Review: True by Erin McCarthy

May 7, 2013 ARC Challenge, Book Reviews 2 ★★★

Review: True by Erin McCarthyTrue by Erin McCarthy
Published by Penguin on May 7th 2013
Pages: 238
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley

When Rory Macintosh’s roommates find out that their studious and shy friend has never been with a guy, they decide that, as an act of kindness they’ll help her lose her virginity by hiring confident, tattooed bad boy Tyler Mann to do the job…unbeknownst to Rory.
Tyler knows he’s not good enough for Rory. She’s smart, doctor smart, while he’s barely scraping by at his EMT program, hoping to pull his younger brothers out of the hell their druggy mother has left them in. But he can’t resist taking up her roommates on an opportunity to get to know her better. There’s something about her honesty that keeps him coming back when he knows he shouldn’t…
Torn between common sense and desire, the two find themselves caught up in a passionate relationship. But when Tyler’s broken family threatens to destroy his future, and hers, Rory will need to decide whether to cut her ties to his risky world or follow her heart, no matter what the cost…

This book and I did not get off to the best of starts. As we got to know each other we quickly fell into a love/hate relationship, mostly me loving to hate it and hating that I secretly loved it. Despite the many issues I had with this book I must applaud it for being “thought-provoking” and compelling and not shying away from the hard issues because I could not put it down and overall we ended up parting ways liking each other but glad to see the backs of each other. We may smile and wave in a book shop in the future but honestly we’re looking for different things so it could never have really worked out.

True is the story of Rory, a sweet, shy intelligent science major, who has never really been the social butterfly, preferring to hang out with her widower father before coming to college and hanging out with her room-mates Kylie and Jessica who are polar opposites. She’s never been big into relationships and is still a virgin, shocker! Seriously though, what’s the rush? I’ll get into this later.

I need to run through the first chapter as the following incident is handled in a disturbing way that I feel was brushed aside too quickly in the book and it needs more reflection.

When we first meet her, she’s hanging out at a friend’s house while her room-mates are having casual sex with their respective partners and Rory is stuck with Grant, the runt of the litter who isn’t exactly boyfriend material. Rory is lamenting her single status when Grant mentions he likes Jessica and then five seconds later, lays one on Rory and tells her to “pass that on to Jessica.” Humiliated and stunned, Rory is frozen in horror as one of the most disturbing attempted sexual assaults I’ve ever read occurs and he tries to force her to give him oral sex. I have to applaud the author for really hitting this scene on the nail; I really felt the panic Rory felt and was thoroughly disgusted at the whole scene which unfortunately is happening everyday in real life.

When Jessica’s bed mate Tyler comes to her rescue I was relieved however I take issue with the fact that Tyler, upon seeing Rory, shaking, crying and traumatized on the floor feels the need to ask her to confirm she said no to Grant. This annoyed me more because it reminded me of the automatic response of people to place the onus on the girl to prove she is the victim and wasn’t asking for it.

The secondary characters were not favourites of mine from the start. When Jessica and Kylie are alerted to the attempted rape and Rory mentions that she could have lost her virginity to him through an assault, they immediately focus on the fact that she’s a virgin as if that’s more important than their friend’s well-being. They actually chat about how Rory obviously wants romance and are shocked that she hasn’t “given it up.” When Tyler offers her a ride home, her “best friends” proclaim it’s too cold outside to leave and go back to bed. Seriously, after a sexual assault? On a virgin who’s vulnerable and shaken? You don’t go home with her?

Tyler at first comes across as a typical meat-head and I honestly couldn’t see how he would become the love interest in particular after these choice exchanges…again note, five mins after she’s been assaulted…

“…But you can do better than Grant, trust me…I mean, you’ve waited this long to have sex, you shouldn’t waste your virginity on an Oxy junkie…”

I’m sorry, what? Who says this? Since when is almost getting raped “wasting your virginity?” Again it lays the implication that the girl must prove that she’s the victim because let’s face it, if Grant hadn’t been an Oxy junkie, maybe she would have considered herself lucky that such a nice guy showed interest.
I have to applaud Rory for handling this line of conversation better than I would have and even having a sense of humour…

“Do you have a purity ring or whatever?” “I prefer to call it my hymen.” “No, I mean one of those rings you wear on your finger…oh, wait, you’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?”

At this point, I was ready to DNF and only because I know from my short experience with New Adult that I usually am enraged throughout until the end when I am prostrate on the floor crying “best book ever” that I stuck it out.

