After a good book like Reconstructing Amelia I was slightly disappointed by Fiona Neill’s take on teen drama in the Internet era and the dangers of posting compromising material about oneself online.
While Amelia’s story was more focused on the aftermath of bullying, Romy’s story is focused on the how and why’s and the family relationships around her.
It came off a bit patronizing at points with clear line on how children should be raised, using the Fairfields as a liberal-hippy-loving family with no boundaries as the “monsters” of the book. Romy’s mother, Ailsa, is the good headmistress moving to a new town where one of her first hurdles is to tackle the sensitive video of her daughter giving a blow-job to an unknown boy while wearing school clothes.
She is always concerned about how people perceive her – from the effect her sister’s relationship with one of the teachers might reflect upon her – to how this new scandal can destroy her career. She spends more hours at work rather than with her children and her relationship with her husband is under tremendous pressure from a previous affair of his and her father moving in for a while after the death of her mother.
So – there is a lot of drama going on and this is one of the possible reasons why Romy’s good-girl behaviour gets taken for granted and not supervised further.
The why of the story
Romy decides to give the neighbour’s boy a blow job to help him get over his Internet porn addiction in a science experiment to get him to form new neuronal pathways associated with “good sex”. She decides to perform oral sex on camera and then get him to view the video instead of online porn when the need arose.
She likes him and her flowering sexuality found this outlet and one more which is a lot like the scene from “American Beauty” – exposing herself in the window of her room for him to masturbate to.
The how of the story
Considering her home situation and her unsupervised status, she goes to a party where she discovers the fact that her boyfriend was still watching porn, decides to break up with him, gets consoled by his brother, gets kissed in full view of her friends and former lover and the next day the blow-job video is online.
This gets treated as revenge porn and while both are minors, only Romy’s face is visible. She is shunned at school and her parents are appalled and go and confront the next door neighbours.
It turns out that Romy’s younger brother uploaded the video to the website thinking it was a video of the inside of the cabin.
At this point I was ready to throw the book into the burn pile. Deux ex machina indeed.
The way that Romy talks with the child psychologist afterwards shows a very mature young mind and well aware of her own sanity and mental connection – the same girl that was curled into a ball hugging her pillow a few days earlier. They never tell you what happened to the girl that fell from the tree when witnessing the kiss and betrayal of her best friend or what happened to the brother. It felt like the last part of the book was merely plastered on after the author got bored of the medical explanations of how a teenage brain works like.
Good bits The book takes some psychological facts and embeds them in the book – as to why women feel the need to please the man in a patriarchal society and also about the judgement-making capabilities of a young adult.
Bad bits Besides the ending which was pretty awful, there is an accent on the relationship between the parents which goes south after the dad cheats. If you want to read better stories about cheating men and women, I recommend “Life before Man” by Margaret Atwood which is a pure dissection of both sides of the story.
I didn’t really think much of Ailsa and Harry. I found them both hypocritical, deceitful and weak. I found Ailsa’s sister Rachel and her father Adam pointless characters to fill in the lack of storyline. I liked Luke, Romy and Ben though and found them genuine and likeable. I felt for Romy especially after the whole sex tape scandal and I found Ben, the youngest child sweet, funny and endearing. I didn’t think very much of Jay and I found him a bit cowardly how he didn’t stand up for Romy.
Some parts of the story were very gripping and intriguing and it was well written. I like books about secrets and scandals but I always felt that there would be something more but there wasn’t. I just felt that the story was too jumbled with everybody’s secrets and dramas and it kept going off into different tangents. I was a bit disappointed especially as the blurb made it seem like a thriller. I felt that the writer should have either stuck with Ailsa’s story or Romy’s. I don’t really get why the story was only told through their eyes and not the other characters.
Second: the book is a slow burner – there is loads and loads of talking which does not contribute to the plot (padding). I picked it up and put it down a total of 27 times (I counted!) as I could not get myself pulled into the story for long enough before being distracted and my mind wondering someplace nicer.