book review · shanti

Save the Date: not for me

I’ve liked Morgan Matson’s previous books: the pathos of Second Chance Sumer, the calm American-ness of Amy and Roger’s Epic detour, the brightly lit The Unexpected Everything, the punchy format of Since You’ve Been Gone. But something about Save The Date really didn’t work for me. It felt forced and farcical, which is not necesserily a bad thing, but didn’t really work for me.

35389087Charlie Grant tries to keep her life as normal as possible. Hanging out with her best friend, pining for Jesse Foster – who she’s loved since she was twelve – and generally flying under the radar as much as she can.

But sometimes normal is just another word for stuck, and this weekend that’s all going to change. Not only will everyone be back home for her sister’s wedding, but she’s also juggling:

– a rented dog that just won’t stop howling
– an unexpectedly hot wedding-coordinator’s nephew
– her favourite brother bringing home his HORRIBLE new girlfriend
– fear that her parents’ marriage is falling apart
– and the return to town of the boy she’s loved practically all her life…

Over the course of four days Charlie will learn there’s so much more to each member of her family than she imagined, even herself, and that maybe letting go of the things she’s been holding on tightest to can help her find what really keeps them together. (blurb from goodreads)

I was reading a Shakespeare comedy at the same time as this book, and it was difficult not to see the similarities: the preoccupation with marriage, the tangle of families and mistakes piled on top of each other like the tiers of a cake.

I like the odd light romance. I like family dramas. But there were several reasons that this one wasn’t perfect for me.

Firstly, it broke a promise. If you have been paying attention, you’ll know that I adore stories about student media. I work for student media, and I did all through high school as well. I wrote a book about student media for goodness sake! (like a nanowrimo book, not an edited final draft or anything, but still. A book.) So Charlie is the editor of her student newspaper and wants to study journalism, which is great. This isn’t really explored though, and there’s an offhand reference to her story about something being picked up by major outlets and I was like ??? that seems unlikely. Anyway, so that was a small irritation. Moving on.

All the chracters felt like cardboard cutouts. Charlie has he Responsible Older Brother, the Fine Older Brother and the Wildish (but when you think about it, perfectly reasonable) Older Brother and the Preoccupied Older Sister (which I get, weddings are distracting). Now, to some extent this is the point—one of the things that Charlie needs to learn is that people are more than their representations on paper. And she does learn this. Good on her! However, though there’s some final act posturing towards complication, the relationships are described, rather than explored. Save the Date hints at all kinds of more, trying to understand why the characters are the way they are, instead of just saying that they are. But it never materializes. Every depth of character element is so broadly hinted at, that it is not remotely surprising or really worth my time.

Then there are the bad things that happen. Now, I get that weddings are stressful. I get that this is fiction. I get that it’s a romantic comedy and will, therefore, turn out okay in the end. Despite all this, it still came off as very privileged. There’s a big surprise at the end, which Charlie is devastated about, and I understand that ~the thing that becomes clear and has to do with a relationship within her family~ is sad and troubling, no matter who you are. But Charlie’s parents are both employed in high paying third sector jobs. She lives in a mansion (hello, nine bedrooms). There’s some geustures at diversity, which is nice, but Charlie never tries to check her own privilege. She takes the fact that she has a place to live and will certainly go to university etc. etc. for granted. Don’t get me wrong—she is by no means the only YA heroine who does this, and it’s a problem throughout the genre. But when the big moment of empathy is getting why your brother might have been annoyed to have his privacy invaded, and the big disasters are not being able to have a wedding outside—well, the plot all feels a bit shallow.

Overall, it’s just too predictable. The Thing that happened with Mike is supposed to be, if not a twist, then at least shocking. But everything is heavily hinted at, and the weight of tangled relationships exactly what you’d expect from a family in the midst of a big transition. And because Charlie was so, if not self absorbed, then family absorbed, it all felt shallow and uninteresting. My family is nothing like hers, and she didn’t hang out with her friend at all, and so there was nothing I could really relate to in this book.

I know I sound salty, and I probably won’t read Morgan Matson again. But there are some good things about this book. Like, I finished it. And I do like family dramas, even though I didn’t like this one, so hopefully it will make more space in the market for that.

Have you read Save the Date? What is a book that you read recently and couldn’t relate to? What is a ridiculous, farcial thing that has happened in your real life (I have seen someone slip on a banana peel and seen someone else stop making out to sneeze)

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2 thoughts on “Save the Date: not for me

  1. I’m so sorry that this book didn’t live up to your expectations – I personally had a fun time reading this and I always love Morgan Matson’s books, but I understand that this one can’t be for everyone :/ I hope your next reads have been better since then! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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