Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Unexpected Everything » Book Review

I feel like the biggest GRINCH who ever wrote book reviews.  Because I did NOT like this book! THIS book! With the ice cream truck and PUPPIES on the cover! What is WRONG with me?!

Let me try to explain myself.

If I met our main character, Andie, on the street, I would not shake her hand.  In fact, I might even try to push her into a lake.  This character, our protagonist, was a distinct individual, but a really unlikable one.  She doesn't read fiction! Ever. At all.

I shook my head. “I don’t really read, you know, books.” Clark’s eyebrows flew up, and it was like he took a step back from me, even though I was pretty sure his feet didn’t actually move. “I know how to read,” I said, seeing the alarm in his expression. “I just don’t love fiction. You know, novels.”

“If you don’t love fiction novels,” Clark said, and even though I tried to fight it, I could feel a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth, “what do you read?” He shook his head, and it was like I could practically feel how baffled he was. “Wait, I’m sorry, but how do you not read books? Like—what do you do on planes?”

“I study,” I said with a shrug. “Or watch movies.”

To counteract Andie's nonchalant dislike of literature, she's given a love interest who is an author. Clark is very clearly inspired by Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon. He was a good character, a relatable character, a likable one.

Why was he with Andie?

Perhaps Matson is trying to make a point that opposites can attract. That you don't have to have everything in common with your partner to have a successful romance.

Whatever the purpose was, I found myself unmoved.  Part of me wanted Andie and Clark to succeed as a couple... and part of me wanted Clark to step out of fiction land and find a nice girl, a reader, like myself, to be with instead.

I kid, I kid.

Obviously, the whole book isn't just about romance.  It's also about friendship and familial relationships and how a girl grows up during a long summer.

Regarding the former, a large emphasis is placed on Andie's close group of friends.  At first I found their group text sections to be annoying, but I gradually grew fond of them, based purely off of how a character named Toby is dared to spend the summer texting, not with words, but solely with emojis.  Her encrypted, hieroglyphic texts were hysterically funny.

Also interesting was how Matson showed that a tight group of friends can be decimated, absolutely torn asunder, by romantic relationships and interests.  I found that to be very true to life, and although the drama leading up to that point was boring, I sat up and took notice when the meaning started to pour in.

Andie's relationship with her dad was also a nice point.  At the beginning of the book, Andie's father, a Congressman, loses his job due to a financial scandal.  Because of this, he spends all of his time at home and he and Andie are forced to reconnect and rebuild their damaged relationship.  The Congressman was a really charming character. I especially loved it when he helped out during Andie's scavenger hunt.

So now you might be thinking, Ellen, did you like the book after all?

No! I didn't! There were some great aspects to it, but I found my negative reactions outweighing the positive.

For one thing, I found that the prose style didn't agree with me.  It was wordy about minute details, which often had me speed-reading, something I also did while reading Matson's debut, Since You've Been Gone. And along with that, there's also just an element to the prose, one I can't quite put my finger on, that turned me off.

But mainly, it was my dislike of the protagonist, Andie, that made the book unable to steal my heart.

I think it's so important for a reader to connect with the main character of the book.  Not to 'like' the main character, per se, just to connect.  And many times, I found myself feeling disdainful of Andie, not impressed.

So anyway, I still feel like a big GRINCH.  And I'm well aware that I've written better, more coherent reviews.  But above all things in my criticism, I seek to be honest.  And even though I can't put all my thoughts into well-formed sentences today, this is how I felt about The Unexpected Everything.  

It was not a book without positive qualities, but ultimately it left me cold.

[rating stars="two-half-stars"]


  1. What a great review, especially since I've seen so much praise for it so far, it was refreshing to read a little constructive criticism. You make an excellent point. MCs can make or break a book and, if you are unable to really connect with them, it makes the whole reading process seem incredibly tedious. Sorry it didn't work out for you, though. Hopefully your next read will be better!

  2. It's sometimes funny how a super hyped up book can get that love or hate relationship. Don't feel bad you didn't like this, it just shows that not all books are for everyone.

  3. It always disappoints me when I dislike a book, that other reviewer friends liked it and I didn't. I love agreeing with people! It's part of my funny little nature!

  4. Yes! What's so weird is, I can love books with downright messed up and evil characters. I'm thinking of The Dinner, by Herman Koch. I know some readers disliked the book because the MC was so despicable, but I found myself connecting with him. It just goes to show how organic the reading process can be.

  5. Why Ellen whyyyy??? Okay I'm just kidding, I can totally understand your annoyance with Andie. I'm not sure I'd rescue her from the lake either ;) But I really love how she grows to be more mature and learns to let things just happen instead of trying to plan it all. At least you liked Clark? XD

  6. Ahh! I'm sorry! I HATE disliking books where other people liked them! But, yeah, I totally see your point. Andie DOES grow immensely as a character during the novel. And yeah, I thought Clark was a cool character. He kind of reminded me of how Stephanie Perkins spoofed Nicholas Sparks in Anna and the French Kiss. Like, you read the background deets of the character and you just KNOW he was inspired by a notorious author!

  7. Something is obviously very wrong with this person. And why do I want to read this book again?

  8. SERIOUSLY. I mean, I don't want to dissuade you from reading the book if you were planning to, but what kind of MC doesn't like fiction? No, no what kind of PERSON doesn't like fiction?!

  9. HAHHA! I know it's never fun to NOT like a book and then you feel like the black sheep, the lone ranger, the pink llama, whatever it is, I KNOW the feeling because I have frequently been on of those. (No literally but you know what I'm saying) I know the feeling of wanting to love a book and then hating it. I don't understand how it happens but I know it's good not to blame ourselves because not every single book is mean to create to us. ;) Better reading next time, lovely! <3

  10. Pink llama! Lol! But I wouldn't say that I hated the book. I just hated the main character and disliked the prose style. Everything else was .... good.