Size Doesn’t Matter (82): Thursday’s Children; The Great American Whatever

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.

Size Doesn’t Matter (82): Thursday’s Children; The Great American WhateverThursday's Children by Nicci French
Narrator: Beth Chalmers
Length: 11 hrs, 9 mins
Series: Frieda Klein #4
Published by Penguin Audio on March 29, 2016
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

The electrifying fourth book in the internationally bestselling Frieda Klein Mystery series

Drawn to brilliant and solitary London psychotherapist Frieda Klein, a growing readership is discovering Nicci French’s acclaimed series with each chilling installment. In Thursday’s Children, Frieda faces her most personal case yet when a former classmate appears at Frieda’s door, begging for her help. Maddie Capel’s teenage daughter, Becky, claims that she was raped in her own bed one night while her mother was downstairs. Her assailant warned, “Don’t think of telling anyone, sweetheart. Nobody will believe you.” Becky’s story awakens dark memories of an eerily similar incident in Frieda’s own past. When Becky is found hanging from a beam in her bedroom, Frieda sets out to find the man she believes is both her rapist and Becky’s killer. But confronting the ghosts of the past turns out to be more dangerous than she ever expected.

The Frieda Klein series is the only adult mystery series I’ve actually been following along with. Largely, that’s due to the fact that the main character is a woman. That alone makes the Frieda Klein series stand out among the grittier, hard-edged mysteries. Also, rather than being a cop, she’s a psychotherapist, which puts a fascinating psychological spin on everything. As anticipated, Thursday’s Children is quite good and reminded me why I am bothering to keep up, but it’s also not my favorite installment. There will be some untagged spoilers here, because I think the subject matter is important to discuss.

Frieda Klein’s just as excellent as ever. She’s cold and distant, which is something that’s hard to pull off in a character while still making them likable. Frieda knows what she wants and she pursues that tirelessly. She has very little time for people who get in her way or tell her that she must do something else. Though caring to those within her circle, she comes off as mysterious and intimidating to everyone else. She’s not typically “feminine,” but she also isn’t strong in a way that comes off as “masculine” either, which I think is why I’m so taken with her. She’s a strong woman, and she doesn’t concern herself with the trappings of gender.

However, Thursday’s Children felt the need to trouble her with them. In some ways, Thursday’s Children is a great character arc book for Frieda, as she has to confront past pain that she’s clearly not gotten over. Unfortunately, the authors have gone the hackneyed route: as a teenager, Frieda was a raped. Why is it that even when hard-edged mysteries have powerful female characters, there always has to be a rape plot, either in the present or their past? Sure, it puts forth a powerful emotional arc for her, and I do think it’s done well in a lot of ways; for example, her insistence that it’s okay for her to react the way that she has, rather than how people expect is awesome. Still, I wish they’d not gone this route. I also did figure out who the culprit was View Spoiler ».

That said, that plot line does dovetail nicely with the end of Frieda’s relationship with Sandy. There’s a lot of interesting psychological stuff going on there, and it does seem she ended it partially out of her fear of commitment, but it’s also because he crossed a line that was a dealbreaker for her. I like that she’s confident and sticks to her decisions. Also, I never really cared for Sandy or this book would have hurt because damn is he a creep here.

Despite my disappointment with where they took this book, I’ll continue with this series, because I think the overarching plot with Dean Reeve is fascinating, and I want to see what’s ahead for Frieda.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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Size Doesn’t Matter (82): Thursday’s Children; The Great American WhateverThe Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Narrator: Tim Federle
Length: 6 hrs, 33 mins
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on March 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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From the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Five, Six, Seven, Nate! and Better Nate Than Ever comes a laugh-out-loud sad YA debut that’s a wry and winning testament to the power of old movies and new memories—one unscripted moment at a time.

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.

Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

Tim Federle’s Nate books were sheer joy, and I expected nothing less from The Great American Whatever. This book wasn’t what I’d hoped in a lot of ways, which doesn’t mean it’s not good but does mean I found it somewhat disappointing.

My biggest problem here, and why I had an aborted attempt at the print version before finally managing to finish the audiobook, is that I just never really felt like Quinn was quite real. Federle’s got a major talent for dialog and humor, but something about Quinn Roberts felt so forced to me. The only moment I can specifically point to for why he felt off is the game of Celebrity at the beginning. Quinn claims to be horrible at pop culture on multiple occasions; he’s a classic movie buff, and he can only name directors. He references Marlon Brando later, and he constantly quotes movie trivia. Explain to me how he can’t think of classic celebrities for that game? Marlon Brando and Cary Grant (both specifically referenced later in the book) are both celebrities. It just felt like such forced hipsterness, all for the sake of making him terrible at the game.

Little things like that made it really hard for me to totally connect with Quinn as a character. I also just really didn’t expect this book to be so sad. The Great American Whatever deals with Quinn’s grief over the death of his sister. Federle does a remarkable job with that, and I did get a bit feelsy during Quinn’s fight with Geoff. Federle really nails their fight and those dynamics. The subplot of Quinn’s screenwriting is excellent too. Quinn has a great character arc, and I do enjoy the way that Quinn imagines his life to be a movie sometimes.

I thought The Great American Whatever was going to be a romance, but it’s really not. There’s kissing and even sex (though mostly off page), but he and Amir aren’t a ship of dreams. The romance is cute and fumbling, but not the epic true love stuff of most YA. That does make a nice change, and it’s so much more realistic even if I mourn the lack of SHIP.

The Great American Whatever is sweet, sad, and funny. It didn’t hit all the right notes for me, but the portrayal of Quinn’s passion for screenwriting and his emotional recovery following his sister’s death make this book stand out.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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