Welcome to Reader vs. Reader (anyone have any wicked name suggestions???). Two librarians who have read the same book will discuss it critically. They may agree, agree on certain points, or completely disagree. RvR will challenge your reading comfort zone and dig deeply into the text to find potential problems or subtle brilliance. And maybe both.
In July, Andrea and Pam both read I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin
Dear Best Friend,I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.Sincerely,Ava Helmer(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)
We're still in the same room, you weirdo.Stop crying.G
So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?
The Quick Reactions:
|Pam: For several reasons. The predatory relationship with Charlotte, who is in a position of power but Gen says that she knows what’s happening–yeah right. Also, the voices seemed authentically 30, not 18. Ava was portrayed in a way that made her mental illness seem sort of glamorized AND sensationalized. Finally, there’s the whole mislabeling fiasco.
||Andrea: Big thumbs down for me. Not only did it not feel like a teen book in any way, shape, or form, but I had some other huge issues as well. My biggest ones are the unhealthy relationship with someone 14 years older and who was in a position of power, the mental illness portrayal feeling off, & the continual mislabeling issue.
Snippet of our conversation (Warning: spoilers everywhere!):
Andrea: I don’t feel this is truly a teen novel. And it’s not even that they’re 18, but I didn’t feel like an authentic teen voice to me.
Pam: Mm, true. It should be … IDK, I see teens’ texts and tweets. This whole emailing back and forth thing seems so old fashioned, they should be on Snapchat or WhatsApp or whatever them youngins are using now.
Andrea: I could still see emails and texts, but the voice was just off. It didn’t feel like it really dealt with being on your own for the first time. Ava was the closest of the two, but it just felt off.
Pam: I also really didn’t like the whole sorority thing
Andrea: Yeah. I wish it would have been a bit different. She made it seem like sororities were horrible. They’re not for everyone, but I also don’t think they’re superficial idiots?
Pam: Right. It’s not cool to tear down other girls because they choose Greek life. NOT being in a sorority doesn’t make you better than them.
Andrea: Yes. I still go back to one of my biggest issues being the relationship between Gen & Charlotte: 18 vs 32 is a HUGE age difference, especially when it’s your first time out of the house. Not only that though, but it was extremely unhealthy not only in the position of power thing, but just in general.
Pam: HUUUUUUUGE problem. PLUS PLUS she’s Gen’s advisor/mentor, which really skews the power dynamic even more. And it’s clear that Charlotte does this regularly with her students.
Andrea: Yes. Not to mention the whole transphobic storyline as well. I do appreciate that it wasn’t portrayed as healthy, but so much of the book revolved around it that it felt a bit romanitized
Pam: Yeahhhhh. I just feel so cringey even thinking about it. Plus I was just thinking–how did Gen get to college without realizing that liking someone can go one of two ways: blatant adoration or weird fighting/animosity? Has she never read Pride and Prejudice? It’s like the basis for all rom coms ever: boy and girl hate each other, but then fall in love, yay kissing!
Andrea: Agree. This goes back to they don’t feel like teens, at least not modern day ones. I also keep going back to Ava who acts like she’s never heard the word bisexual. I just can’t believe that a modern day teen in L.A. wouldn’t know that someone could be into guys and girls. The constant labeling of Gen as gay because she was sleep with women was very grating to say the least.
Pam: Yes! Especially since they are in L.A., of all places!
Andrea: If we had been somewhere else, I may have believed it, but L.A. seems too much of a stretch–even for someone sheltered.
Pam: Gen was also doing a lot of drugs that didn’t make a lot of sense, unless this book was maybe set in 1994 and there was a cheap cocaine smuggling ring at her university. It was very … Bret Easton Ellis. (CAVEAT: I do not do drugs. I just listen when other people talk and am aware of, you know, life)
Andrea: Honestly, the more I think about this the more I really think they just missed their target on this. If they had made them 30 year olds, a lot of this would have been way more believable.
Pam: Yeah. Insufferably shallow, but yeah.
Andrea: Oh, yes, but the thoughts and actions would have made more sense. People don’t have to come out in their teens/college years. Plenty come out later in life and I think most of the story would have worked better.
Pam: I agree. I don’t think that teens who pick this up will enjoy it or see themselves in it
Andrea: Nope. And I’ve asked mine if they know who Dunn and Raskin are and so far it’s been a no. So, I’m not sure if that’s just my teens or if, again, it’s just the wrong market.
Pam: I still haven’t looked up the YouTube thing. And it’s … kinda tacky to put your own YT channel in a book that’s supposedly about fictional characters.
Andrea: Yeah, I agree. You don’t need to plug your channel in the middle of the book. That’s what author bios are about.
I do want to talk about Ava’s mental illness. I appreciate that it’s there in the open, but it often feels a bit glossed over. The way things were thrown in felt a bit like checking off a list?
Pam: Yep. She has been in treatment for a long time but her illness doesn’t feel managed at all. Not that it’s *easy* to manage but instead of just being anxious, she would have these wild ups and downs and seemed more bipolar to me. Ugh and the whole boyfriend thing.
Andrea: And I could understand that a new life experience would make handling it a bit harder, but yes, it felt a bit more than OCD and anxiety. And the way she thought of therapist almost felt harmful.
Pam: Ah yes, the part where she says she wants to sew her therapist’s mouth shut. Charming.
Andrea: Yeah, not mention how cutting is thrown in haphazardly. I felt like that deserved a little more page time/mentioning since cutting is a serious issue.
Pam: OMG I forgot … was it Ava cutting??? That’s not just my memory going–if you’re going to bring in self-harm, you should do it right. And not just a throwaway
Andrea: Yup. It’s mentioned maybe twice? She tells Gen who later rats her out to mom and it’s never mentioned again.
Pam: And how about that ending! An epic freeze-out/fight saved by a half-hearted apology and then that awful “I’m right behind you” schtick.
Andrea: I was okay with the “I’m right behind you” part, but the fight–or at least why the fight happened—felt two steps back sort of thing. And I’m not sure I liked the explanation. It would have just been better/realistic if they had the weekend together and realized they weren’t at the same places anymore (because they obviously weren’t), Ultimately, I had hoped for so much more from this book, but it failed so hard in my book.