Rory and Tyler made the book for me. Their slow burning friendship as they peeled back each other’s insecurities was a pleasure to read. Rory, who has suffered the loss of her mother, deeply affecting her ability to seek emotional and physical comfort from others is challenged by Tyler and slowly gains her trust. Tyler, the “bad boy” from the wrong side of the tracks, turns out to be a mature, responsible adult who has dealt with far more that he should. His mother, an addict is abusive to him and his brothers. I felt McCarthy really did a brilliant job of accurately portraying the spiral and roller-coaster of living with abuse.

Tyler’s mom, whilst being a horrible human being at times is treated with respect by the author who refuses to turn her into the 2D bad guy and paints her background and gives reasons for her continued abuse of drugs. While she hurls insults at Tyler and his brothers, we also receive glimpses of the love she does have for them underneath. There are incredibly sweet moments with Rory and the boys and her eyes are opened to the level of depravity and neglect suffered by people she cares about. Tyler who desperately tries to hold it all together finally has a chance to seek solace and peace in another person. With Jessica, it was nothing but sex. With Rory, he has the chance to find the unconditional love he never received from his parents and only thought would have with his brothers.

The secondary characters of Jessica and Kylie were at face value likable but upon deeper examination, truly deplorable. While Rory and Tyler would have naturally gotten closer due to a connection neither of them thought possible, the girls take it upon themselves to offer payment to Tyler to take her virginity. Whether this payment is taken is something you’ll find out for yourself but I’m sorry I take issue with the idea that this is something they consider appropriate after Rory’s first sexual experience went so “well.”  When Rory finds out that they offered Tyler money, it brings back her memories of feeling unwanted and her fear of getting close to someone.

“I sobbed, for the little girl I had been, who had never understood why I didn’t just fit in, and for the realisation that I never would.”

While I adored Rory, I had one issue with the fact that she seems to think she has no say in her virginity. When the girls gasp and make her feel like a freak, she feels compelled to think maybe she should just get it over with. Why in this day and age, is virginity in literature considered the only relevant benchmark in being an adult? That with it there’s something wrong with you and especially in relation to female characters is it the only benchmark by which a girl is judged a “good girl” or a “bad girl”? Rory at no point seems to consider the idea that it is her decision and that it is NOBODY’S BUSINESS BUT HER’S!

It seems to be a recurring theme in New Adult that the main storyline must be deflowering the girl. Could we have one book where she’s not considered a freak if she wants to wait? And the girls that don’t wait aren’t slut shamed?? Cos it’s OKAY if a girl doesn’t want to have sex but equally its okay if she does? Madonna/Whore complex, seriously? This is still a thing?

When Rory meets her would-be rapist again I had to stuff my hand in my mouth to stop myself screaming when he actually infers that he did her a favour by bringing her to Tyler’s notice and says they could have used the incident to both “get what they want”.

“No, but I bet you anything she likes it rough. If you and I had planned this, you could have told Jessica where Tyler could overhear that we had consensual sex, but it was rougher than you liked. That there was hair pulling and slapping. Jessica would have been turned on, and Tyler would have felt instantly protective.”

Again I applaud McCarthy for writing this no matter how deplorable I find it because the fact is conversations like above happen all the time. It’s sickening but it’s true and until the rape culture is challenged it will continue.

That’s one of the things I like about New Adult. As much as I rant and rage against it, it takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to recognise that incidences like these happen every day. My issue is the fear that readers will consider it acceptable and let it pass them by rather than being provoked by the book to challenge what’s been written and make sure it makes them think.

Overall I think this book was quite special. While it enraged me at times, I did think the characters of Rory and Tyler were well-rounded, thought-out and real and I rooted for them and I felt that they both grew and developed as the book progressed. It is guilty of following the NA formula of “Hot guy + Damaged Girl x Hot sex / angst = HEA” but I think the overall quality of a book should be judged on whether it makes you think.

True – It made me think.

Danielle

2 Responses to “Review: True by Erin McCarthy”

  1. Shannon

    I think I already commented on Goodreads, but I appreciate your review. I know that you are wary of this New Adult genre that is an overly dramatic way to pull at our heart strings (and warrant a lot of eye rolling), so I do value your opinion when you read these kinds of books 🙂 Will try to squeeze it into my May ARC challenge! Woo!
    Shannon recently posted…W…W…W Wednesday and Waiting on Wednesday: 5/8/13My Profile

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