(Thank you to the publisher.)
Published by: Penguin Group (ebook) & Berkeley Trade (paperback)
Easy by Tammara Webber
Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…
He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…
The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.
Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.
By now you've probably heard of Easy, whether on Goodreads or Publisher's Weekly (first book to combine Penguin & Berkeley; self-pub success, etc. etc.), or by word of bloggerly mouth. There is a tremendous amount of hype surrounding this novel, and it was good, but it was not without flaws either.
Where to start with this novel? For one, I don't think I can write a typical +/- review, because I don't think I can reduce the issues down to those categories...
As a New Adult / mature Young Adult novel, Easy takes place at a State college and deals with college-aged issues, such as rape, drinking, sex, relationships, classes, Greek life, etc. etc. As a senior in college myself, I can say that I fully believed in the setting that Tammara Webbber created. And the dialogue. It was crisp, and quite frankly, I could easily envision the characters she created having these conversations on my campus (though we do not really have frats/sororities here). The characters, too - amazing. Erin, Maggie, Kennedy - even though I did not know much of their pasts, each of these characters felt fleshed and real, and Erin in particular reminded me of a lot of my own friends.
The writing was also fantastic. Call me judgmental, but I wasn't sure what to expect. And I'm glad I hadn't judged overly, because everything flowed really smoothly, and the pacing was done well too, even though not all that much truly happens in this novel. (It feels like you are living in Jacqueline's life as she goes about her classes and whatnot so there is a lot of narrative and reflection on her past with her ex-boyfriend, etc.)
And I liked Jacqueline. I liked her strength, her determination, her kindness, and her confidence. Her vulnerability felt real, her mistakes especially so (like following her high school boyfriend Kennedy to college instead of choosing a college for herself). She grows a lot as a character in this novel, and I most certainly appreciated that.
The love story inspired mixed feelings in me. I liked Lucas, but his past was cliched and a bit predictable, and there was a part of me that had trouble believing in someone so extraordinary. Is it physically possible to hold that many jobs and still do well in school not to mention have a social life? Is it possible for one guy to be able to kick someone's ass, draw incredibly realistic portraits, have so many jobs, and be so amazing in school that you're a tutor who has the time to create worksheets for the other students? But even if I had a bit of trouble believing in that, god was Lucas crush-worthy. He treated Jacqueline with respect and care (minus the part where he lied to her, but they dealt with that, and it honestly made their relationship seem more real to me). He didn't push her, and their flirtation was fun to read. He's a strong, self-made man who's overcome so many difficulties and manages to not only provide support for Jacqueline but to grow himself, after his encounters with her. (Or so the ending hints, at least).
I especially appreciated the careful manner in which Tammara Webber dealt with rape. It was not glossed over. There were a variety of reactions among Jacqueline's family and friends, and Jacqueline had to deal with her own sense of loss and fear as she navigated college. I too appreciated how the love story highlighted that rape survivors can move on with their lives.
I think the rape got lost in the folds of the love story in the beginning of the novel - when it should have been most prominent. I understand Jacqueline wanted to forget, but I wanted to ask her why she trusted Lucas so easily. Saving you from your known rapist doesn't mean that this guy is stellar either - I mean, you were just assaulted by someone you knew; can you really trust someone you hardly know? Because of the plot of the love story, she really didn't know a whole lot about Lucas before she hung out with him. When she first sees Lucas outside of what happened to her, all she can see is her rape over and over again--how is it possible to forget that when looking at the guy? He may be good looking, but wouldn't he always be a reminder of what happened? I did not feel like the transition from seeing him as a reminder to seeing him as someone she wanted to get to know better (and not just because he's hot! and tortured!) was portrayed as well as everything else.
Furthermore, a lot of the times it felt like there was more emphasis on her break-up with Kennedy than her near rape. I'm not going to pretend I know what it feels like to be in that situation. I just thought, as a reader, that Jacqueline would be a bit more untrustworthy of men in general. One time she also mentions something about loss of confidence, but I found that contradictory with her behavior and thoughts.
Here's the issue, too. It's like the author could sense my uneasiness with Easy, and the trajectory it had, and had prepared arguments. Jacqueline talks about how she wants to forget, how little she knew Lucas, how conflicted she felt -- but I think it was just my experience as a reader to not be able to suspend my disbelief about the easiness of the love story after such an event. Especially after watching a performance on this very subject written by someone who was raped at my college. Especially after being informed of the very statistics Easy speaks of during residential adviser training. Especially after reading this article from an Amherst student who was cruelly mistreated in every sense of the word.
This is also summed for me in what Melissa Harris-Perry said about her experience. Still affected. I did not get the sense that Jacqueline was still affected.
Easy was also a bit too heteronormative for me, especially since it was a college setting (which naturally made me expect more). Yeah, her economics friend is gay, but one of Jacqueline's observations about Lucas is that he smells like male. I'm sorry, but what does it mean to smell like "male?" The frat boy vs. sorority part, and all the associated elements was a bit too much for me. That, I know though, is just me.
Don't get me wrong. This book was great, and I enjoyed reading it, and I hope that there are others similar to it soon to be released. I just don't believe others' claims that it's "the best book of the year," etc. etc.
Thanks to the publisher, I have a paperback copy up for grabs, if you are interested in reading Easy.