Top critical review
Overhyped and Mean-Spirited (politically)
Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2019
Okay, don’t hate me for this, because my review is certainly in the minority when it comes to this book; I simply couldn’t make up my mind: one star? Two stars? Three stars? Oftentimes, I was annoyed by it— the biased politics— more than that, perpetually frustrated about all the lovey-dovey stuff and incessant faire l'amour (it was excessive!!). Then again, there were moments that really struck me deep, and Lord knows I’m an emotional reader. One key scene towards the end made me tear up a bit, and it’s not often that happens. So, kudos for that. I know this book is going to be a big hit for many people, and I’m fully prepared to defend my unpopular opinion from here on out.
Let me say this: it was very clear from the beginning how this story was going to end. It wasn’t surprising... like, at all! But, the joy should be in the journey no matter the outcome, right? Well... no. It was written nicely at times (but mostly it’s a very tumblr/fanfic/glib mess). There were many moments of inspired, descriptive passages and pretty prose, sure, but... It’s a shame that you had to trudge through the too-frequent, unrealistically crude, sarcastic banter to get to it, though, so...
Almost every side character is a person of color, and there’s lots of lgbtq representation, which should feel great, but instead comes off as incredibly forced (which is not so great)— like a diversity checklist. The inclusion of multiple POC I perceived as only to be used as a statement, which feels wrong somehow. I dig that here the First Family is biracial, but again, it didn’t feel organic (couldn’t it just be, “This is us. This is who we are” and leave it at that? Instead of it trying to hammer home social commentary?). It’s totally all contrived political correctness. The rep is important: we have multiple LGBTQIA+ caricatures, that came off as disingenuous stereotypes. But mostly, for the entirety of the novel, I couldn’t connect with the MCs. They didn’t feel real enough: too smug, snarky, narcissistic, and the romance was all-consuming (and I hate that)... Give me diversity and representation, but let it make sense! Let it be real!!!
A lot happens in the first 10% of the book (it felt like it was crammed in, or one giant prologue that’s multiple chapters long): White House to London, back to USA, then London again, a wedding and three public events— I didn’t know how it was going to be dragged out for the remaining 90%. I wish more time was actually focused on a few of Alex and Henry’s outings earlier on, because they came and went so fast I got whiplash: the trip to the stables was over in a blink, the talk show (I think it was?) was probably a paragraph or two before it jumped abruptly into a charity event. There was SO MUCH room for elaboration... these were missed opportunities for interesting depth progression, and could’ve saved on so much unnecessarily long-winded ramblings later on. After about a third of the way through, the books starts to evolve into something different— more sincere, if you will. Making the first 30-odd percent seem like an infinitely different story/tone.
(Side note: the whole ‘young adults debate Star Wars’ schtick is SO overdone).
There is a huge identity crisis happening in this novel: sometimes it screams YA, and then other times characters are talking about graphic acts. Fair warning for anyone sensitive to it: there is extremely frequent crude/crass language, and lots of sexual material. One of the more "intimate" scenes plays out for like, several pages (too long, in my opinion). We get a dozen (I am not exaggerating!) different sex scenes. Now, I’m no prude (and wholly sex positive), but that’s just TOO MANY! It read like fanfiction-y smut.
I also can’t believe I’m saying this, but there was just waaaay too much banter for my liking. It was all “sharp” millennial humor all the dang time. I craved moments of actual sarcasm-less depth and seriousness, and was frequently disappointed most of the way through, which was often, because this book is OVERLONG! I was constantly checking my progress, because the story just dragsssss and I wanted it to pick up the pace.
(Not to sound nit-picky, but...)— cool. Another politically-charged book out to vilify Republicans. I get it: it’s AU liberal wish fulfillment about the First Family. They’re Democrats. I’m fine with that, obviously, because I don’t judge people or outright reject anyone based on political affiliation. But couldn’t this book just leave out all the name calling, ignorance, and horrible right-wing stereotyping? The only message I see being pushed here is that Republicans are nothing more than bigoted, racist, fascist, evil, homophobic sexual predators, and Democrats are the ones to save us all. The authoress could’ve done the decent thing: play nice and not be so severely partisan (being pro-bipartisan won’t make you any less progressive), but that’s too much to ask with such clearly imbedded bias. Her disgust for Republicans is scary and, frankly really, really sad. I almost, almost was willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but come the conclusion after the whole “Waterloo” leak, I’m just resigned to the fact that Left-leaning authors will never tolerate opinions outside their own. And it makes me feel bad.