Review: Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn

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.

Review: Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer HoneybournWesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Published by Swoon Reads on July 18, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

As is almost always the case with Swoon Reads, Wesley James Ruined My Life could have been really cute, but absolute was not (best exceptions to the Swoon Reads curse: These Vicious Masks, Queens of Geek). The premise has the makings of shippy delightfulness, of the “swoon” the imprint promises but rarely delivers. Unfortunately, it’s the latest in a string of Swoon Reads titles that fail to live up to their promise because, rather than being edited into something good, they’re left sloppy and frustrating.

The main problem with Wesley James Ruined My Life is the heroine, Quinn. Now, I really don’t want to be that guy using the term “unlikable” to talk about a heroine, but I’m going to do it to illustrate how this book went wrong. The thing is that she should be likable, but her characterization is a mess, largely because the use of the premise is so ill-considered.

The idea of the book is that the titular Wesley James ruined her life for reasons that, first off, aren’t revealed for over half the book. This is mistake #1. Wesley moves back to town, and he tries to be friends with Quinn, like they were when they were kids. He’s nice and charming. Quinn’s friends and family all indicate that she’s being over-the-top to still hold a grudge against him for the thing. And, oh man, she is absolutely awful to him, as in spending the whole book trying to get him fired from his job, for no reason the reader knows. This is so messy, because, even if she has a good reason, the reader doesn’t know that, and she just comes off like a massive asshole.

Turns out, though, that Quinn doesn’t have a good reason. After she was mean to Wesley at his family’s going away party when they were kids, he let slip that Quinn’s dad had lost his job. Shortly thereafter, Quinn’s mom divorced her gambling-addicted husband. We eventually learn that Wesley hadn’t even revealed a secret he got from Quinn; he heard his parents talking about it and didn’t know it was a secret. This is such a weak explanation for why Quinn loathes this boy with every fiber of her being. Believe me, I know projection is a thing, but it’s not set up well, and it’s just so massively obviously not Wesley’s fault that I don’t buy anyone over like 10 really believing that, especially when everyone she knows tells her she’s going too far and being unfair.

For this book to work, Wesley needs to have done something convincingly bad. Something where, when you learn, you get it. Where it’s still not precisely his fault but he’s more implicated than in this scenario, and, if the book dealt with her dad issues better, it was clear she just didn’t want to be mad at her dad. I also think you need to know what he’s done from the beginning, so it’s not this perfectly nice guy being perpetually shat on by the heroine. Like, at one point, he comforts her when she’s upset after visiting her grandmother, and she’s rude to him and doesn’t let him know that grandma (who he was also close to) is having problems. She comes off like a horrible and stupid person, and I really don’t think she was meant to. All of this could have been fixed, and I would have loved that book.

The Tudor Tymes setting is the best part of the book, particularly the actor playing King Henry VIII. I’d have loved more of that aspect and less of the family drama. People are not picking this book up for a father who’s addicted to gambling AND a grandmother with dementia; they’re just not, and there’s not enough page real estate to cover both effectively. At barely over 200 pages, you pick one, and you try to do that right.

The romance doesn’t work because I have trouble understanding why Wesley would forgive Quinn considering that he now knows she tried to get him fired multiple times. Oh, and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that Wesley’s been pretty flirty while having a girlfriend the whole time. When she learns this, Quinn decides to kiss her friend Caleb who she is completely not into, initiating a love triangle of jealousy and awfulness and total unnecessariness.

Also sloppy is Quinn’s love of England. Her grandmother’s British, and she apparently only owns like three pieces of clothing that aren’t British-y, but aside from going to the “crumpet place” (I doubt this exists in the US) and eating British candy bars, she doesn’t seem to be into British stuff. The big conflict is that she won’t get to go to England with her high school band because she loaned her money for the trip to her dad who gambled it away. Except that a high school band with two brass instruments would absolutely not get to go on a trip abroad (and they’re not even going for a competition).

This book is a mess. It didn’t have to be, but it very much is. Structural flaws ruin all the potential it had. Yet another Swoon Reads book that is not worth my damn time.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:


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