Excuse me a moment, while I get out my feminist soap box.
Okay. This is going to be a tricky book to review from up here and this is why: rape plays a significant role in the plot of this book and I’m not sure I was comfortable with the way that it was portrayed. This book doesn’t come out for six more months, but I am a little surprised that no one’s thought about putting the breaks on it given the recent troubling events in Stuebenville
I’m not giving anything away here – you know from pretty early on that our narrator, Shandi, conceived her three-year-old son through unconsensual sex. She never pressed charges because she was drunk and had been drugged so her memory was hazy. She lived in denial about the fact until the two are involved in a hold-up at a convenince store.
An attractive man named William is commemorating the anniversary of a devastating accident by trying to pick out laundry detergent at said convenient store and is also held hostage. He’s the one who lays out the gunman and puts an end to the nightmare scene. Shandi, feeling like she owes her life and her son’s to William but also feeling a little tingly in her lady bits, goes to visit her hero in the hospital and learns that he is a genetic researcher. She then asks him to help her track down the identity of the man who drugged her and forced himself on her at a frat party when she was eighteen.
There’s several extraneous plot threads including the fact that William may or may not be on the autistic spectrum, his over-protective best friend who acts aggressively towards Shandi, Shandi’s best friend who’s long carried a torch for her, and Shandi’s complicated family life. Those extraneous threads add alllllmost nothing to the book, which is strange because there was a lot of that in a relatively brief 240 page book. They're just too underdeveloped to work well.
I liked Shandi a lot in the beginning of the book. Joshilyn Jackson is awesome at creating three dimensional, complicated and imperfect women with a rock-strong Southern voice. That’s why I requested an advance e-galley of this book. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty
was a pleasant surprise – smart, well-constructed “chick lit.” When I thought this book was going to be about Shandi falling for the guy who saved her from the robbery and realizing it wouldn’t be a good idea, I was fully prepared to like this book well enough.
But then it turned out that’s not what the book’s about.
Joshilyn Jackson’s track record shows that she can write some pretty smart female characters and I think you could make the argument that Jackson’s trying to say that these sorts of situations are complicated and can’t be approached from a black-and-white standpoint. That is absolutely an important conversation that we ought to be having, but I was ultimately very uncomfortable with the direction that this conversation ended up going.
Honestly, there were times when it felt a little bit like rape apologism. I seriously doubt that was Jackson’s intent, but I do think that’s something that is easy to draw out of the text. To lay out exactly how would be to give away too many spoilers, so you can send me a private message if you’re interested in discussing specific plot points with me.