop more naturally over the course of time and circumstance and not put it on a so-called timetable. I didn’t think this narrative did a good job of both providing that balance and doing it in a way that felt more…real.
There’s a plot turn of sorts towards the end of the novel where the characters face a tragic circumstance, and it nearly pushes Will over the edge. I wish I could say I felt more for that particular scenario, but I didn’t think the emotional weight matched the event. Will’s mismatch in voice to narrator was most evident there, and I’ll admit it threw me out of the story to the point of arms length watching those scenes play through. I did feel a bit for some of the secondary characters, but somehow, I don’t think they were developed in this novel as well as they were in the previous one.
The ending was intended to be a happy one, but like the previous book, I found it hard to be able to root for the couple. Even for the joy of the occasion for what Will and Lake come to terms, I’d fallen off the bandwagon long before that point, sadly. I actually think this book had less intriguing scenes, less developmental potential, less realism than the former novel, and I wouldn’t recommend it, even for those who enjoyed “Slammed.” It felt like such a contrived set of events with an stagnant, unnatural narrating voice. I couldn’t get behind it at all.
Believe it or not though, I’m still going to check out the last book to see if it’s an improvement on this one. I hope it is, but I know Hoover can do better from what I’ve read from her thus far.
Overall score: 0.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria Books.