This book just hit about every point of upset I can think of and it was poorly written to boot. Where do I begin?
I’ve read a number of stellar accounts on and from victims of rape in various literature – YA, Adult, etc. – even considering those where the main character was unlikable or expounding upon their grief in irresponsible ways or irrational lashes out at the world. But this was definitely NOT a good narrative in the least. This book upset me for all the wrong reasons, not only in the measure that this is a story where a rape victim heals from the power of “true love” out of the blue, but also falls in love with a guy who is just as creepy, scary, and at odds as the guy who raped her. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was classified as a New Adult work, but seriously? It’s a shame because I can honestly say that Ava Catori has the potential to do better from what I’ve read from her before. Her narratives haven’t always struck home for me personally because of the stylistic she takes on, but honestly – this is the worst I’ve read from her to date. In part because it had so much potential to be better than it was, and in part because the formulaic and problematic execution undercuts so much of the emotional potency and realism.
So, let’s talk about Avery. She’s trying to finish college, works at a bar, was raped by her stepbrother which caused her to move away from home because her family wouldn’t take her seriously. She hates her family with the power of a thousand somethings. I wouldn’t blame her in the least for being bitter for the brutality of the event (though honestly – I didn’t like the way the event or her sentiments were written here). I was put off by Avery’s strong hatred of men, but yet when Steel waltzes into the bar, her loins all of a sudden come alive and she starts doubting herself.
I suppose you could probably see where this is going a mile away. She falls for the football player, but Steel is pretty darned odd as a love interest. Between his heated stares and his odd interludes (including a switch from third to first person in the middle of the story from his perspective – what the heck was that about?) without proper transitions – I couldn’t really think or feel anything for his character, nor see Avery’s attraction to him other than the fact he bought her a pie, let her ride his motorbike, and totally goes gaga over him because of how hot he is and how she’s lost in the “liquid pools” of his eyes and “craving his manliness”. Seriously I cringed at both the supposed attraction and love scenes. They weren’t well written at all. Oy vey.
Steel has a past of his own since his sister was also a victim, but then the guy makes out with Avery, seeks out her stepbrother and pummels the guy without provocation. I figured the violent guy protector would come out at some point and I sat on my hands waiting for it (though mentally hoping it wouldn’t be as cliche as I feared – and it was.) Not to mention he was a super control freak who wanted to control Avery’s every move in a micromanaging way that was very, VERY unattractive. I kept asking myself what was supposed to be attractive about this guy and why? Ugh.
And seriously, when Avery could’ve pressed charges against her step-brother, she lets the case drop. Seriously? Because she justifies she wasn’t “smart” for reporting it right away and having “nothing between [her] legs” to where she couldn’t prove anything and it would be her word against his?
Excuse me, but WTF is that kind of message to send to rape victims? It’s hard enough for victims to be able to come forward and speak against their attackers, but for Avery to be so flippant and dismissive? I….I don’t have words.
And then the whole female hating female thing – Steel has a sister named Kira who’s supportive of Steel and Avery’s relationship at first, but then when Steel says he loves Avery, all of a sudden, Kira says that Avery “isn’t good enough for him”?
No, just no.
I read to the end, but honestly, I was too angry to care about anything that happened with the characters, even with their purported union and wedding.
If I were judging on the basis of picking up another read from this author again from this narrative – I personally wouldn’t. It’s a significant downgrade and does not treat its subject matter well at all and wasn’t worth the time taken to read through it. “Tough to Love” was offensive, unrealistic, and just cringe-worthy the whole way around.
Overall score: 0/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.