Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
RIPPED is the second book I've read in the REAL series, despite being the fifth and latest; it was simply the next one I could get my hands on after finishing REAL. And I think that was a good thing, even if it did spoil me for MINE and ROGUE, because other fans were upset simply because it was a pet of the series that didn't involve Remy and Brooke in the lead roles, and I was completely open to it. I liked Pandora's admittedly tiny appearance in REAL, and was happy to read a book with a heroine who was essentially the opposite of Brooke. (Though I like Brooke, too! And I seem to be in the minority on this one. I just like the range in the heroines' personalities.)
There were things I really liked about this book. Hell, it kept me reading like it was a drug I was addicted to, just to see what would happen! The style of the writing is conversational, and matches the thoughts and tone of the characters (I see from other reviews that this is a point of contention, and some people find it really hard to read,and just see some really crappy writing, but I like it. Admittedly, I'm not looking for Faulkner when I read a book like this, and I like the atmosphere it creates, like a girlfriend telling me excitedly about her sexual adventure.... Actually, that sounds kind of nasty. Scratch that.)
Pandora and Mckenna were in love as teenagers, and saw each other in secret until his father was arrested for dealing drugs, and Pandora's mother, the DA (dun-dun-DUUUUN!) was the one who prosecuted him. They were supposed to run away together after that, except that Mckenna never showed, and he shattered Pandora into little pieces. Years later, he's back in Seattle with his hugely successful rock band, Crack Bikini (yes, really), and Pandora, accompanied by her best friend Melanie (as seen in REAL and its direct sequels, as well as starring in ROGUE) comes up with a plan to... pelt him with tomatoes. Apparently, as bitter as she's become, she's not huge on the planning revenge.
Now to address the elephant in the room: Yes, the imaginary band is named Crack Bikini. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! Is it highly addictive swimwear? Or is the intimation a butt crack in a bikini? Who knows, the point is, there are plenty of really horrible and inane band names, but the idea that the most popular band in the country is named something as completely, hilariously awful as Crack Bikini is simply unheard of and ridiculous. Because, you know, obviously this is the only thing in this book that stretched credibility. Snorts.
It's a story about love and redemption. I liked Pandora. I liked Mckenna. Their banter was perhaps a bit too nasty from time to time, and it felt like the pacing of their relationship was off; really, the only obstacle in the entire book for them being together is her vacillating. And I understand it, to a point. She's a goldmine of emotional turmoil, that character, and one of my problems with the book is that that actually wasn't exploited to its fullest. She has an emotionally abusive mother, essentially, whom she's so afraid of as a child, she doesn't want to admit to her relationship with Kenna, knowing she'd try to take it away. She teaches her to bottle her emotions to the point where it's impossible for Pandora to tell Mckenna that she loves him, slaps her (I am 97% certain it says that specifically, that she slapped her) for crying for her cheatin' father after his death.
I am a believer that people can change, but her reconciliation with her mother at the end seems more like Ms. Evans is actually trying to bury the knowledge of everything she'd said Pandora's mother had done, instead of actually admitting her wrongs and trying to make up for it. And that the author also tries to equate Kenna's own insecurity with this emotional abuse and the trauma of him leaving her when she was (unknowingly to him at the time) pregnant. No, I'm sorry, it's not the same and his angst isn't invalid, but its not comparable, if just for the fact that it's internal, whereas Pandora has outside influence for her pain.
And speaking of, I didn't want to hear how Mckenna was angry with her. Angry enough to write a song that ripped Pandora's guts out. Because it just doesn't make sense. He actually left her, to shorten his father's prison sentence, a deal he made with her mother. and, at one point, he apologizes for being to chicken shit to come after her, and then, in another, he claims to have been intending to.
And here's my biggest problem with the book, the thing that lost it a star: the inconsistencies in the narrative. It's as if Ms. Evans had two, maybe three different ideas of what actually happened, and once she'd settled on one. she didn't go back to correct the other hints she'd left. So every time Kenna hints in the early book that she somehow betrayed or left him, I formulated a much more complex situation where Pandora's mother tricked them both. But, no, he actually just chose to leave, and left her on a bench, waiting for him for hours.
And then he decides to win her back, which, nice! Go for it! But he still seems inhibited by her OBVIOUS emotional problems (and when it's revealed that Kenna knows that her mother was going to do anything to keep them apart, it's kind of dumbfounding, then, that he rides her for hiding the relationship and being damaged from what her mother's taught her to be) and the reader's left wondering if maybe they don't make the most compatible pair ever. Oh, but she'll just get over it, right? I don't want to be cynical and scoff at a 'love will fix all' solution in a romance novel, but if you're going to deal with real issues, own up to them.
And then there was the character of Magnolia, who I'd initially assumed was Pandora and Kenna's daughter, who was essentially useless. Served no purpose whatsoever. And, again, I wondered if the initial conception was that she was their child, and she changed it and left her dangling outside of any important narrative.
Also? Kenna's father? Never mentioned again, after the thing with him breaking parole. Not even in the epilogue. Wow, that's sloppy.
And it seems as if I'm focusing on the negative, but, at the end of the day, it seemed sort of inconsequential. It bothered me enough to lose a star, but the book itself was still extremely fun, a sort of modern take on The Great Gatsby (with Gatsby as a ROCK GOD!) Romantic and sexy. I'm definitely sticking to Evans' work, in terms of reading new romance.