Then and Always: A Novel - Dani Atkins

NetGalley called this book Women’s Fiction, but I would shelve it in Chick-Romance. For some reason, I consider Women’s Fiction a notch more serious than this, but maybe that's just me. In any case, the “romance” part of that is not usually my thing, but I am on vacation, so it makes me a little more open-minded.


After I read it, I checked some reviews online, and there seemed to be a huge disparity in opinion, where people either over-the-top loved it, or just plain hated it. I would put myself right in the middle. For most of the book I felt I was reading a Bridget Jones Diary kind of book, where the offbeat girl is dating the gorgeous, too-good-for-her, (as she says, incessantly) guy. Parts of it were heart-warming and even fun. That is what I found difficult in the beginning, parts of the dialogue seemed so authentic, while other parts were like, insert cheesy romantic lines here. But to be fair, I don’t get these kinds of relationships anyway, especially when the men are shallow, arrogant, and yes, of course, cheating on you. She’s dating the jerk, so it necessarily follows that there is an incredibly wonderful, just as good-looking, nice guy who carries a torch for her. Explain to me again why this guy gets overlooked in these stories in the first place?


So, having said that, I will admit I was sucked into this book for at least the first half, though I did find Rachel’s self-loathing wearisome, and her popularity inexplicable. But maybe that’s because I didn’t really know her very well. Most of the characters in this book are barely developed. It’s almost as if the author sketches in just enough details for us to assign the rest in our heads from the random John Hughes or Cameron Crowe movies we remember. I’m pretty sure there’s a part for a young John Cusack or Matthew Broderick in here somewhere: the popular girl, the loyal friend who secretly loved her, the prom king who’s with the wrong queen, and the fun-loving girlfriend sidekick. Don't get me wrong; I've seen plenty of those movies, so I do love those characters.


After a while I got tired of the whole thing, but I had to keep reading because I was promised an awesome twist in the end. So, after another little while, I started to think to myself, she isn’t seriously going where I think she’s going with this, is she? Because that will totally ruin it for me. And guess what, she did, and it did. I finished the book anyway, and I wouldn’t call it a waste of time. I would consider it the outline for what could have been a better, more creative novel.