Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.
So, I thought this book was quite adorable, actually. I'm going to review it with reference to some of the more annoying NA tropes that this book did not display (or at least did not display quite so obnoxiously).
This was pretty standard NA fare: protagonists are two college-aged kids, it's a contemporary romance, everyone is very physically attractive, there is drama, angst, and the protags are "damaged." Within that typical framework, there's a lot of room for storytelling, though.
I am surprised that the reviews on GR aren't better. I think, though, that some of the things I liked about the book are things that other, more traditional NA readers didn't like a book. Because an honest evaluation of NA indicates that it appeals to a certain subset of readers who like angst and damaged characters. So, the angstier and more damaged the characters and their interactions, the better.
One of the things I liked about this book is that it wasn't an over-the-top angstfest. It was quite funny, actually. Chelsea Fine has a knack for humor. There were several moments where I laughed out loud at something going on inside Pixie's head. Example:
"You'd think senior citizens relaxing at a quaint inn in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona would be low-key and rather boring, but they're just as bad as college kids. they flirt and drink and sleep with one another, and it's just nasty. Entertaining. But nasty."
"I have this weird habit of saying "uh" before the word "boyfriend." I can't help it. It's like saying "Jiminy" before "Cricket" or "more" before "cowbell." It just falls out of my mouth."
(Maybe I am only prepped to like this character because More Cowbell is among my most favorite SNL skits ever . . . )
Another thing that I liked about it was that it felt real to me. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who might want to read it, but Levi and Pixie have suffered a real sadness, and they both know what it is. There is no "burning secret shame" in this book. The author hasn't manufactured a stupid, fake misunderstanding that could be cleared up with three words. These characters have suffered, and what they have suffered is something that makes sense. Their reactions to it, and to each other, make sense.
Two last things. One of my biggest complaints about this genre has been a cavalier use of current or historical rape and/or sexual abuse to create "just-add-water-damaged" characters and "angsty" relationships that require the magical healing powers of sex with a hottie to fix the brokenness.
Hallelujah. Not here.
In addition, another huge complaint I have about the genre has been the incessant slut shaming and girl hating exhibited by the author through her main character. Again, yippee. It is important to note that Pixie has a friend who is a girl. A close friend. Someone she loves, and who loves her, and who is supportive of her. Someone who is not slut-shamed endlessly even though she joyfully has sex with boys. Also, Pixie herself - not a virgin. And not ashamed of her lack of virginity, and wanting to have sex with a boy. Wondering, actually, what is wrong with her for her inability to connect with her boyfriend, not wondering what is wrong with her friend for not saving her precious V-card for an as yet unmet Mr. Perfect.
Was there an element of Levi restoring Pixie with the healing powers of his magical whang? Well, yes, of course. It's an NA after all. But, at the end, Ms. Fine left me feeling like these characters are on their way to healing not that they are healed, that they are resilient and, though they are still impacted by what happened to them (as they should be, because what happened to them is the kind of thing that never goes away) they are growing up and becoming whole.
It was well-written, frequently funny, and quite cute.