Saturday, May 6, 2017

Punk 57 - Penelope Douglas

Punk 57Punk 57 was the April read for the Unapologetic Romance Readers on Goodreads, and while I finished it a bit ago, I just got around to writing the review today!

This is, I think, supposed to be some sort of young-adult erotica, which was kind of, uhm, strange to read.  The story follows Misha and Ryen, who became pen pals through school when they were in fifth grade and kept it up.  In their senior year, they meet at a party, but only Misha realizes it.  Then, following a family tragedy, he vanishes from their correspondence...and turns up at Ryen's school months later, for reasons that are actually unrelated to Ryen.  But in the course of being there, he discovers that Ryen isn't who he thought she was.  He thoughts she was some quiet nerd, but really she's a popular cheerleader who's going to prom with one of the most popular guys in school.  And so he decides to punish her for not living up to his fantasies and proceeds to bully her mercilessly.  Though Ryen isn't completely innocent and bullies other people, too.  But for some reason, she doesn't find Misha's bullying to be terrible, which bullying is.  She finds it hot.  But she still doesn't like him, until she suddenly loves him, and the two spend half the book hate-fucking.  Which is not not not healthy.

But there's the thing: Penelope Douglas is a good writer.  The underlying premise here is an extremely abusive relationship (until, again, it isn't, the odds of which are nil) but Douglas manages to weave her writing in such a way that it merely seems contentious, and the quiet periods come across as downright sweet.  I had to keep checking myself here, reminding myself that, as cute as snuggling was and as hot as the kissing at the car wash was, this was not a healthy relationship.  It was founded entirely on lies, both the in-person one and, to a large degree, the one in correspondence--which both characters held up as being some paragon of truth and realness.  The very fact that they hated each other and were still having sex is not healthy; it links sex in the mind to negative feelings rather than positive ones, completely undermining the point.  And their sexual relationship was very porn-y from the very beginning.  Ryen, for example, has had sex once before she meets Misha, a few years before...and yet as soon as they get together she dives straight into some stuff that I think many grown women would shy away from.  I mean...ouch.  And yet, again, Douglas' writing has it seeming like this is all cool and normal and healthy...which, it might be--girl has a right to pick her sex acts, after all--except it's again mixed with all the hate and bullying and awfulness.  It kind of feels like Douglas wrote this when everyone was YOLO-crazy and using it as an excuse to do things and pressure each other into doing things that they normally wouldn't.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book.  Like I said, the writing was good, and I like the basic premise of the pen pals meeting in person, and the bringing down of the high school bad guy.  But.  There's just such a toxicity underlying the whole story here that it kind of left me feeling slimy all over.  It portrays an abusive relationship as normal and healthy and happily ever after, and that is definitely not cool.  So, in good faith, I don't think I can really give this more than...

2 stars out of 5, and I'm a little uneasy about even that given the setup here.

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