October 13, 2015

(Netgalley) ARC Review: Always Second Best (Broken Dreams #3) by Elodie Nowodazkij

Always Second Best (Broken Dreams, #2)Always Second Best by Elodie Nowodazkij
Rating: /5

*I received digital ARC of this book from Victory Editing through Netgalley*

Pub. Date: October 13th, 2015

Get a copy here!

This is the kind of book that I wanted to love but couldn’t nevertheless. There were some points that I found good but I had problems with majority parts of it. Please know that Always Second Best is part of a series but you could enjoy it anyway as a standalone.

Sixteen years old Em had her heart broken by a boy last summer. That summer should’ve been the summer she earns the ‘price’ of her patience from nursing her little crush on her brother’s boyfriend, Nick, for God knows how long. Turned out the said boy had another plan in mind. Nick broke her heart then gone to a series of date throughout the summer. The last girl he dated was Jen, the girl who’d been an undeclared enemy to Em. It was unfair that he could go around dating any girl at school while Em had been drowning herself to a pool of sorrow. Paired it with her own issue with real mother who refuses to reconnect with her and the pressure of the upcoming audition in which her future as a dancer was at stake, Em felt like the ground she stepped on would disappear any moment these days. In between the dance practice that killing her both mentally and physically, Em still had to balance her days between mentally slapping herself for still crushing on Nick and working on her last letter to the mother who never reaches out back. But as days passed by, Em discovered that there were more to what she knew behind all those issues that surrounding her tight like her dance practice schedule. There were more to the betrayal, the rejection, the false revelation, and the pressure that coming on her way. And apparently, there was more to herself that she hadn’t figured out yet all this time.

If you notice, what I described on the brief synopsis above is nothing like the blurb said. Aaand, here comes my first issue with the book: the mismatch between the title/description with the content of the book. When you saw the title then you read the blurb, it was obvious that this book would tell a story of someone who struggle with a label of always being a second best all his/her life and it might end with the person could finally overcome the issue. This, truthfully, was intriguing and what got me into reading this book in the first place. But the thing is I didn’t see this ‘always-being-second-best’ issue actually being presented anywhere in the book. There were scenes where Em thought of herself as a second best but really, it was all just in her mind. Because in all those fifty-two chapters, I assure you that no one treated or even gave any impression of putting that label on Em. It was all just her, really.

Then about the story itself, well, it was fine. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t any special either. But sometimes I don’t mind reading a cliché story as long as the writing style is engaging. With Always Second Best, sadly I couldn’t find it. What I noticed the most was how the author loved―like really really loved―to repeat the same first word(s) of a sentence three times in a row several times like this:

'I so don’t want to get into a talk with her. Not when Nick’s supposed to be here. Not when I’m supposed to finally have the talk with him. Not when I believe maybe, just maybe, we finally have a chance again.'

It was good at first as it helped the author to intensify the feeling that she wanted to relay to the readers on that particular scene (even I, myself, loved to write like this sometimes because it’s kind of poetic). But when it was done again and again, in almost every page of the book, it somehow became boring and even slightly tiring and annoying. Also, the author seemed having a problem arranging the plot. The pacing was real slow in the beginning as the story went on uneventfully. And then at one point, twist after twist came barreling in but the tensions only lasted no more than one minute as it moved into another scene quickly. There were scenes that seemed rushed. Several unnecessary details were included yet the seemingly critical points were overlooked or just ended up in vague closures. Most twists, even the important one like the truth behind Em’s real mother’s rejection, were unraveled curtly like it didn’t mean anything. The tension-building was almost absent as the transformation between each scene were unsmooth and happened quickly. Thus, it was hard to really connect with the story as we didn’t have enough time to feel along with the characters.

The characters themselves weren’t developed well. Each character didn’t hold any certain characteristic so it was hard to tolerate them, both main and side characters. The shallowness of the characters caused me to feel indifferent to whatever they did in the story. And this is really really sad because sometimes it was the characters that pull me close when the story didn’t engage my interest. I actually was intrigued with Nat’s story but her role was cut out so sudden without any closure in the end. I liked her friendship with Em that even though they were not close, they went along alright. I could relate with this kind of friendship. And also Jen, she was the reason I laughed for the first time while reading this book. Even though the change in her character was a bit confusing, I liked her when she decided to be a little more ‘reachable’ by people around her. I also liked Roberto, Em’s brother, but again, their characters were too shallow to allow readers getting to know more of them.

Despite everything, I appreciated the efforts the author put into building moments of Nick and Em. Their togetherness was not overdone to a sickening level or too plain to be called a romance. It was decent and the pace perfectly suited their age. The ending was realistic enough. Not everything worked in the end but at least everyone got what they truly needed. The moral lesson implied here was good, too. That sometimes when you have no idea where to go from where you stand at the moment, you just need to crawl back inside your heart for a while and ask your own self for a direction. Because after all, the one who can give you the best answer for that is no other than your own self.

Love, read, and review,
Cynthia D.


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