posted at Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 at 8:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
Published by Razorbill on April 19, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Humor
Amazon • The Book Depository
Meet Scarlett Epstein, BNF (Big Name Fan) in her online community of fanfiction writers, world-class nobody at Melville High. Her best (read: only) IRL friends are Avery, a painfully shy and annoyingly attractive bookworm, and Ruth, her weed-smoking, possibly insane seventy-three-year-old neighbor.
When Scarlett’s beloved TV show is canceled and her longtime crush, Gideon, is sucked out of her orbit and into the dark and distant world of Populars, Scarlett turns to the fanfic message boards for comfort. This time, though, her subjects aren’t the swoon-worthy stars of her fave series—they’re the real-life kids from her high school. And if they ever find out what Scarlett truly thinks about them, she’ll be thrust into a situation far more dramatic than anything she’s ever seen on TV…
My hopes were so very high for Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here. Like, it sounded so awesome and looks so fluffy and yes give. Have you ever read a book and it was good and did cool stuff and the subject matter was completely up your alley, but also it kind of rubbed you the wrong way? That’s me right now.
It’s not that I found Scarlett Epstein offensive or anything, but sometimes Scarlett’s voice really grated on me. I don’t really know why, and honestly it’s probably some sneaky self-loathing. For a lot of the book, her voice (which is very strong) walked the line between funny and obnoxious. At the start, it was more to the obnoxious, but as the book progressed became increasingly funny and enjoyable. Scarlett has a great character arc that’s worth sticking around for, even if she does grate on you at the start. Plus, even if I didn’t always love the voice, mad props to any author who can write a book that’s got such a strong voice.
Viewed from a distance, the book’s fairly similar to Fangirl, obviously. Scarlett prefers life in her fandom to actual life. Just like in Fangirl, you’ll even have chapters devoted to Scarlett’s fanfic. The romance and her circumstances are different though. Scarlett’s more harshly judgmental, more outspoken, and not as good at writing as Cath. That aside, she’s probably better read, something that didn’t really seem to fit with her vocabulary in her writing but whatever; one of my favorite scenes was when Scarlett gets drunk and tells off some middle-aged white men of the literary fiction scene.
The part I liked the least was definitely her fanfic. It’s a clear set up for a Harriet the Spy mess when it gets out that she’s been writing an impossibly poorly disguised version of real life at her high school (with her love rival made into a sex robot). Also, it’s just not good. I mean, I get that partly that’s one of the jokes, and that even someone with talent starts out with bad stories. Still, it’s not good fanfic, and supposedly she’s been one of the top writers in her fandom which it’s hard to buy based on this story. I mean, she named her main character Scarlett. She didn’t even TRY to change the names. This bothers me. The best fan fic in a thriving community would be WORLDS better than this, which is pretty insulting. I get that this needed to happen for the plot, but then she probably should have been entry-level fandom. Thankfully, at some point the story trails off a little bit, but oy.
I couldn’t really get on board the romance. She and Gideon were good friends as middle schoolers but you really don’t see much of that, and their interactions in the present are almost all hideously awkward. There’s a tiny bit of spark towards the end, but it’s still more quirky weird than believable. Given how she’s been acting towards him (and the incredibly creepy fanfic), it’s hard to believe Gideon would want her. It’s interesting how she spends the whole book confronting the fact that her crush isn’t who she wants him to be, but then that all gets thrown to the wayside. Actually, considering that Gideon’s supposed to be a comedian, he gets the shaft in general, since he is almost entirely unfunny in this book.
The highlight of the story was actually Scarlett’s relationship with Ruth, the old lady across the street. Ruth is a riot and any scene with her had me smiling and laughing. Ruth used to be a professor of feminism and now she smokes pot constantly while gardening. This relationship is strong and where the characterization shined. Outside of Ruth and Scarlett, I found most of the characters a bit weak but Breslaw did an amazing job here. Ruth is by mar favorite part of the book (who wouldn’t love the 70+, sasstastic lesbian neighbor?).
While Scarlett Epstein didn’t become the new favorite I hoped it might, but there’s some great stuff here and a strong voice (even if that voice wasn’t always my favorite). I’m glad I stuck with it, and you might be too.
“Are you . . . with someone? Married?”
“God, no. Single, dating.” Maura shrugs. “It’s so early to settle down, you know? There’s so much I haven’t done or haven’t seen. I still feel pretty young. Most of my IRL friends have had babies and it’s like . . . I feel like entire friendships have devolved into just . . . trying not to say that their baby is ugly.”
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy: