The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Hello, friends. May I present to you: your very first Friday bonus review. As I found myself finishing up 2021 with all my reviews scheduled out, but not able to start The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge just yet, I sought to find a place for these *extras*, and thus, you get bonus books for your weekends! I have a lot of bubbling anger about this one so just, strap in, I suppose.

After he hits her car on the way to their mutual friend’s wedding, exes Addie and Dylan end up sharing a Mini – along with Addie’s sister Deb, Dylan’s best friend Marcus, and a tag-along by the name of Rodney. The time spent together unearths some unsettling truths left unsaid, and slowly unveils the true end to Addie and Dylan’s past relationship.

I picked up The Road Trip a few months ago at Gibson’s. I’ve been wanting to try a Beth O’Leary; I know The Flatshare is super popular but I had never gotten around to it, and sometimes I prefer to just pick up their newest and jump in there (since, if they have multiple books, shouldn’t they improve with each one? Apparently not). I tend to dislike British fiction; I find the voices very pretentious and hard to like. But I thought since The Flatshare was widely loved here, maybe that was not the case…again, not so. This is quite possible one of the most pretentious books I’ve ever read – and I’ve read Shakespeare, so.

Never have I disliked so many characters in one book. Dylan, our love interest, is a pathetic wimp. He has no excuse for being so unlikable. A rich poet (I literally could not hate this fact more) cast out by Daddy and thrown around by his “best friend”, I took no pity on him and feel nothing of saying he didn’t deserve Addie. Marcus, I felt much the same. He’s an utter boob. I cannot find it within him to like him or even understand him, even if he did have problems of his own. He’s a gross misogynist and he didn’t deserve a single damn one of these women. Beside Deb and Addie, everyone else in this book is also not my jam. Many of them are rich trust fund kids making nothing of themselves, and not caring an ounce about it…so I can’t find within me an ounce of like for them, either.

I’m not big on second chance stories to begin with, but oh my God, never have I wanted two people not to be together more than I did Addie and Dylan. And apparently I’m not alone: some people loved this book, but many of those who didn’t picked up on the same garbled mess that I did. Oddly enough, some people wanted her to end up with Marcus, but please see my above comments on re: the rich boob with Daddy issues. NEITHER of them deserved her. Only Deb. The “Then” part of their story (The Road Trip not only has both perspectives, but alternates between their previous relationship, and their current predicament – Then and Now) was so cringey, I wouldn’t want a second chance for either of them. I cannot stress enough that I was not rooting for them until the last maybe, fifteen pages? And that’s only because she wrote in these sweet moments between them at the end. You fall into a bit when they’re all gushing over one another – but I still don’t like them together, and wish for them yet another split after these unresolved feelings are, in fact, resolved.

Every time I had to read from Dylan’s perspective, I instantly saw things differently, too. I just genuinely disliked him, and his view of things always tainted my own. With Addie, she was sometimes wistful and whimsical, but in the end I always wanted better for her. She was an actually likable character, like Deb, and even when she did things I didn’t agree with, I 100% saw her side, and felt she had nothing to apologize for in this novel. Dylan was the true boob here (oh, and Marcus too).

Okay, and speaking of Dylan and Marcus?? Every time it was just the two of them, I was picking up some serious A Separate Peace vibes. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly voiced my feelings about A Separate Peace on this blog before, but it is truly one of the most horrible works of fiction my mind has ever had the disprivilege of absorbing. And Dylan and Marcus are pulled straight from Phineas and Gene. There’s even the subtle vibes that they might be in love with each other, which O’Leary brings up through the other characters as well. Given the circumstances of this story, it’s wildly uncomfortable and extremely toxic…just like in A Separate Peace.

But my least favorite part of this novel, far and away, was the sexism, and despicable treatment of women as objects throughout this entire book. From start to finish, women are not respected or treated like actual human beings with feelings and experiences, and those who have them seem to be treated as a novelty (ie. Deb?? who is the best character in this whole damn book?? They act as if knowing what she wants and being unapologetically honest is some unique character trait, making her more masculine). Marcus is the worst culprit of all the sexism, but I think acknowledging that books like The Road Trip set feminism back like ten years is pretty damn important. Please, for the love of God, tell me they don’t actually treat women like this in the UK?! I really should have said my piece on this right from the beginning, because if you read the kind of books I do, this is what will truly be the instant turn off.

I just can’t even. I almost always have more to say when I’ve truly disliked a book than when I’ve loved one, but this just leaves me speechless. This was so profoundly stupid as a love story. If your own relationship looks anything like Dylan and Addie’s, then or now, please just strike it out on your own.

Skip this one! Totally hate it! 2.5 stars for Deb and Addie only! Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Riley Sager writes the perfect summer read: chilling, thrilling, and twisty as hell. Survive the Night was no different. I was still guessing and gasping until the last fifty pages or so.

Charlie lost her best friend to the Campus Killer. Maddy, a bright, eclectic character was the third victim of a serial killer that haunts Charlie’s campus, and it was just one too many losses for her already chaotic mind. She decides to cut her losses and share a ride home with a stranger, despite her boyfriend’s protests.

But things are not as simple as they seem. Despite Charlie’s efforts to be careful, she may just be driving home with a murderer…and it’s all she can do to just survive the night.

Like I said, the twists? Incredible. About halfway through I had my first “Oh my God!”, about three quarters of the way I was saying “Whaaaa-“, and within those last fifty pages I was saying “NOOOOO!!”. So it’s been a ride.

My only complaint – and it’s my usual complaint with Sager – is that some things just never add up. At first glance it’s a great story, but then you’re driving to work over thinking it and wondering why x happened when y eventually came to be. It happened with the last book I read of his, and the one before that. I actually spent an hour reading reviews and questions from Home Before Dark on Goodreads, lamenting with other readers the utter confusion but fascination with the book.

But, if you’re only here for a good time, I can’t recommend Sager enough. Clearly he’s good enough that I’ve picked up book after book of his, and they have that perfect summer vibe.

Charlie is an awesome character. I have a few issues with her, primarily derived from the fact that she was written by a male and her storyline is male centered and revolving around violence perpetrated on women. However, she’s still a badass. I think her emotions and what she feels in regards to her safety, her friend’s death, and her survival, are very raw and real, and make the story more enjoyable.

All in all, I highly recommend Survive the Night. It’s a great act to follow Home Before Dark, and I think Sager just keeps getting better. I’ll be watching for his next release.

Have a great week, fellow readers!