They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For me, that is exactly what went wrong with this book.
This is the blog entry I did not want to write and yet felt I had to. While I feel like my huge disappointment in this book is likely a personal problem and not entirely a reflection of the book itself, I also know I am not alone in my complaints.
I have not read anything by this author before, so I don’t know what she usually writes. I did, however, do my research after the fact and I noticed a pattern in the complaints.
Mrs. Spotswood’s writing was not the problem, nor does it seem to be the problem in any of her books, judging by a lot of the reviews I came across, the story was the problem and I will say this, though it hurts my heart to say it, the book was a huge missed opportunity.
I stumbled upon the Garrett Girls on Netgalley and was immediately interested, so I put in my request and was declined. I did not let that deter me though, in hindsight, I probably should have. I was dying to get my hands on this book, it was just screaming my name. I knew without a doubt that it would be a great YA book as it seemed to have a little of everything and so when I saw a copy at my local Barnes & Nobles, I knew it had to come home with me.
I really wish, it hadn’t.
For those of you who don’t know, the Garrett Girls is a YA book about 4 orphan sisters raised by their grandmother, 4 sisters who could not be more different, all in a different stage in life.
Des, is the oldest at 19, she’s the responsible yet naive one who graduated high school and stayed home to help Grams with the house, the business, and her sisters.
Bea is 18, fresh out of high school & college-bound, off to follow her dreams and work towards all the goals that her and her longtime boyfriend Eric, have set in place over the last 5 years, all goals and dreams she no longer thinks she wants.
Kat, is 17, a drama major, both in life and in school, she can be a little bitchy, selfish and immature but when it counts, she can step up and prove that she really does have a heart of gold.
And last but not least, Vi.
Vi is 15, she is a loud and proud lesbian who marches to the beat of her own drum and comes off as the most secure person on the planet even though inside she feels awkward and insecure, like most 15 yr olds. Vi is loving and considerate and the least selfish person in this book, which is very common with the youngest sibling, from my experience. And here folks, you have what should have been the premise for a fantastic coming of age, YA story about 4 sisters discovering who they are, who they want to be and how to face the struggles that life gives us all along the way.
This book had SO much potential. I know because I was actually interested in the characters enough that I was able to finish the book, but I feel like the situations, actions, and reactions, as well as the endless pop culture references, all felt forced. Almost like she had a certain number of clichés and references that she was required to hit by the end of the book.
In this book, you have a small town where everyone is just so welcoming and accepting, where all of the business owners seem to be females over the age of 50 [assuming the ages, since every business owner was someone’s grandmother] and when you need something that isn’t available locally, you, of course, drive 2 hours to a “small female-owned business” to support it, the owner of this business is, of course, a lesbian. You have a handful of not very manly men in this town that leave little to no impression in the story, one of which is bisexual and the other a photography nerd with 2 mothers. You also have the insecure player who needs to get around and last but not least, the perfect boyfriend. You have Vi, who is, our main lesbian character and her crush, Cece, the next door neighbor who may or may not be bisexual herself, and whose grandmother is a Hispanic Catholic who may be potentially homophobic.
You have a collection of references to things like Harry Potter, The 100 & Riverdale, the women’s march and a “Hillary Clinton-esque” pantsuit [because it can’t just be a pantsuit] along with a lot of overly stated feminist phrases like “We don’t need a man to change a lightbulb” and the difference between sex and gender… and none of these things, separately, are an issue, but when you take those details and add 4 different characters’ POV to a novel that is less than 400 pages, it was just too much and enough time to move the story along or properly develop of the characters. The story felt slow and forced while the romances felt rushed. The ending directly contradicts the title, which does not make sense to me, but at this point, it’s such a petty thing to focus on when the story itself has so many unresolved issues.
Mrs. Spotswood had a collection of diverse characters and yet she failed to give them a real voice. They felt predictable and one dimensional. The story never had any real conflict and the apologies [for the little conflict there was] were just way over the top.
I feel like she tried extremely hard to create a sort of LGBTQ+/Feminist utopia that just fell short. I kept reading in hopes of it turning around and getting better but in the end, there is only so much you can do with just a little over 350 pages. Sadly, this book will not age well.
I do agree with Vi, the gay community does not have enough representation in the world, books about gay characters are not exactly overwhelmingly present in the market and to write this book, and not fulfill its potential was nothing short of a tragedy.
Til the next book!