Initial reaction: I may end up bumping this rating to 1.5 stars, but I need to think on it. Some parts attempted development, but this feels like a very formulaic addition to the genre with little distinction.

Full review:

Yeah, I think more often than not, I keep running into NA titles that really feel like a paint by numbers display, and it’s really not hard to avoid doing this, so I find it frustrating whenever I come across a title, which has a decent or potentially decent premise, end up dropping the ball for execution on a number of levels.

Such is the case for Rachel Schurig’s “Ransom”. No, it’s not about a kidnapping plot, more like a self-contained love story about a group of brothers who form a rock band and the girl, a fan in more ways than one, who somehow got away because of a painful secret. Told between two perspectives, the girl (Daisy) is socially awkward on behalf of being brutally bullied in various modes, suffers panic attacks, and distances herself from her friend/potential lover as a result of the measure. The guy (Daltrey) is on the verge of burnout from playing one too many shows in a rapidly rising band for popularity.

I had trouble with this book from the very beginning because of the very inauthentic and awkward presentation of a number of things, including the bullying. We’re told that Daisy breaks ties with Daltrey without even so much as telling him why – a complete cut-off socially from her former life in traveling with Daltrey’s band. He’s devastated by the cut-off, and she’s trying to recover from severe social setbacks and panic attacks. The narrative did a terrible job of revealing the bullying (supposedly delaying the reveal for anticipation purposes, then info dumping it), social anxiety, and creating empathy for Daisy’s experiences. It made it seem like she made very ill (and arguably silly) decisions in a flippant way, rather than showing her emotional setbacks and breaking down. There are so many narratives that I could name off the top of my head in YA and NA that give a more realistic feel of the issues this narrative showed (i.e. see Jennifer Brown’s “A Thousand Words” and Robin York’s “Deeper”) that create sympathy/empathy for the characters while showing the same issues portrayed here.

I think Schurig attempted to develop Daisy’s ordeals as the narrative went on, but it was a rough measure because it was heavily reliant on cliches and very surface character development. Not to mention a very convenient reunion with the guy she’d cut off.

Getting into Daltrey’s perspective – I was very disappointed because I felt the presentation of his voice was very forced. His concerns were not, but his voice didn’t feel right for the character.

After a certain point, as the characters were going on tour, the narrative dragged its heels more often than not getting to some of the bigger/deeper plot points. Parts of the narrative repeated information that didn’t need to be repeated (i.e. in the trading of perspective points – Daisy would say one thing, and Daltrey would pretty much say the same thing. It would be different if they had something new to add, but it felt like a slog), and that bothered me for the length of the narrative.

I almost put this read at 1-star, but thinking about it – it’s not so much that I was put off by this read (apart from moments of usual slut shaming/bitch slamming seen in this genre) as it was that it really did not distinguish itself from genre cliches as well as the awkward presentation of events and details. It did progressively attempt to develop its conflicts and characters, which is something many NA narratives I’ve read fail to do. I did like that Daisy ended up coming to terms with her fears, but there was nothing for me to really hold onto in terms of the characterizations here because they didn’t stand out to me. They weren’t memorable and didn’t hit home as hard as I would’ve liked them to.

I’m willing to try another narrative by Shurig in the future, but I’m not seeing how this is supposed to endear me to the band Ransom or the characters within when they’re so threadbare and cookie-cutter, despite the well-intentions of showing their growth from certain, even significant, challenges. The presentation isn’t there.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.

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