Saturday, 8 July 2017

Punk 57 - Penelope Douglas; Review

Book Details:
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (18th Oct 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1539427765
ISBN-13: 978-1539427766


“We were perfect together. Until we met.”


I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.
In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.
It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…
And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.

Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.
We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?
Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?
F*ck it. I need to meet her.
I just don’t expect to hate what I find.


He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.
Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something.
He could be gone forever.
Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.

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I don’t even know where to start with this book, I have so many mixed emotions about it. People really, really love it - just look at all the 5 star raving reviews, and I thought I would love it too. I liked it to some extent, probably the beginning handful of chapters - but alas, twas not meant to be! The more I read about Misha and Ryen, the more it seemed I was destined to dislike them. 

Misha and Ryen become friends as pen-pals, getting to know each other, finding comfort in each other, and love too. In the letters we see between them, they both come across as sweet, honest and gentle characters - which is probably why I had such issues with both of them later on. Aside from the letters, we see what Misha and Ryen are like in real life; Ryen being the personification of popular girl, high atop the social hierarchy at school, conflicted about the bullying around her as well as the ones she sits and lets happen. 

I hate bullies. I cannot stand bullies, and in this instance, especially given the stark contrast between the girl in the letter and the girl we see on the pages, I couldn’t for the life of me come to like or understand her. Yes high school is hard, it’s cruel and plays dirty - there’s many reasons behind Ryen and her behaviour while at least she’s aware of, which makes her feel an ounce of guilt - but it wasn’t enough for me, it wasn’t enough to redeem her character in my eyes. She felt really selfish and cruel to me, and I just couldn’t warm up to her.

On the flip side, we have Misha - who again, in his letters comes across as this wholesomely sweet, supportive and trouble driven guy. The revelation of the real life Misha is more understandable than Ryen’s change, but he too felt too mean, too horrible, too cruel in the way he acted with Ryen. Sure he stuck up for the underdogs, and I could find less fault with this character if the one we see in the letters to Ryen wasn’t so different. 

Together, these two were reckless and immature, cruel and not characters I liked in the slightest, which is such a shame. I feel like I get what the author was trying to achieve with these too - the ugliness and harsh reality of love and life, of high school, and that everyone has ugly and bad in them, some are just more up front about it. But personally, I feel like this same story and events could have been played out the same way, but with less harshly defined characters. 

The characters were probably my biggest gripe with this book and sadly that ruined the whole story for me since the whole book hangs on these two and their relationship. But the writing was gripping, a definite page turner as you scramble through trying to find out just what went wrong and where for this ocean of distance to open up between these two. I am sad that I don’t love this book like the way everyone else does, because it was promising - but it can’t be helped when you can’t connect with the characters and thus not get on board with the story. Disappointed, but I will try few of the authors other books nonetheless. 

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